Several users have pointed out that they find their iCloud shows data when it is supposed to be empty. When you delete all of the data stored somewhere, you’d expect that “somewhere” to be empty. But when it comes to iCloud, sometimes that doesn’t happen.
That is definitely puzzling!
The Apple Support forums are home to quite a few anecdotal reports from users about this issue — which is seemingly tied to an inaccurate storage measure for iCloud.
In some cases, users will delete everything from the cloud storage platform, but iCloud will still show data being used. At times, it can even be a significant amount. In other more common cases, iCloud will say that it’s completely full when it obviously isn’t.
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The problem is that there isn’t a clear solution to this issue. But there are some things you can try before resorting to drastic measures.
Diagnose the Problem
First, you should realize that there are a number of things that can fill up your iCloud account — even without you knowing.
You can view and manage your iCloud storage by performing the following steps.
- Open System Preferences by clicking on the Apple logo in the top-left corner.
- In the drop-down menu, click on System Preferences.
- Click on iCloud.
- Open Settings.
- Tap on your Apple ID card at the top. It should say your name.
- Tap on iCloud.
Check Your Storage
For the purposes of this article, we’ll assume that you’re following these steps on iOS.
If you’re reading this, the scenario probably involves this: you’ve already gone through and deleted most of your data, but the graph at the top still shows some data being used.
At this point, it’s worth noting what category of data iCloud is claiming usage in. Then, try these steps.
- Manually disable iCloud features. It’s probably worth going through and toggling off iCloud Photo Library, My Photo Stream, iCloud Drive, Mail, Contacts, etc.
- Delete your iCloud backup. Even if you’ve disabled iCloud backup for your devices, there may be a backup lingering on your account. Tap on the iCloud storage graph, tap Manage Storage and locate the backup in question. Tap on it and hit Delete Backup.
- Delete your iCloud emails. Even if you’ve disabled iCloud storage for your iCloud email account, there still may be messages being stored. You can delete them in the Manage Storage menu — just scroll all the way to the bottom.
- Note That App Data Also Uses iCloud. This may be a sneaky one. Even if you’ve deleted the content on your iCloud account, there still may be third-party apps using the cloud storage platform to sync app data. You can view (and delete) this data in Manage Storage.
- Turn off Documents & Desktop Syncing. Assuming you’re a Mac user running a newer version of macOS. You might not know this, but recent macOS updates actually sync your Documents and Downloads folders to iCloud automatically. You can switch this off by going to System Preferences > iCloud > iCloud Drive, and disabling Desktop & Documents Folders.
At this point, restart your device[s]. As an extra step, you could try signing out of iCloud across your Apple products and then sign back in.
Also, it might be smart to double-check the storage figures between your iCloud management menu and iCloud Drive. Either download the iCloud Drive app from the App Store, or use a Mac and mount your iCloud Drive in Finder.
Once you do, check the storage figures between the two and see if they match up. If they don’t, it could indicate an underlying problem.
Some Other Possibilities
If none of the above steps work, there are actually a couple things that could be wrong.
For one, if you’ve used iCloud Photo Library in the past, deleted videos and photos could actually be stored in iCloud for up to 30 days before finally being removed. This can happen even if you’ve disabled iCloud Photo Library and My Photo Stream.
Similarly, several users report the existence of a hidden .trash folder in iCloud Drive. It’s exactly what it sounds like, and if you’ve deleted a lot of files, could account for a huge chunk of your used iCloud storage space. But, unfortunately, users report that there’s no easy confirmed way to delete the data and media from that folder.
Which brings us to our last point.
If All Else Fails…
If you’ve tried literally everything and there’s still ghost data haunting your iCloud account, there’s probably nothing you can do on your end. In other words, it’s might be time to contact Apple directly.
You can contact Apple Support staff via Twitter, or through the following iCloud-specific link.
Users report Apple being able to fix the issue (if it’s a bug) in some cases. Though those users report needing to contact Apple themselves before that occurs.
Mike is a freelance journalist from San Diego, California.
While he primarily covers Apple and consumer technology, he has past experience writing about public safety, local government, and education for a variety of publications.
He’s worn quite a few hats in the journalism field, including writer, editor, and news designer.