iCloud Storage Full? Never Pay For iCloud Backup Again.

How To Backup Your iPhone Without Paying For iCloud Storage

On the last page, we learned all about iCloud Storage, iCloud Drive, iCloud Backup, iCloud Photo Library, and My Photo Stream. Right now, your iPhone won’t back up because your iCloud Storage is full. On this page, we’ll set up your iPhone so you never have to pay for iCloud Storage again.

1. Plug In Your iPhone To Your Computer And Transfer Your Photos

This step has to be number 1 because the last thing I want to happen is for anyone to lose their photos. Photos or our families and memorable events in our lives are very valuable to us. When I was at Apple, I saw people brought to tears when they realized they would never recover photos of their kids or loved ones. I mention this as a strong word of warning: Always back up your iPhone and computer.

Now that the somber warning is out of the way, the other reason to back up your photos before you begin is that My Photo Stream only works for photos you take after you turn it on. If you follow these steps and accidentally drop your iPhone in the loo, you don’t want to lose your photos.

2. Turn Off Photo Library As Part Of iCloud Backup

Head to Settings -> iCloud -> Storage -> Manage Storage -> This iPhone and tap the switch to the right of Photo Library. You’ll see a warning asks if you want to turn off Photo Library backups and delete the backup data from iCloud. When you tap Turn Off & Deletenothing is erased from your iPhone.

When we turn on My Photo Stream on your iPhone and computer, your photos will begin to upload to My Photo Stream (also part of iCloud) and your computer will automatically download them. It’s going to be OK: Tap Turn Off & Delete and watch as your iCloud Backup size shrinks to a manageable size.

3. Turn Off iCloud Photo Library

Go to Settings -> iCloud -> Photos and tap the switch to turn off iCloud Photo Library. You can still use My Photo Stream or iCloud Photo Sharing to synchronize your photos between devices without using any space in iCloud Storage.

If you’re a Mac user, you may need to turn off iCloud Photo Library on your Mac as well. Head to System Preferences -> iCloud -> Photos (Options…) and click the checkbox to turn off iCloud Photo Library.

4. Turn On My Photo Stream on your iPhone and iPad

Go to Settings -> iCloud -> Photos and tap the switch to turn on My Photo Stream. From now on, your photos will automatically upload to Photo Stream and download on your computer.

5. Turn On My Photo Stream on your Mac or PC

I’ll let Apple explain how to turn on My Photo Stream on your Mac or PC instead of explaining it here. Their support article has an excellent walkthrough and some other interesting information about My Photo Stream.

You’re Done! No More Problems with iCloud Storage.

OK, none of are going to get rich from the money we save from never paying for iCloud Storage again. What we have done is solve a problem that will only get more expensive with time. 4K video on the iPhone 6S is going to consume obscene amounts of storage and people are going to be buying iCloud Storage left and right. You don’t have to be one of those people.

Your iCloud storage never has to be full again. Even if you choose to continue paying for iCloud Storage for now, you’ve learned there’s a safe and simple way to stop. There’s a lot of misinformation about how iCloud works and we all make better decisions when we’re informed. Thanks for reading and I look forward to hearing from you!

All the best,
David P.

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About Author

I'm a former Apple employee and the founder of Payette Forward, and I'm here to help you with your iPhone.

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1 month ago

Very informative but a little complicated. I’ll have to read a few times. Thank you!

1 month ago

Fabulous! Thank you for this clear, concise tutorial.

DAvid Michael
2 months ago

The whole Apple backup system is a scam. Both Amazon and Verizon allow free backups. We need a class action suit against Apple for charging on iCloud. They are a rip off organization!

Me me
4 days ago
Reply to  DAvid Michael


Dorothy P-S
2 months ago

What if I only have an iPad? Can I back up to that instead of iCloud?

Colin Boyd
2 months ago
Reply to  Dorothy P-S

Hi Dorothy! According to Apple’s website, you can only save a backup to iCloud or a computer. If you’d like more details, here’s a link to a page on Apple’s Support website all about backing up both iPads and iPhones: https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT204136

I hope this helps!

2 months ago

I did all that and now my iCloud is filled with 3 GB of mail and 2 GB of documents!
What do I do now?

2 months ago

I asked a question about an hour ago, and I can’t seem to find my question or a response. Will the response be emailed to me? Thank you.

2 months ago

Thanks for unraveling this mystery!! I figured all this out on my own but was relieved to hear I did it right with your article. Quick question though that I still can’t get a straight answer to: – I was told by an apple rep( as I was trying to figure out how to do all this before I read your artlcle) and they informed me how iCloud saves the full res versions of the photos in the cloud, and leaves a smaller thumbnail size on my phone. My question is: when I plugged my phone into my Mac &… Read more »

2 months ago

Is this information still applicable in 2021?

Colin Boyd
2 months ago
Reply to  Bobbie

Hi Bobbie! Yes, a lot of this information is still relevant! Thanks for bringing the publication date to our attention. I’ll pass this on to some of our editors, it might be time to revamp this post!

3 months ago

I have a question on step #1: “Plug In Your iPhone To Your Computer And Transfer Your Photos”. So what are the steps for doing the transfer? I read that I have to have iCloud on my PC and then I can upload files to iCloud from the PC. How do I do this? Or can I transfer the pictures just to my pc? I would love to stop paying for extra storage. Thank you.

4 months ago

Why is my iPhone still full… even though I bought more storage?

Tony leverton
3 months ago
Reply to  David Payette

Thanks David great advice