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If you have noticed that your iPhone is low on storage, or if you are just browsing your storage settings, you may find that certain apps have a large “Documents & Data” storage space and an inordinate storage load in iOS.
We discuss what documents and data actually are, and also how to delete the documents and data found on an iPhone or iPad.
Note that this is not really intended to be one guide liberate up general area, and if you just want quick ways to free up up storage space in iOS go here instead. This is specifically aimed at conquering the mysterious “Documents & Data” that can be found related to specific apps on iPhone and iPad. It’s a bit more advanced, and if you’ve never heard of Documents and Data then you probably don’t need this article let alone find it helpful.
What are Documents and Data on iPhone and iPad?
There are two types of “Documents and Data” stored on iPhone and iPad, which can contain both up space on a device. One is usually app-specific caches and other related app data, and the other is iCloud related files for an app. The fact that they have the same name but have different functions and are references in different sections of iOS settings is a bit confusing, but they are different.
The “Documents and Data” associated with an iOS app includes things like caches, app data, preferences, login credentials, and various other app-specific information. Most of this data is replaceable and in many situations for many apps with a large consumption of documents and data storage, the data tends to be very heavy on caches. This is usually the type of documents and data on an iPhone or iPad that users want to delete for free up some space.
Separately, the “Documents and Data” associated with iCloud are usually files and documents associated with the app itself, but stored in iCloud. These are the same types of files you might encounter when browsing iCloud Drive, and so is these documents and data
How to Delete documents and data on iPhone, iPad
The easiest way to delete documents and data on an iPhone or iPad is to delete the app and then download it again. That may not make much sense, but Apple doesn’t provide a method in iOS for the time being to manually delete caches and app data, so if you want to delete that app data, you’ll have to delete the app completely.
Keep in mind that if you delete an app and then download it again, you will likely lose all data, logins, and other saved details of that app. Don’t do this if you haven’t saved credentials anywhere else, and don’t delete an app or its documents and data caches if you have important data stored in that app. You have to go back up your iOS device before you start so you can restore it if you mess something up up.
- Open the “Settings” app in iOS
- Go to “General” then go to “Storage and iCloud Usage”
- Go to ‘Manage Storage’ under the ‘Storage’ section
- Find the application (s) with the ‘Documents and Data’ you want to delete (Twitter, for example, is a 64MB app, but can often up hundreds of MB with its documents and data), then tap that app and choose ‘Delete App’
- Now go to the “App Store” and search for the app you just deleted and download it again
- After the app has been downloaded again and you return to the same save screen, you will find that it now takes up much less space as the documents and data have been erased
(keep in mind that deleting and redownloading an app will also update it to the latest version available, so don’t do this if you want to keep using an older version of an iOS app)
Once you download the app again, those apps should be Documents & Data Load just about nothing, but if you use the app it will slowly start collecting more documents, caches and data again. In the case of an app like Twitter or Instagram, a lot of the documents and data are simply caches of photos and videos, and so are usually not really crucial to the functionality of the apps, they just take up space. Many other iOS apps behave the same way, which is fine until you run out of storage space, and since iOS offers no other way to take care of this right away instead of deleting the app and downloading it again, it can be annoying .
If this sounds familiar, it’s probably because this is actually one of the main ways to delete “Other” data storage from an iPhone or iPad (aside from completely restoring the device, which works best), and some users will also do as far as delete all their apps and then download them all again if it turns out that they use a lot up large amounts of documents and data storage.
How to Delete documents and data from iCloud in iOS
The other type of documents and data is stored in iCloud, and it is the type of documents and data that users can delete directly without having to delete the entire app first. With iCloud documents and data, the storage load isn’t actually on the device itself, but in iCloud, so most users don’t have to manually delete documents and data from iCloud and apps that store that data there. Nevertheless, here’s how you can delete documents and data from iCloud in iOS:
- Open the “Settings” app in iOS
- Go to “General” then go to “Storage and iCloud Usage”
- Look under the ‘iCloud’ section and choose ‘Manage Storage’ (make sure to go to iCloud or you will end up in the list of installed apps we discussed earlier)
- Scroll down until you see the ‘Documents and data’ section, then tap the app you want to delete the documents and data from
- Choose “Edit” then “Delete” or swipe left and choose “Delete” in the iCloud documents and data you want to delete from the specific app
- Exit Settings when done
The way documents and data are handled with iCloud storage is certainly preferable to the impossible to manually delete caches that up in native iOS apps as it gives the user more control over what to delete and what to keep. Hopefully, the same ability will come to the app-specific local device storage documents and data types found on iPhone and iPad.
Why can’t users manually delete documents and data from iOS apps?
That’s a good question, hopefully a future version of iOS will provide a manual option to delete app caches and app data. Many Android apps have such feature, and a manual cache deletion option would be most welcome in the iOS world where Documents & Data and the “Other” storage is routinely blown up and nearly impossible to recover without a significant amount of effort and often a device recovery.
Is there really no way to get iOS to delete local storage documents and data without deleting the app first?
Generally speaking, that is correct. However, you can use a number of possible solutions to force iOS to run its app “Cleanup …” process. One method I’ve been using for years is to use a third party camera app to force iPhone Camera to take pictures even when there is no storage space available which tends to work for a while (where it finds storage space in who knows what ether is a big mystery) before you get an error about storage space then the App name “clean up” in iOS maintenance process. Very quirky, very much a temporary solution, and no, not at all intuitive for the user and not really recommended. But it can work anecdotally. Another trick that works in the same way is trying to download a huge movie from iTunes (e.g. Lord of the Rings in HD) that clearly doesn’t fit on the iPhone or iPad, cleaning the same app up process after or during the huge movie download failure.
Do you know of any other method to delete documents and data from iPhone or iPad? Do you have a different understanding of documents and data in iOS? Let us know in the comments!
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