TipBITS: How to Recover Space from an iOS Update

Originally published at: https://tidbits.com/2018/06/08/tipbits-how-to-recover-space-from-an-ios-update/

iOS updates download automatically if there’s sufficient space on your device, but if you want to use that space for photos, videos, or whatnot before you’re ready to install the update, here’s how you can recover hundreds of megabytes (or even gigabytes!) of storage.

For stability and security reasons—not to mention getting new features—you should always install updates.

I think some words were left out of that sentence. Either “security” should be inserted between “install” and “updates” or you should mention waiting for known, problematic updates to be fixed. I think no one, except people who can afford to have a bricked device, should make all updates immediately.

Great article, Adam. Thanks for the information. I learned some useful things. I agree with both Adam and Jim Chaffin, that it is wise to pay attention to problem reports, before installing updates. However, my impression is that every iOS update is a security update, in part. The only thing that varies is the proportion of security-related elements contained in a given update.

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I have a different opinion.

I always spend the time and often money to ensure I can easily and rapidly restore my previous setup and update as soon as I know I have multiple backup options. Obviously I would hold off, and have, when I heard of a major issue from earlier adopters. It’s really not that hard and I’ve never been sorry.


So how do we get Apple to allow us to switch off automatically downloading iOS updates?
Look how successful users have been with Front Row, iChat (conferencing!), iTunes app and ringtone management, 32 bit apps … oh, I think I answered my own question!

Shut down all Internet connectivity.


How to you restore a mobile device to a prior OS? I always back up before updates, but when I got a “new” iPad due to a failing battery, it forced me into the then most current iOS, which really slowed it down. I couldn’t find a way to go back to the iOS I had backed up, although I did use the backup to restore the iPad.


My understanding is you can’t. Once Apple has stopped signing an older iOS version you’re SOL. And “older” doesn’t mean really old, like 8 or 9. It means the version they updated two weeks ago. The walled garden approach is often sold to consumers as being about safety, but in this case it’s just about control and making it cheap for Apple. On macOS they deliver security updates for an OS released two years ago.

That’s what I thought too but based on Al’s comment, I’d hoped he’d figured it out. I only wanted the prior OS which was a few months old at the time.


You have to be quick about it. The older iOS will only have a valid Apple signature for a few weeks after a release, so if you wait too long you won’t be able to roll back.


You don’t. This is by far the best solution for the vast majority of users. The update downloads opportunistically and when you click the option to install, it installs right there, not in 20-30 minutes or 2-3 hours, but now. That’s what users expect, and that is what serves them best.

The number of people who are going to complain about an update being ready to go (or even know it is there) is not just small, it’s vanishingly small.

Ahhh thanks! Good to know there is a way out if an upgrade goes bad.


And the sentence after the one you quoted says:

But you can and should wait a few days after an update is released to make sure there aren’t any problems with it and then download at a time that works for you.

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Thank you for this very helpful article.

On my iPad your “iPhone & iPad Storage” is “Storage & iCloud Usage.” Of course, I am keeping my iPad on iOS 10.x, because iOS 11.x on my iPhone 5s has caused greatly shortened battery life.

For some reason I’ve been lucky and never have had an update download in the background, probably because every time iOS nags me to update I just say “NO”. Thus when I DO finally do an update, it takes an hour or more just to download it and this is doing the update over WiFi! If I used iTunes it would be several hours.

How do you do this and on which iOS version? One of the major gripes with the update system on iOS is that it doesn’t give a simple “no” button. Let alone a “no, and don’t ask me again” button.

By simply tapping the “Later” button EVERY time the update “nag” appears. By saying “later” it doesn’t start the download. Someone need to ask Timmy “What part of NO don’t you understand?!”

Oh OK. That method I’m familiar with. I thought you might have found a way to get a proper “No, and leave me the heck alone” button. ;)

You may have a partial update downloaded and taking up space… As Adam says, use Settings > General > iPhone/iPad Storage and then scroll down the list.

I’ve found that updates download when I have Wi-fi connected and I’m charging my phone, so if I want to avoid a download, I turn of Wi-fi for the duration — a pain, but it seems to work. I did this while I needed a 32 bit App when IOS 11 came out. Thankfully, a 64 bit version has now been released.