Help managing iCloud storage?
October 22, 2021 12:18 PM   Subscribe

I recently replaced my old iPhone with a new-to-me one. Now, iCloud is almost full. It's almost all Messages, and I want to select and delete large attachments, but it seems really screwy. Also, I think I got an almost-full warning the last time I got a new device, too, but I don't remember what fixed it.

I have the free 5GB iCloud plan and don't want to go to a paid plan. My devices are:

Mac (MacBook Air, Big Sur; just restarted)
Settings/Apple ID/iCloud shows 563.2 MB available.
When I click Manage, it shows 3.9 GB of what I have in iCloud (i.e., most of it) is Messages.

About this Mac -> Manage -> Messages shows that 2.56 GB of them are on the Mac. That's after I just deleted maybe a couple hundred MB worth. But then I went back to the above Settings/Apple ID/iCloud, and there's no more space available than before -- still 563.2 MB.

Messages from the Mac are using iCloud (i.e., they're checked in Settings/Apple ID/iCloud -> iCloud Drive -> Options).

iPad (8th gen, iPadOS 15.0.2; just restarted; iCloud backup off)
Yesterday, after getting iCloud's almost-full warning, I deleted a bunch of the large attachments from my Messages here. It now says 71.5 MB. Unfortunately, I didn't note what it said before.

Old iPhone 6 (iOS 12.5.5; just restarted; iCloud backup off)
Settings/General/iPhone Storage Messages says...
Documents & Data: 91.7 MB

Review Large Attachments 1.3 MB

Top Conversations 750.1 MB (Is it weird that this is more than Documents & Data, which I thought was everything all together?)
Photos 1.3 MB (and nothing shows if I tap into that)
Videos Zero KB
GIFs and Stickers Zero KB
Other -4 bytes -- If I tap into that, 4 files with wave icons show up, each saying -1 byte. They're nominally from 2010 and 2011. Tapping one of those says 'media_0 Adaptive Multi-rate audio'

New-to-me iPhone 12 mini (bought recently from Swappa; iOs 15.0.2; just restarted; iCloud backup off)
Here too I don't understand what's going on:

Settings/General/iPhone Storage Messages says:
Documents & Data 254.2 MB

Top Conversations 14.9 MB
Photos 28.5 MB
Videos 108.7 MB -- but if I tap this, none show; the list area is completely blank
GIFS and Stickers 659 KB -- ditto; it doesn't show any
Other 116.3 MB -- this shows the 4 wave-icon files above, "-1 byte" each, and that's it.

I'm really confused. I want to find the large Message attachments that are using a lot of this space, look through them, and select them to delete. But so far, doing that on the Mac and the iPad doesn't seem to be freeing up space. And the numbers above and the blank screens are adding to my confusion. Help?
posted by daisyace to Computers & Internet (6 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
You need to reset the device. It's the only way to get the gremlins out, no matter how many times you delete speciic apps or clear caches.

For a used device, you should have reset it in the first place.
posted by sindark at 2:26 PM on October 22, 2021

Instructions from Apple
posted by sindark at 2:26 PM on October 22, 2021

Response by poster: It was reset when I got it about a week ago.

I think the crux of the problem is that >2.5 GB of messages are on my Mac and when I delete the attachments as described above, that's not freeing up iCloud space and I don't know why.

The rest of the details are baffling to me, but I think if I could just fix that part, I could ignore the rest. I think the new iPhone may be a red herring, because there's just not that much on there, so even if it's acting weird, it's not responsible for much of the 5 GB overall.
posted by daisyace at 2:30 PM on October 22, 2021

Your iPhone storage (Settings/General/iPhone Storage) is not affecting your iCloud storage. You should see the same iCloud space on all of your devices if you are using the same AppleID on them all.

How much time have you waited after deleting those messages? It may take time for the device to back up to iCloud and clear out the messages.
posted by soelo at 6:47 PM on October 22, 2021

Response by poster: Good thought, but it's not decreasing even given wait time. And while it's true that iCloud backup is off on both phones, Messages is syncing to iCloud on both. And I found another clue: When I click on a Top Conversation and look at the photos, underneath, it says something like "168 photos on iCloud." And I think those aren't the same ones that are on screen, because I can delete some on screen and that number doesn't change. So somewhere on iCloud, those photos are sitting, but I don't know how to see them and select ones I want to delete. There is an option to download them to my phone. So maybe I have to download them all, and then if I delete them, they'll delete from iCloud too??

Anyway, I realize that my question has shifted a lot as I've kept working on this. So if the answer isn't forthcoming in this thread, I'll wait for it to settle out a little more, and then I'll try posting a boiled-down version of the question with the right details and not the rest.
posted by daisyace at 6:08 AM on October 23, 2021

This might only confuse things more, but your could log in to and see what that says about how much space you have/haven’t got. Unfortunately it doesn’t have a “Messages” section of the interface so you can’t see anything detailed about them.
posted by fabius at 1:22 AM on October 24, 2021

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