How to Keep iMessage From Filling Up Your iPhone and iCloud

How to Keep iMessage From Filling Up Your iPhone and iCloud
Photo: Daria Gromova, Shutterstock

When you think about freeing up storage space on your iPhone, iMessage may be one of the last things that comes to mind. However, the service tends to take up a deceptively large amount of storage space on your iPhone and on iCloud because we use it all the time to send photos, videos, and other large attachments — it all adds up over time.

You’re faced with a tough choice — delete entire conversations to free up space quickly, or manually select thousands of attachments to remove only the most unnecessary files.

How to quickly free up iMessage storage space on your iPhone

Screenshot: Pranay ParabScreenshot: Pranay Parab

Before you start, we strongly recommend that you update your iPhone to iOS 15. Older versions of iOS have much slower methods to clear up iMessage storage space, and iOS 15 makes it a lot easier. Update by going to Settings > General > Software Update.

To review how much space iMessage is taking up on your iPhone, go to Settings > General > iPhone Storage > Messages. If you haven’t cleared up unnecessary attachments in a long time, you could be staring at more than 10GB of iMessage attachments.

If you are ready to delete entire chats, you can tap Top Conversations and hit the Edit button in the top-right corner. You can select all the chats you want to delete and hit the Trash icon in the top-right corner of the page. This is the fastest way to free up a lot of space, but it tends to mess with your iMessage group chats. You may have to get yourself invited to those groups again if you use this method.

For a more focused approach to deleting iMessage attachments, go to Settings > General > iPhone Storage > Messages once again. Here, you can review each type of attachment — photos, videos, GIFs and stickers, and Other — one by one. Tap any of these categories, and hit the Edit button in the top-right corner. Then you can select all the attachments you don’t need, and hit the Trash icon in the top-right corner to free up space.

How to stop iMessage from filling up space on your iPhone

Screenshot: Pranay ParabScreenshot: Pranay Parab

If you’re not careful, you’ll end up accumulating more junk in iMessage again quickly, so let’s take some preventive measures. On your iPhone, go to Settings > Messages, and under Message History, tap Keep Messages. You can change this from Forever to 30 Days or 1 Year. This will automatically delete all iMessage texts and attachments older than a month or a year.

Return to the Messages settings page and scroll to the bottom. You can consider enabling Low-Quality Image Mode to reduce the size of images you send and receive on iMessage. This makes photos look a little blurry and sometimes makes it hard to see the text in screenshots, but if you’re really hurting for storage space, it’ll help.

How to reduce iMessage’s impact on your iCloud storage space

Screenshot: Pranay ParabScreenshot: Pranay Parab

iCloud space is also an important part of this conversation. If you find that iMessage is taking up more iCloud space than you can afford to spare, go to Settings > [YOUR NAME] > iCloud and disable Messages. This will remove your text messages from your iCloud backups and free up space. However, it’ll also stop syncing SMS messages across Apple devices, so be aware of that.

You can also go to Settings > [YOUR NAME] > iCloud > Manage Storage > Messages and check how much storage it’s occupying in iCloud. You can tap Top Conversations and remove the chats you don’t want on iCloud. You can also return to the previous page and tap Disable & Delete to remove Messages from iCloud entirely.

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