How to Clear System Data or Other Storage on Your iPhone
Since there’s no option for expandable storage, iPhone users are no strangers to running out of storage space. At some point, your phone becomes full of files, and you’ll have to delete some to create more free space.
Here’s where the mysterious “System Data” or “Other” folder comes in. It doesn’t contain apps, media, photos, or messages because your iPhone clearly states which folders contain those types of files and how much space they take up. So why is System Data taking up so much space, and how do you clear it up?
What Is System Data in iPhone Storage?
Basically, the System Data category on your iPhone or iPad is where your caches, settings, saved messages, voice memos, and…well, any other miscellaneous data is stored. In previous versions of iOS, Apple referred to this as Other storage. These files are usually too small to have separate categories, so your iPhone or iPad groups them all together in the System Data or Other folder.
Renamed Other as System Data is more apt and less mysterious, since users can get an obvious idea of what’s in the folder. Despite this, there’s no easy way to identify and delete the contents of the folder due to the many files grouped together in the category.
But don’t fret; difficult does not mean impossible. We’ll show you a few tips to deal with this problem.
Before we begin, let’s briefly look at how to view your iPhone storage to know whether System Data is taking up too much space.
How to View Your iPhone System Data Storage
To see how much space your apps and other data are taking up on your iPhone, go to Settings > General > iPhone Storage.
A bar at the top shows the overall iPhone storage, including which groups of data are taking it up. Below that, you’ll see a list of your phone’s apps and how much space they take up, both for the apps themselves and their saved data.
Since it takes time to scan and analyze your iPhone’s storage, it may take several seconds for the bar to appear. Even after it appears, you should wait a few seconds for it to refresh because the app list and storage sizes will adjust as your phone completes its analysis.
To see how much storage System Data takes up, scroll all the way to the bottom of the app list. You’ll see how much space the category is taking up on the right side of your screen. System Data should ideally be in the 5GB to 10GB range, but if it exceeds 10GB, it has most likely expanded out of control, and you have some cleaning up to do.
How to Clear System Data Storage on an iPhone or iPad
We’ve established that you probably won’t be able to clear out the System Data folder on your iPhone completely. That’s nothing to worry about. In fact, it’s better that way—the folder contains useful data that improves your iOS experience.
For example, if you have downloaded more voices for your Siri, they would be saved in the System Data section.
But there are still ways to clear your iPhone’s System Data folder of unnecessary content.
1. Clear Your Safari Cache
Safari caches are one of the biggest culprits of System Data storage growing out of hand. Safari saves browsing history and website data to help you load websites quickly. However, Safari’s caches are not a necessity, and if they are filling up your iPhone storage, you may have to clear them to make space for more important items.
To clear your Safari cache:
- Tap Settings > General > iPhone Storage.
- Scroll down the app list and tap Safari.
- Tap Website Data
- Scroll to the bottom of the page and tap Remove All Website Data.
2. Cut Down on Streaming If You Can
Streaming a lot of music and video is another potential reason why your iPhone’s System Data storage is getting out of hand. To clarify, this is not the same as downloading.
When you download video or audio from the iTunes store, TV app, or Music app, it is categorized as Media. Streams, on the other hand, use caches to ensure seamless playback, and these are classified as System Data.
So, while you try to free up some space on your iPhone or iPad, hold off on streaming, or reduce how much streaming content you consume. You can live off of downloads in the meantime.
You can also try to clear app caches from your iPhone storage. Target specific media apps that you use to stream online content, such as YouTube, Apple Music (or other music apps), Netflix, or Podcasts. Then clear the data for those apps in your storage settings.
3. Delete Old iMessage and Mail Data
If you’re a heavy texter, the Messages app might be filling up your storage with a lot of data. You may want to change your Messages settings to save fewer old messages.
Messages is set to keep messages forever by default, but you can to change it to 1 Year or even 30 Days to minimize the amount of data that the Messages app caches.
To do this, open Settings and tap the Messages app from the default apps section. Scroll down to the Message History section and tap Keep Messages. Next, select your preferred message storage duration: 30 Days or 1 Year.
Also, when you use the Mail app on your iPhone or iPad, it saves a cache of all the documents, photos, and videos you’ve viewed. This makes reloading them faster a second time. However, they can also quickly pile up and take up precious storage space. You can clear out obsolete Mail caches by logging out of your email account and signing in afresh.
4. Delete and Re-Install Some Apps
The majority of apps store data that is classified as Apps, but certain caches or data are classified as System Data. For example, if the Podcasts app takes up more than a couple of gigabytes of space, it’s probably filled with cached data.
Deleting and re-downloading the app could help to clear the System Data storage on your iPhone. To remove an app, touch and hold the app, then tap Remove App > Delete App > Delete. After that, head to the App Store to download and reinstall the app.
5. Back Up and Erase Your iPhone
The easiest way to remove excess data is to completely wipe your device and start afresh. It’s faster than trying to locate app caches and deleting them, not to mention that you can erase wonky bugs that may also be contributing to the storage problem in the process.
Before you do anything, you must back up your iPhone or iPad. Otherwise, you will lose all the data on your device.
To erase and reset your iPhone or iPad, go to Settings > General > Transfer or Reset iPhone and then tap Erase All Content and Settings. If you have an iCloud backup set up, iOS will prompt you to upgrade it to avoid losing any unsaved data.
If All Else Fails…
If you’re still getting an out-of-storage error on your iPhone, and deleting data from the System Data section doesn’t seem to be working, you should try uploading files to iCloud. This way you can delete them from your iPhone storage entirely.
The default 5GB of free iCloud storage may not be enough for this, though, so you may need to purchase extra storage space from Apple.