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How to Fix System Data Filling Your iPhone Storage


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Your iPhone’s low storage could be because it’s taken up by system data, a category that can potentially eat up all available capacity. Here’s how to regain space when things get too bloated to work.

Storage capacity is a big issue for mobile device users, with available space on an iPhone, iPad, and even a Mac being a sensitive concern for everyone. While users with expansive storage capacities have fewer problems than most, those saving money with more modest storage may be in more of a rush.

Managing apps on your device by offloading or deleting them, keeping videos and other files stored, relying on cloud storage capacity and other techniques are commonly used to tame the usage of the storage.

Sure, deleting files and clearing app cache can help, but that won’t fix an occasional problem involving system data. Sometimes system data can grow to huge size and there is not much you can do to fix it.

Here’s what you can do to regain a more usable amount of free storage space.

What is System Data on an iPhone?

By checking your iPhone’s storage usage, you’ll find that iOS easily sorts its data usage into several categories, including apps, photos, media, iOS, and system data.

These are all self-explanatory, with photos and media consisting of images, videos, and other typical media-style files. Apps refers to apps downloaded from the App Store and the data caches for each, while iOS is the storage consumed by the operating system itself.

How to Check Storage Usage in iOS

  • Open Settings.
  • Faucet Generalthen iPhone Storage.
  • The bar at the top will graphically show you what storage is in use.
  • The list of apps below shows the storage usage of individual apps. Tap each to see the app’s size and associated file consumption and options to offload the app and delete data.
  • At the bottom of the list are lists for iOS and system data.

System data, and what the Settings app calls “Other system data,” includes many files not covered by other categories.

System data usually doesn’t take up tens of gigabytes of storage, but problems do arise.

The definition in iOS is that system data “includes caches, logs, and other resources currently in use by the system.” It doesn’t say what the data is, but it could be various logs, temporary data stores, and other things that aren’t strictly considered part of any of the apps listed.

Then, some elements are used by iOS but do not belong to a particular app. For example, downloading different Siri voices or installing fonts may expand this section, but they are not defined as being used by a single application or the operating system itself.

Why is system data using up all of my iPhone storage?

This data “will also fluctuate according to the needs of the system”. This means temporary data can be written to storage as system data, deleted when iOS no longer needs it.

However, the problem is that you cannot see what the data types used in this category consist of, nor can you delete them.

Generally speaking, other system data can be a few gigabytes in size at first, and depending on how you use the iPhone, it can grow and shrink by several gigabytes over time.

The bloat problem comes into play if this change in the size of other system data continues on an upward trajectory. Over time, some users may see that their iPhone system data takes up a lot of space, maybe tens of gigabytes.

In the case of a AppleInsider writer, Other System Data grew to nearly 85 gigabytes, consuming virtually all remaining available storage and causing device issues.

It’s not clear exactly why this is happening, but it’s likely that one or more caches or logs are continually being added over time, but most importantly not being removed at a rate to keep up with writes. Left too long, it can be all-consuming.

Since there is no way to directly see what caused it or to selectively remove problematic system data items, users may be left with very few options available.

How to Reduce System Data Usage

There are things you can do to reduce the amount of system data used, and the severity of what you need to do with your iPhone and its data varies. This guide will start with the least intensive option.

Remember that these are meant to be taken after other reasonable measures, such as deleting unwanted videos or other files to free up space.

Also, don’t forget to back up your iPhone before proceeding. The last thing you want to do is delete valuable data when trying to reclaim space.

Safari and messaging

The first is to try to reduce cache usage by a number of Apple-produced apps. This can include caches by Safari and Messages, which can sometimes occupy the System Data category.

You can manage Safari's messages and cache to try and reduce system data usage.

You can manage Safari’s messages and cache to try and reduce system data usage.

For messages, it can be as simple as opening Settings, then tapping Messages, scrolling down to Message History, and changing how long you “Keep Messages” from “Forever” to a lower number such as one year or 30 days.

Clearing Safari cache is a little more complicated but still useful.

How to Clear Safari Cache in iOS

  • Open Settings.
  • Faucet Safari.
  • Scroll down and tap Clear history and website data.
  • In the warning window, press Clear history and data to confirm.

Caches per application

In case it is a particular app causing the problem, you can try deleting the app if you have any idea which app is wasting space. For example, applications that use a lot of videos can potentially use such caching, but without necessarily deleting the caches afterwards.

Offloading and deleting apps can clear out some stray caches.

Offloading and deleting apps can clear out some stray caches.

There’s no guarantee this will remove the problematic cache capacity you want to remove, but it should still reduce the amount of it in active use. It is advisable to try to offload the application before a full deletion, i.e. delete the application but keep your associated documents and data.

How to Offload or Delete Apps in iOS

  • Open Settings.
  • Faucet General.
  • Faucet iPhone Storage.
  • Scroll and press the relevant application.
  • Faucet Download the appthen Download the app to confirm.
  • Otherwise, touch Delete appthen Delete app to confirm.

Backup Restore

The nuclear option is to restore your iPhone from a backup. This involves backing up all data on the iPhone, factory resetting the iPhone, and then restoring from backup.

Although you recover all of your user data and continue to use apps, you may experience issues involving two-factor authentication apps and other related issues after setting up a device.

Backing up and resetting iPhone is the last real option available.

Backing up and resetting iPhone is the last real option available.

In the AppleInsider In the editor’s case, restoring from a backup solved the problem, so it’s worth taking the time to do so if you can.

How to backup iPhone and restore from backup.

  • To back up the data, relate iPhone on your Mac or PC, and open either Finder or iTunes.
  • Select the iPhonethen select the General tongue.
  • Select “Back up all your iPhone data to this Mac.”
  • Check “Encrypt local backup” to keep account passwords and all health data.
  • Select Back up now and wait for it to be completed.
  • Disconnect the Iphone.
  • Open Settings and select General then Transfer or Reset iPhone.
  • Faucet Erase all content and settings. Faucet Continue and follow the prompts to finish.
  • After being wiped off, relate iPhone to Mac or PC, open Finder or iTunesand select the iPhone.
  • Below GeneralClick on Restore backup.
  • Select the most recent backup you just created, then click Restore. Follow the on-screen prompts.