All of us with an iPhone have received this message before.  It pops up when we exceed back up five gigs worth of data but what exactly is that data being backed up and how can we reduce the amount associated with it.   We break down back up alternatives to the iCloud and illustrate where to go for freeing up storage.  Yes, the upgrade to subscribing to more iCloud storage has a minimal financial impact but some of us need some sort of limited version of back up from iCloud while rely on DropBox, Google, or Synology Moments to do the rest.

How do I get below the 5 gig threshold so iCloud can backup?

Apple Support will have you going in circles stating it can’t be done, buy storage, it can’t be done.  Follow the steps below and most of us going forward should have the annoying “The iPhone cannot be backed up because there is not enough iCloud storage” message disappear for a good six months.


Backup outside of iCloud First

Most every app data is already is synced to the cloud.  So, is losing a backup the end of the world?  It could be if you are not backing up your memories, your photos.     Please consider using the following for backup:

  • iTunes for Windows or Mac desktop software
    • Make sure the data being backed up locally to your computer is being backed up somewhere safe
  • Google Photos
    • Creepy Google can back up your photos
  • Dropbox
    • Less creepy. I’m not sure what their privacy policy is
  • Synology Moments
    • Create your own cloud. This requires a Synology NAS but still requires another backup location like Synology C2.
  • Acronis True Image Mobile

Why bother with iCloud backup then if we have alternative solutions?

Some applications require you have iCloud backup.  Your contacts will be lost if you only use software focused on photo backup. iCloud’s bonus features include…

  • Find your iPhone
  • Lock your iPhone
  • Restore my iPhone apps on to my new iPhone

How do I know my next backup size?

  • Settings > Your Name > iCloud


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iPhone Storage Key Locations


  • Settings > Your Name > iCloud
    • Apps using iCloud (turn backup switch to off)
      • Photos
      • Messages
      • iCloud Drive
    • Settings > Your Name > iCloud > Manage Storage  (This is most likely the problem.  Historical photos and videos in messages is usually the missed iCloud backup troubleshooting step)
      • Backups
        • Tap on backup
          • Choose Data to Backup (switch off backups for the following)
            • Photo Library
            • Outlook
            • iMovie
            • Drive
            • Video
          • Settings > Your Name > iCloud > Manage Storage
            • Backups
              • Delete backup
            • Settings > General > iPhone Storage > Photos
              • Disable iCloud Photos
              • Review Personal Videos, edit, and delete
            • Settings > General > iPhone Storage > Messages
              • Review Large Attachments, edit, and delete
              • Review Documents and delete any conversations you deem unnecessary to retain


The iPhone cannot be backed up because there is not enough iCloud storage Summary

I will build iPhone backup storage solutions as I have the time to do so.  Look into the Synology NAS used in conjunction with Acronis True Image if you are a DIYer.


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