Apple provides each iCloud user with 5 GB of free storage space, which can be used to back up an iPhone or iPad. As data accumulates on your device, the total size of your iCloud backup may exceed the 5 GB storage limit. The chances of hitting the 5 GB storage limit increase if you back up multiple iOS devices to iCloud.

When your storage limit is reached, you’ll receive a notification on your device that your iCloud storage is full. At this point, no additional backups can be made to iCloud. Without a recent backup, you risk losing some data if your device is lost or broken.

Once you reach your iCloud storage limit, there are basically three options for backing up your device:

  1. Turn off iCloud backup and back up to your computer using iTunes

  2. Pay for additional iCloud storage

  3. Delete some data from your device to reduce the amount of data backed up by iCloud.

Check if you are using iCloud backup

If you’re not sure if iCloud backup is enabled on your device, open the Settings app, select iCloud, then select Storage & Backup. If the iCloud Backup slider is turned on, then your device will back up to iCloud. To prevent your device from backing up to iCloud, set the slider to the off position. Turning off iCloud Backup will mean that the data on your device will no longer be backed up automatically. To back up your data, you’ll need to connect your device to your computer and back it up using iTunes.

Also, at the top of the window, you’ll see your total iCloud storage capacity and the amount of storage that’s left available for use. At the bottom of the window, you’ll find the date the last iCloud backup was made.

Optimize iCloud backup by deleting unnecessary data

To see what information is being backed up to iCloud, open the Settings app, select iCloud, select Storage & Backup, then tap Manage Storage. At the top of the window is a list of all devices that have backups stored in iCloud. If you see an old device listed that you no longer use, you can save some space by deleting that backup entirely. To remove a backup from the list, tap the device name and select Remove backup in the window that appears.

To change the backup data for the device you are currently using, tap the device name in the backup list. A screen will appear showing the size of the backup along with the date the last backup was made. There is also a list of apps that are included in the iCloud backup. Apps are ordered by the amount of iCloud storage space they use. The apps that use the most iCloud storage space are listed near the top. However, normally the Camera Roll appears first, regardless of its size. For most people, Camera Roll usually requires the most iCloud storage space because photos and videos have large file sizes.

To prevent an app from backing up to iCloud, simply turn that app’s slider to the off position. When doing so, your device will prompt you to confirm the action by asking if you really want to stop iCloud Backup and delete all iCloud app data.

Deleting iCloud data shouldn’t delete it from your device. The data associated with that app is removed from iCloud, and with the slider in the off position, the app’s data won’t be included in future iCloud backups.

Review the list of apps and turn off the slider for those apps you don’t want to back up to iCloud. Just remember, if an app isn’t backed up and something happens to your device, you won’t be able to recover that data. So make sure you don’t really need to back up an app before removing it from iCloud backup.

Save photos on your computer

Maybe you have a lot of storage in use for Camera Roll, but you don’t want to stop backing up your photos to iCloud. You can copy the photos from your device to your computer and then delete some of the photos from the device. Deleting the photos from your device will reduce the amount of space needed for your iCloud backup.

Additional storage options

If you can’t seem to part with any of those photos on your device and still want to use iCloud to back up all your data, there’s always the option to buy additional iCloud storage space from Apple. To see pricing for additional storage plans, open the Settings app, select iCloud, select Storage & Backup, then tap Buy more storage. You can purchase additional storage directly from your device.

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