I have my iCloud backups stripped down to only CONTACTS and NOTES and about 150MB of apps, yet the backup is 5.22 GB.

How do I make my iPhone backup smaller?!

  • 1
    Did you read the Help Center link I posted? Your question is still missing a lot of info. Apple is not pushing people to buy iCloud storage, there's some setting you have that's causing a lot of data to be stored. What that is, I can't tell because you didn't add anything for us to go on. We're happy to help you solve this problem but you've got to do some work on it, too, and not just blame Apple.
    – fsb
    Commented Jan 28, 2019 at 20:42
  • The first cust svs person I spoke with tried to relay what the senior engineer said to him, but he told me the the explanation didn't make sense to him either, so he put the Sr engineer on. The senior engineer remote accessed my phone and played around for an hour and couldn't figure it out, then told me that phones over 32gb eventually cant be backed up and to buy more storage. I was hoping someone here might be able to help. The only two things that are left to turn off from backing up are contacts and notes which I already posted are less than 24mb combined. What else is left to turn off?
    – Chip
    Commented Jan 28, 2019 at 21:06
  • @Chip What model iPhone is this? What iOS version is running on this iPhone? Commented Jan 28, 2019 at 23:06
  • 6s Version 12.1.3
    – Chip
    Commented Jan 30, 2019 at 16:33
  • 1
    Personally I do not use iCloud, just not going to store my data somewhere I do not have total control over it; however, I'd ensure you have everything backed up elsewhere times two and then delete everything in the iCloud backup and start all over. Otherwise purchase additional iCloud Storage Space. Commented Jan 30, 2019 at 19:40

13 Answers 13


I created an account just to answer this question. I ran into this issue myself months ago and was unable to find an answer. The short of it is, Apple is backing up things even if you have them disabled. In my case, Messages was completely disabled from iCloud backup. In fact, almost everything was but my initial backups kept saying 4.4GB or so. I looked at my storage and noticed the closest to that were my Messages. So as a test I deleted a top conversation that was over 1GB and when I recalculated my iCloud backups, sure enough it dropped by a gig.

So great job to Apple backing up something I explicitly disabled. Thankfully I resolved this issue on my own doing testing. I hope this helps others.

  • 1
    Thanks to Mathhew Greenwell's answer, I now reduced my backup size from 4.9 to 1.9 GB. deleting the large message threads and attachments worked! No other options helped me. As a new user, I couldn't add a comment but post this. Commented Jul 18, 2019 at 3:26
  • Yes, thanks, that was definitely it. It is clear from deleting messages and seeing the backup size shrink that both of my iPhones (on separate accounts) are backing up their messages to iCloud, even though this is explicitly disabled in settings. Commented May 2, 2020 at 15:51

Like Matthew Greenwell I found that the majority of my backup was actually taken up by my messages. Even though messages was disabled under "Apps Using iCloud" this was still happening and my backup size was ~4.8GB. The fix for me was to actually enable "Messages" under "Apps Using iCloud", then promptly disable it again. Next I had to go into "Manage Storage" select "Messages" and then click "Delete & Disable." This tricked iCloud into recognizing the actual size of my backup which is now down around 180MB!

Seems like this is a bug in the iCloud management code. Anyway, hope this helps someone else.

  • 3
    This should be the accepted answer! Simply enabling Messages under “Apps Using iCloud” caused my backup size to be correctly recalculated, and iCloud realized that my actual backup size did not include the storage used by Messages. Commented Apr 2, 2021 at 19:48

To figure out what exactly gets backed up (or what iOS wants to backup):

  • Open Settings
  • Tap on your AppleID settings at the top
  • Tap on "iCloud"
  • Tap on "Manage Storage" (the option directly beneath the colored bar showing storage use)
  • Tap on "Backups"
  • Select your device

This gives you a list of all things iOS wants to backup, including their size. It also gives you the option to enable/disable which application data gets backed up.

  • 1
    Thanks, I've done that myself and with the Apple "Senior Engineer". The only things backing up are contacts and notes. I have very few apps backing up, about 200MB worth. No photos, mail, messages etc. So between the Apps, Notes and my Contacts its about 300MB. I spent an hour with Apple chatting and a little over an hour on the phone with them and the end result was that the "senior engineer" seemed to be baffled and finally resolved that larger memory phones just take up more memory space to backup on icloud. I think she really couldn't figure it out. I'm wondering if I should reset?
    – Chip
    Commented Jan 30, 2019 at 16:31
  • 1
    @Chip Please add the things you‘ve tried, and a screenshot of the storage screen, directly to your question (use the edit link at the bottom of it).
    – nohillside
    Commented Jan 30, 2019 at 16:34
  • sorry, I got pulled away. I never backed ed much, but I turned off mail and calendars from backup as well as most of my apps.
    – Chip
    Commented Jan 30, 2019 at 17:19
  • Up-voted this answer... makes more sense and definitely gets points for brevity. Seeing "Photos" in the upper level menu is confusing. Who knew iCloud/Photos and iCloud/Backups/This Phone/Photo Library weren't the same setting...dropped from 4.6gb to 645mb instantly. It's a work phone and we have 1TB OneDrive... why on earth would I want to use iCloud???
    – tahwos
    Commented Feb 7, 2021 at 21:25

