Clear space on your iPhone or iPad to make room for an update
Q: My iPhone keeps alerting me of an available update, but I can’t update because I’m out of storage. What do I do?
A: Ah, yes. The annoying “This update cannot be installed because it requires at least 4.7 GB of storage” message. Adding to the frustration is the lack of instructions from Apple beyond a brief mention of deleting items from “Usage Settings,” whatever that is. My inbox was flooded with messages asking for help about this issue shortly after the September release of iOS 8.
An annoying issue, sure, but one that’s easy to remedy. I promise you won’t need to be a computer whiz to take care of it on your own.
To start, we need to identify what’s taking up space on your device. This bit of information can be found by follow these steps on your iOS device:
1.) Launch the Settings app. Select “General.”
2.) Find and select “Usage” from the options.
3.) If you’ve updated to iOS 8, you need to take an additional step: select “Manage Storage” in the Usage menu.
Here you’ll find out just how much free space your device has, and more importantly how much you need to clear. Just below the storage statistics at the top, a list of installed apps and associated files will begin to populate. The items taking up the most space will be at the top of the list.
Tap on an app and you’ll be presented with the option to delete it. (One exception: Apple’s core apps, such as Mail or Contacts.) It’s easy to forget just how many apps you have on your device, so take a few extra minutes to perform an audit.
Still need more room?
You probably noticed that the biggest culprit of your dwindling storage is likely the Photos app. It’s hardly a surprise. Apple has been pushing users to trust and depend on its iCloud for backing up the data on their devices. We are connecting our devices to computers far less frequently than we used to. Put those two trends together and we often forget to periodically remove photos and videos—or we assume it’s already being done for us.
Short of deleting your photos outright, the quickest method to clean up your Camera Roll is to sync it with your computer, offloading the photos to a less portable device and clearing space on the one in your pocket. On a Mac, you can use iPhoto or Image Capture. On Windows 7, you should see the AutoPlay prompt asking if you’d like to import your photos. Windows 8 users must launch the Photos app to transfer images.
Once you’ve verified all of your photos (and audio, video, e-books, et cetera) have indeed been offloaded to your computer, delete them from your iOS device.
With enough storage space cleared up, you can go back into Settings > General > Update Software and start the process over.
Lastly, if you’d prefer to clear less space on your iOS device before you update your system software, you can use iTunes to perform the update.
1.) Make sure the computer you’re using is running the latest version of iTunes.
2.) Connect your unlocked iOS device to the computer with a USB cable.
3.) If prompted, select Trust Device on both the computer and mobile device.
4.) Click Download and Update on the prompt alerting you to an available update.
Downloading the update can take anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes depending on the speed of your connection. After it’s downloaded, iTunes will begin the installation. Your device will power off a couple of times, the screen will flash, and a status bar will be show up. Sit back, relax, and wait for it to finish. Your computer will let you know when it’s time to disconnect your device.
Unfortunately, you’re likely to run into this issue all over again as Apple releases more system updates down the road—and as you continue to fill up your device with apps, photos, and the like. If you get the urge to kick the can down the road, don’t: it’s important to keep software current on your iOS device to zap software bugs and patch up security holes. (New features don’t hurt, either.)
With the Apple Watch on the horizon, you can bet your last dollar that Apple will issue a software update to accompany it—so it’s best to bite the bullet now. Wouldn’t it be frustrating to unbox Apple’s latest gadget only to wait an hour while you offload photos from last summer’s trip to the Bahamas?
“Logged In” is Fortune’s personal technology column, written by Jason Cipriani. Read it on Fortune.com each Tuesday.