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I have always backed up my iPhone through iTunes but I decided to use iCloud now as well. I only have the free iCloud plan with 5 GB of storage (of which 4.5+ GB free), and I'm attempting to backup an iPhone 7 with iOS 11.0.

I tried enabling iCloud backup but I got back the message: "This iPhone cannot be backed up because there is not enough iCloud storage available."

According to this fairly old Ask Different answer and this Apple support document, there should be a "Choose Data to Back Up" option to allow me to disable specific items to backup (e.g. camera roll which should be enough to allow my backup to proceed). Unfortunately I can't see this option when following the Apple support document's steps for iOS 11. When going into Settings -> my name -> iCloud -> Manage Storage -> Backup, this is the screen that shows up:

According to the support document I should now select the iPhone I want to backup, but as can be seen, there is no such option. I speculate this is because I never completed any backups at all. Thus I can't tick off items taking up lots of space to get the backup to complete for the first time.

How do I access the list of items to back up, so I can tick off some items to get the backup small enough to fit the available space?

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I also recently noticed that the backup "choose data to back up" section doesn't show up in iOS 11 unless you have an existing backup to select first, since the UI is tucked into the screen when you select a backup for a phone.

If you're willing to go forgo the 99 cent subscription fee for a month, you could increase your storage for iCloud, make a backup, see if you can refine the backup to fit back into the 5GB limit, make a new backup, and then bring your storage plan back down.

I did the first few steps myself, and the backup refinement options do appear in the new backup. I've just been too lazy to followup and actually trim my backup to downgrade my storage plan.

Alternatively, you could go into Settings > General > iPhone Storage, and see if you've got some easy targets using a lot of Documents & Data storage to delete to bring down the size of the backup. Only Documents & Data matters for third party apps, since the apps themselves are not backed up, only the app data (documents & data) is backed up. Also iOS itself is not backed up, only the settings and user data within.

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    Going for the 99 cent plan for a month seems the most sensible option. I’ll hold out for a while to see if anyone comes up with a way to enable these options without a first backup, but otherwise I’ll go for it. – swineone Nov 2 '17 at 18:38
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5GB is likely not nearly enough to backup your iPhone, even if you chose not to backup any user added apps. It is very likely that the necessary files for iOS are too much for a 5GB backup. iOS 11 is a 1.7GB download, which is surely compressed. While I doubt iOS backs up the core OS, there are personal settings, iCloud preferences, etc that need to be backed up that are not visible via the Backups app. Don't forget that iCloud spans all your Apple devices, so other devices might be contributing to the count. If you have contacts stored on your iPhone, they are in iCloud now, same for photos, calendars, etc. So they all reduce the room available for a backup.

Apple support says that the following are backed up under iCloud:

iCloud backups include nearly all data and settings stored on your device. iCloud backups don't include:

  • Data that's already stored in iCloud, like Contacts, Calendars, Notes, My Photo Stream, and iCloud Photo Library

  • Data stored in other cloud services, like Gmail and Exchange mail

  • Apple Pay information and settings

  • Touch ID settings

  • iCloud Music Library and App Store content (If it's still available in the iTunes, App, or iBooks Store,you can tap to re-download your already purchased content.)

When you do an over-the-air update, typically an iPhone will complain if there is less than 4GB free space, as it needs that amount for a on-phone backup/swap to install the new OS.

If you want to know how much space your backups take, open iTunes,Preferences, then Devices tab. Backups are listed here, and you can right click and select 'Get info' (on Mac) and it will give you the size of the backup. Note that most of these will be incremental. FWIW, i have a 128GB iPhone 6, and the backups are 40+ GB, with 8GB incrementals. Do note that iTunes backups are more complete than are iCloud backups.

  • Does the backup actually include all iOS files, and not just your own content? Seems like a too-amateurish move on the part of Apple if that’s true. – swineone Nov 2 '17 at 18:34
  • Apple doesn't back up the apps, because they can just be downloaded again. It does backup user data, but often much of that is in iCloud as well (which uses part of the 5gb) – cmason Nov 2 '17 at 18:49
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    I'm referring to the part "It is very likely that the core OS and necessary files for iOS are too much for a 5GB backup". Are you sure Apple includes these in a backup? My jaw would drop to the floor if a company the size of Apple actually did that. – swineone Nov 2 '17 at 18:59
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    You are likely correct, sorry for that oversite. I also doubt apple backs up the OS, as it can be installed OTA without a backup. I edited to reflect your comment – cmason Nov 2 '17 at 21:21
  • Yeah they only backup your data, never the OS. – Melvin Jefferson Nov 2 '17 at 21:39
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Check your iCloud storage as is and verify that you arent using any of that storage for photos (iCloud Photo Library). If you are, then like Kelly stated, I would go for the 99 cents a month plan so you can keep your photos and be able to backup with iCloud.

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    Nope, not using iCloud photo library. – swineone Nov 2 '17 at 18:34
  • Ok then, I'd suggest investing in the iCloud Storage 50GB plan for 99 cents since your backup will take all of the space of the 5GB free plan. – Melvin Jefferson Nov 2 '17 at 18:56
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    I guess it all makes sense now. They're probably including stuff like my WhatsApp conversations, iBooks files and so on. Still I wish there was a way to disable backing these up prior to the first backup. Guess I'll have to go with the 99 cent plan and hope my backup doesn't exceed that. I wonder if it includes the music files in my iPhone -- in which case even 50 GB won't be enough. – swineone Nov 2 '17 at 19:00
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    No music is never backed up on iCloud unless you place it in iCloud Drive yourself. Yes, Messages and WhatsApp convos can be the culprit. – Melvin Jefferson Nov 2 '17 at 19:29

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