Apple iCloud’s paltry free storage offering is barely enough to get by. Since so many native apps and services share it, you will hit that 5GB ceiling pretty quickly. Even if you use any of the paid storage tiers, this is likely to be an eventual problem with iCloud Photos at play. That's why you must play an active role in managing it.
Usually, a significant chunk of your iCloud storage quota is filled by iOS and iPadOS system backups. And that presents a ripe opportunity to reclaim back some storage, especially if you no longer use the device associated with a particular backup. Or if you plan to use alternate means to take a backup of your iPhone or iPad.
While you can easily delete system backups from iCloud via an iPhone, iPad, Mac, or PC, you must also know of any potential implications. So before we dive into the actual process of removing unwanted backups, let’s start by going over them first.
Also on Guiding Tech
What Happens When You Delete A Backup
iCloud backups of your iOS or iPadOS devices contain important information such as app data, device settings, messages, etc. That lets you easily restore data backups on your devices in the event of data corruption, which makes having them around quite important. You can also set up new devices using older backups — if you lose your iPhone or iPad, for example.
That said, you can still delete them safely if you are sure that you do not need them. For example, it might be a backup related to a device that you used ages ago, in which case it’s just residing within iCloud taking up valuable space. You can also delete iCloud backups for any current devices provided that you are backing them to a PC or Mac using iTunes — or via Finder on macOS Catalina.
Finally, deleting a backup from iCloud will automatically turn off iCloud backups for the particular device — if you still use the device. That means it will no longer take a backup automatically to iCloud when connected to a power source. You must manually enable iCloud backups on the device to resume using the service.
Delete iCloud Backups Using iPhone/iPad
On the iPhone and iPad, you can easily remove iCloud backups for any of your devices using the iPhone/iPad Settings app.
Step 1: Tap your profile within the iPhone/iPad Settings app. On the following screen, tap iCloud.
Step 2: Tap Manage Storage under the iCloud Storage indicator. On the following screen, tap Backups.
Step 3: Select the backup that you want to remove, and then tap Delete.
Note: iCloud backups are incremental, so you will only ever see a single backup for each device.
Step 4: Tap Turn Off & Delete to confirm.
Repeat for any other backups that you want to delete. Head back afterward, and will see the space savings reflected within the iCloud Storage indicator. Give it a couple of minutes if you don't see an immediate reduction in used storage.
Also on Guiding Tech
Delete iCloud Backups Using Mac
Provided that you are signed in on your Mac with the same Apple ID as the one used on your iOS or iPadOS devices, you can immediately remove unwanted backups via System Preferences.
Step 1: Open the Apple menu, and then click System Preferences.
Step 2: Once System Preferences shows up, click Apple ID.
Note: On macOS Mojave and older, click iCloud instead.
Step 3: Click the Manage button next to the iCloud Storage indicator.
Step 4: Click the side-tab labeled Backups.
Step 5: Select the backup that you want to delete, and then click the tiny Delete icon as shown within the screenshot below.
Step 6: Click Delete to confirm.
Repeat for any other backups that you want to delete. Once you are done, exit the System Preferences application.
Step 1: Click the iCloud icon on the taskbar, and then click Open iCloud Settings to open the iCloud app.
Step 2: Click the button labeled Storage next to the iCloud Storage indicator.
Step 3: Click the side-tab labeled Backups.
Step 4: Select the backup that you want to delete, and then click Delete.
Step 5: Click Delete again on the confirmation pop-up box to remove the iCloud backup.
Remove any other iCloud backups if you want to, and then exit the iCloud app once you are done.
Also on Guiding Tech
Managing your iCloud storage is crucial since the entire Apple ecosystem will just fall apart if iCloud runs out of free space. But once again, don’t be in a hurry to delete your iCloud backups. Make alternate backups of your iPhone or iPad beforehand unless you are absolutely certain that you don’t need to have them around. Don't forget that you can also try out other means to tone down on iCloud usage.
Next up: Google Drive is an excellent alternative to iCloud. Find out how they stack against each other.