Mysterious iPad space hog

This is not a new problem, but I’m not sure I’ve heard a good solution.

My iPad told me storage was full. Among other things, it said Photos was using almost 6GB of space even though there was not a single photo in my iPad library, including the trash. I don’t have enough space on the iPad to use iCloud Photo Library, even with optimized storage (I have a 1.4TB library). So it’s just a local, empty library.

And I can’t delete the Photos app. So what was using this space and how do I free it up?

So I backed up, erased, and restored my iPad, and sure enough the space was freed, as shown below.

But I shouldn’t have had to do this. And as you can see the Photos is already back up to using 1.5GB (I will check again later to see if it has climbed again).

Anyone have any idea what the space thief is and how to deal with it?

One possibility - images received via Messages. I think Photos is used as the data store for images you receive via Messages. So as people send you pictures, the Photos storage grows.

When you delete the message containing the image (either individually or by deleting an entire thread), then that image gets freed.

At least that’s my understanding. Does it seem to make sense for you?

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Thanks for that.

But storage for Messages gets reported under the Messages app, right? Including a subsection about photos?

That’s right. Note that just deleting a message thread does not get rid of the photos, they’ll keep wasting space.

Settings > General > Storage > Messages > Review Large Attachments is where you want to check.

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Hmm that’s odd. Sounds like a memory leak bug. Imagine if emails had the same bug. Yikes.

Anyway, Messages is only using 20MB on this iPad, so that must not be it.

And I will add that Photos, still with zero photos, has now dropped down to 608MB. Less than 1.5GB, but still more than what zero photos should account for.

Two more numbers that make no sense for an empty photo collection: