System Data taking all my iPhone storage: 6 steps to Clean it up

Do you often see the “Storage Almost Full” alert on your iPhone, but when you check, it’s the enigmatic ‘System Data’ that’s using up all the room?

This issue is a common headache for iPhone owners. ‘System Data’ should just be the necessary files and settings your iPhone needs to function, but at times, it grows so much that there’s hardly any space left for your personal apps and files.

In this detailed guide, I’m going to dive into what causes System Data to expand and show you clear, easy steps to get this storage culprit under control.

We’ll go through what System Data actually includes and how to apply some straightforward solutions that can clear up lots of storage space.

You’ll learn everything necessary to manage your iPhone’s storage effectively. And just so you know, I have faced this problem with my own iPhone storage.

While there are numerous tips out there claiming to shrink ‘System Data’, many only make a small dent, so I’ll share those tips too, but also an advanced technique that significantly cuts down System Data. So keep reading for all the details.

What actually is System Data: 

System Data on an iPhone is a broad term that encompasses all the non-user data that iOS needs to function effectively. This includes:

  • System Caches: These are temporary storage areas where frequently accessed data is kept to speed up app loading and usage. For example, your iPhone might store images from a website you visit often so it doesn’t have to download them every time.
  • Logs: These are records of system activity. Every time an app crashes or there’s an error, your iPhone logs this information to help developers diagnose issues.
  • Temporary Files: When you’re editing a photo or using an app, your iPhone creates temporary files. These are meant to be short-term and should be deleted by the system eventually. In the same way many apps that you use, creates temporary files.
  • Other Data: This can include system settings, saved states of applications, and various other bits of data that don’t fit neatly into the user’s documents, photos, or apps.

Why Does ‘System Data’ Take Up So Much Space?

There are several reasons why ‘System Data’ might start to take up an excessive amount of space:

  • Caching Gone Wild: While caching is meant to make your iPhone faster, if not managed well, these files can pile up and take up more space than they should ( which most of the times your iPhone fails to manage ).
  • Verbose Logging: If your iPhone is experiencing many errors or you have a lot of apps, the logs can grow quite large ( this is a back stage process you won’t notice them ).
  • Sticky Temporary Files: Sometimes, temporary files aren’t cleaned up properly by the system which greatly increases system data
  • iOS Updates: After updating iOS, old system files that are no longer needed should be removed, but sometimes they linger and use up space.
  • Databases and Other Data: Apps and services on your iPhone maintain databases for things like contacts, messages, and emails. These databases can grow over time, especially if they’re not managed well.

There’s also stuff in System Data that you can’t remove, such as:

  • Fonts and dictionaries that come with your iPhone.
  • Cloudkit database files, which are part of how your apps store things in iCloud.
  • Backups of data from apps that aren’t made by Apple.

When your iPhone shows how much space “apps” are using, it’s talking about the apps themselves, not the data they save on your phone.

So, if you download a song in Spotify to listen offline or a Youtube video, that song or video is counted as ‘System Data’, not part of the app. This way, you can better understand what’s taking up space and how to manage it.

How to Actually Reduce System Data

You might have seen that when you click on system data, it doesn’t give you a straightforward way to clear it out, which can be frustrating if you’re trying to free up space.

I have looked all over the web and tried many different ways to reduce this, like getting rid of stored data from web browsers and removing downloaded content within apps, such as YouTube videos or Spotify songs.

Even after doing all this carefully, I only managed to reduce the system data by a tiny bit—just 4%, which is not really enough. Well these steps you might call them tips, I followed were those:

Tips to Free Up System Data Space

Tip 1: Clear Safari History

  1. Go to Settings > Safari.
  2. Select Clear History and Website Data.
  3. Choose to clear all history, ensuring passwords are saved beforehand.

That one tip of clearing safari history removed 120 GB from my iPhone thank you very much

Tip 2: Manage iCloud Photos

  1. In Settings, tap your name at the top, then select iCloud > Photos.
  2. Toggle off photo syncing, but first ensure photos are backed up on iCloud.com.
  3. After verification, toggle syncing back on to potentially reduce system data.

Regarding this I found this comment:

The iCloud photos back up on/off cleared it for me 62gb to 1.07gb

Tip 3: Force Restart

  1. Quickly press and release the Volume Up button, then the Volume Down button.
  2. Press and hold the Side button until the Apple logo appears.
  3. Release the button and allow the phone to restart.

During my research, I found out that a lot of people said that doing a basic restart or a forced reboot of their device helped them clear out more of the system data.

A user commented this on a youtube video:

Bro, you are a life saver. I did the restart method and cleared around 40 GB

I did the force restart and my system data dropped from 45 GB to 1.7 GB

Tip 4: Delete and Reinstall Apps

  1. Identify apps like Instagram or WhatsApp that may be bloating storage.
  2. Delete the app and then reinstall it again, which can clear cached data.

Regarding this tip a user commented this:

Thanks for these tips. My biggest issue I notice is Facebook, youtube, Firefox, and LinkedIn keep clogging up a lot of storage. I constantly offload and reload.

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Tip 5: Optimize Messages Storage

  1. Go to Settings > Messages.
  2. Under Message History, select Keep Messages.
  3. Choose to keep messages for 30 days or 1 year, which will delete older messages.

So these are the five tips that helped a lot of users but if that’s not enough, here is a unique way that will definitely reduce system data, as I already mentioned above that its an advance method so let me show that too:

Step 6: Advanced System Data Management Method

If system data remains large after previous steps( tips ) follow these below steps:

  1. Close all apps.
  2. Enable Airplane Mode and ensure Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are turned off.
  3. In Settings > Messages, under Message History, set Keep Messages to Forever.
  4. Go to Settings > General > Date & Time.
  5. Turn off Set Automatically and manually set the year to one year ahead.
  6. After waiting a minute, check the system storage.
  7. If no change, adjust the date to three months ahead instead of one year.
  8. Repeat the check on system storage.

Cached Data Considerations

Remember that system data can fluctuate as it includes cached data for various system operations. It’s normal for it to use about 7 to 20 GB. If it’s consuming nearly all your storage, the steps above should help address the issue.

Final Steps

After completing the above steps:

  1. Reset the date and time to automatic.
  2. Disable Airplane Mode.
  3. Reactivate Wi-Fi and Bluetooth if needed.

By following these steps, you should be able to significantly reduce the amount of system data being used on your iPhone.

Conclusion

All of my tips and then the advanced method aim to help you regain control over your iPhone’s system storage. If you’ve tried any of these tips, share your results in the comments, it will also help more iPhone users get to know which one of these tips are really working.

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