As seen from the photos, your large backup was 5.22 GB which is a significant amount. I see you have disabled some options, so the backup sie is now 188.4 MB.

Now you have two options:

Buy more storage

If you want to keep your old backup you need to buy more storage to backup again. To buy more storage click the Upgrade button.

Delete old backups

To free up space you can delete your old large backups. On the iCloud storage screen, go to Manage Storage and then Backups. Here you can delete Backups for a specific device.

To fix the large backup issue:

Delete all backups, log out of iCloud, log back in and do a fresh backup. That always works.


  • OK here is were I'm getting lost. It says my next backup is 188.4 MB, but when it tries to backup, it won't because it says my backups are too big? If it says my next backup is 188.4 MB, why wont it backup? Before I exceeded the 5 GB, I did delete the previous backup, turned almost everything off, but my backup didn't go down barley at all. The apple tech said that "next back size" is the amount of additional data to be backed up, not the actual total back up size.There's not much left to turn off from backing up. What else can I turn off? I may turn off icloud backups and store elsewhere.
    – Chip
    Commented Jan 30, 2019 at 20:29
  • I understand I can buy more space for backup, so let me rephrase my question. If I turn off contacts, notes and all apps from backing up, should my phone then be able to backup within the 5 GB limit? Turning off those things means I am backing up nothing, so my backup size should go to zero?
    – Chip
    Commented Jan 30, 2019 at 20:44
  • @Chip I see your issue. See forums.macrumors.com/threads/…
    – user310476
    Commented Jan 30, 2019 at 20:58
  • I think you may have got me going in the right direction, a million thanks!!! At least it looks like I'm not the only one experiencing this issue, I will give it try later and let you know if it works.
    – Chip
    Commented Jan 30, 2019 at 21:24
  • @Chip 👍 no problem
    – user310476
    Commented Jan 30, 2019 at 21:55

You can purchase more storage for just one month and back up your phone to be sure it works ok. If your iphone backup runs to completion then you can check the actual size of the backup. If it is indeed too large to copy to you lower icloud storage, you can try making room or keep your extra storage. If you can fix your problem then be sure to lower your storage option. This way will cost you 99 cents I believe.


I had this similar problem and finally resolved it by:

  1. Going into the Settings -> -> iCloud -> Manage Storage -> Backups -> and turned off Messages from the backup.

At this point, my iCloud storage did not get any smaller, but it now showed a huge bar for Messages (in green) and a small bar for Backups (in blue). Overall, my iCloud usage was unchanged.

  1. Went to Settings -> -> iCloud -> Messages and clicked on 'Disable and Delete' which merely downloads the entirety of your messages to your phone.

  2. Go through the messages and eliminate photos, etc. Typically, I deleted the cruft photos and saved the others, then used google photos app to upload them and deleted them locally.

  3. Went to Settings -> -> iCloud -> Messages and turned that back on.

At this point, I have the same size Backups (in blue) bar and a much smaller Messages (in green) bar.

The first time I ran into this problem, I was at 4.8 GiB and the process brought me down below 1 GiB. I have since made it a habit to bring up the top messages about once per week and remove photos that no longer serve their purpose. I watch as my iCloud storage fills, and when it is getting close to 4 GiB, I merely do steps 2 and 4 above and it shrinks down in a matter of moments.

NOTE: once I added an iPad to my account, I need to do step 2 on both devices, then do step 4 on both devices.


It sounds like the problem is the messages on iCloud.  If so, maybe setting messages to automatically delete after one year would help.  And/or on the iPhone, Settings→General→iPhone Storage and look for large things you can delete.

Especially "Review Large attachments."  If an attachment isn't already duplicated in Photos, you can go to Messages (or maybe Mail) and save it from there, assuming it's something you actually need to keep.

My wife and I get LOTS of images in messages, yet we don't run out of iCloud space, even though we sync lots of things (including photos) from five devices, all on the same Apple ID. And our devices are so full that for an O.S. upgrade, I have to delete Music, do the upgrade, and then re-sync the Music.


