How to avoid paying Apple for extra iCloud storage

April 21, 2014 8:06 AM EDT

Apple offers just 5GB of free storage to iCloud users. Need more space? You've got to pay for it. If you don't want to do this, then you should take a look at these tips to keep your iCloud usage under control.

How to avoid paying Apple for extra iCloud storage

Check your storage

To try to get the best out of the paltry 5GB of iCloud storage Apple gives you, you should regularly review what you have archived already.

iOS

Tap Settings>iCloud>Storage & Backup>Manage Storage

Available iCloud storage space appears at the bottom of the Manage Storage screen, which also shows you what space each of your apps uses.

OS X

To track iCloud storage on a Mac, access System Preferences>iCloud and choose the "Manage…" option at bottom right of the window.

Control your backups

If you backup iOS device(s) to iCloud you'll soon hit space control problems. To remove older device backups from iCloud on iOS, tap Settings and navigate to iCloud>Storage & Backup>Manage Storage. Select the device backup you wish to delete and tap the red Delete Backup option -- be sure to keep the most recent backup. On a Mac, simply use the Backups option in iCloud preferences as described above.

Mail control

Mail usually uses lots of iCloud space. To free up storage space, Apple suggests deleting what's inside the Junk and Trash folders, but you can regain more space by deleting attachments from your received and sent mail.

To find Mail with attachments on a Mac

  • Navigate to View>Sort by Attachments and list the files by size.
  • You should now have a list of large messages -- delete those you don't need.

Alternatively, create a Smart Mailbox: Mailbox>New Smart Mailbox

  • Call the box "Attachments" and set the condition to "Contains Attachments".
  • Also add the condition "Include Messages from Sent", but deselect the "Include Messages from Trash" option.
  • In the future, attachments will be easier to manage -- but do save those attachments you need.

To find Mail with attachments on iOS

  • Launch Mail, tap 'Edit" at top right of screen
  • Move down the list and tick the pre-made Smart Mailbox called "Attachments".

In the future, you'll see this folder as an option when you launch Mail to delete unwanted attachments.

Camera Roll and Photostream

Am I alone in finding Apple's separation between images held in Photostream (which do not count against iCloud storage limitations) and those held in Camera Roll (which are backed up to iCloud and do count against storage limitations) confusing? Perhaps, but that's the difference between the two.

When it comes to managing iCloud storage, it makes sense to import your personal photos and images from your iOS devices to your computer. You can then choose which images to make available via your Photostream. Be sure to delete photos from your device once you have imported the images to your computer. Clear instructions (Mac and Windows) for this process are here.

OS X: Another way to see what you've got

Your Mac stores copies of what you've got stored on iCloud in the Library>Mobile Documents folder in your Home folder. To get to your Home folder select View in the Menu bar and choose Home. Then select your User name to access your Library.

Now, you've made it to Mobile Documents you can review what you have stored in iCloud to decide what to delete. (You can enhance your iCloud experience once you understand this).

Apple desperately needs to improve file management in iCloud.

While we wait for this to happen, I hope these tips help you stay within Apple's free space limit.

Mavericks Tips and Tricks

Google+? If you use social media and happen to be a Google+ user, why not join AppleHolic's Kool Aid Corner community and join the conversation as we pursue the spirit of the New Model Apple?

Got a story? Drop me a line via Twitter or in comments below and let me know. I'd like it if you chose to follow me on Twitter so I can let you know when fresh items are published here first on Computerworld.