I had the same problem. In my case my photo library was the one that was taking up space. In apps that are using iCloud I turned off the Photos app but that wasn't enough. Here is what I did to solve it. The way I went about it, you need an iOS device, it might also work on an iPad but I haven't tried it. On your iPhone phone :) go to

  • Settings >
  • Apple ID >
  • iCloud >
  • Manage Storage >
  • Backups >
  • (then select the device you are on, this device)
  • Under "Choose data to back up, turn off the thing that is taking up space. In my case it was Photo Library. I didn't need to backup my photos on to iCloud because I use other services for that. This immediately shrunk the used space in my storage.

Your backup is too large, because Apple includes your iMessages. I realize, there's a toggle switch for disabling Message backup, but that has never worked; I wish they'd fix that. Its all part of the design; most people end up saddling themselves with a monthly subscription upgrade to iCloud storage; nice job Apple. It's highly annoying, going through phone, deleting, disabling everything from backups, only to find, nothing changed; Obviously by design since it's been like this since Sept 2016.



Besides most these solid suggestions (turning off data you don't want to back up etc) another thing you can do to free up iCloud space is to save your backup somewhere else instead. You can choose to backup to your Mac computer instead. I did this and then I also copied it (you have to COPY, don't just move it) to my Google Drive in case something happens to my Mac.(Google Drive is cheaper than iCloud and something I already had before going full Mac)

Just connect your device to your Mac with a usb cable, then in the Finder you can change the setting and set it to "back up to this Mac" manually. After you have backed it up, just delete the other backup from your device (in the device iCloud-backup-settings delete and disable backup)

Just remember to backup every now and then depending on often your data changes.


I had the same problem and it was mind boggling. Most advice I found on internet dealt with culling apps to make your backup smaller. What do you do when you're already pared down to nearly nothing?

In my case, my "next backup size" was estimated at 6GB while having just a handful of apps enabled for backup, each measured in low KBs.

I went to Settings > General > Phone Storage and reviewed what actually is stored on the phone. Aside from the usual big storage using apps (Messaging, Photos) there was 5GB of documents stored under a category "On my phone". I deleted those and voila the next backup size went down to something like 100 MB. I did not check prior to deleting, but I would now wager those were downloads of some kind.


I ran into a similar issue. iCloud was backing up data for apps that were clearly disabled. My iPhone iCloud backup size suddenly shot from 760 MBs to 4.8 GBs. The main issue was with Whatsapp, which was turned off, but iCloud was still including 4.6 GBs of its data. Whether I turned Whatsapp off or on, the total next backup size stayed the same (which should go up by 4.6 GBs after turning it on).

To further test, I deleted some photos and videos from Whatsapp chats. I found out that the total next backup size went down by the exact amount. This was surprising because I chose not to backup Whatsapp data.

I contacted Apple support and was referred to the senior staff. Senior staff got back saying they cannot investigate issues with third-party apps and maybe it was Whatsapp metadata that was being included. When asked how much that is, they mentioned they cannot share any analytics about the device, and they also said I do not have the option to clear metadata / cache for third-party apps. Now there is 4.6 GBs of iCloud backup data that is technically unaccounted for (since the application data is disabled) and Apple has no reply.

To finally resolve, I will have to delete all my chats. The total size has exceeded 5 GBs and I will have to erase some precious messages because iCloud is backing up data for disabled apps and says there is no solution other than buying additional storage.

You should try deleting voice memos, messages with media and other similar content. Highly likely your issue will be resolved. iCloud backup incorrect calculation - Whatsapp off iCloud backup incorrect calculation - Whatsapp on

  • Running in to the exact issue, it seem to include WhatsApp data in the backup when it’s clearly disabled. Seems like an Apple issue but no resolution still. Commented Dec 26, 2023 at 2:39

I stumbled upon this thread while my iPhone 13 backup was crazy 460 GB big. It was even larger than I have storage available and it was really confusing because it said the storage only takes 64 GB.

I found the problem. My fotos in reality only take about 31 GB, but due to a transfer of an old phone to this phone, it magically created duplicates worth 8000 pictures = 260 GB wtf Apple 😅

Initially I found this helpful info https://www.ubackup.com/phone-backup/why-is-my-photo-storage-so-high.html and it said in section Tip 1. Clear Recently Deleted album that Apple stores deleted albums like so

Go to Photos app > Tap Albums at the bottom > Choose Recently Deleted > Tap the Select button at the top > Choose Delete All to remove all photos or you may choose to delete selected photos.

With this I noticed another section Duplicates 8000 and clicked on it. Then I joined all duplicates and additionally you need to go to iPhone Storage -> Photos -> Delete deleted Photos and boooom you get rid of 260 Gig.

I really hope this helps you save some time and free up A LOT of space.

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