It’s a very common issue to have a large chunk of space taken up by the “Other” category in an iOS device. This can become very annoying especially when you run out of space and can’t sync your new album. The “Other” category is mostly just caches, corrupt backup data, failed downloads, and system data from the native iOS devices apps.
There are a few different ways to fix the “Other” category from taking up so much space. Restoring your device will fix the issue however there are other options that may work and are easier and faster. I’ll go through them from quickest and easiest to the more drastic but effective.
Delete browser cache
If you’ve had your device for a long time and have never emptied the browser cache then there is a good chance that this will delete a large portion of the “Other” space. You can delete this cache by going to Settings -> Safari and tapping the “Clear History” and “Clear Cookies and Data” button. This may also result in a speed boost on your device if you have never deleted your browser cache before.
Delete Mail account and re-add
Deleting your Mail cache will delete the cache of all the media and documents viewed and downloaded in the Mail app. If you go back into Mail after emptying its cache you’ll have to re-download the media or document to view it again. All your mail is stored online so deleting your mail account won’t permanently delete everything, it’s all still there, you just need to re-add your account after removing it.
To delete your mail account, go to Setting -> Mail, Contact, Calendars -> Tap on the Mail account you want to delete -> Scroll to the bottom and click the “Delete Account” button. To add your account back, go to Setting -> Mail, Contact, Calendars -> tap “Add Account…”.
Delete Text Messages
You know where all of those pictures and videos you send / receive through text messages and iMessages are stored? It’s all stored in the “Other” category. The Messages app on your iOS device stores all of the text messages including any media files that were sent or received, dating back to the first text.
You can either delete the media one by one, or by deleting a whole conversation at once. Not everyone may want to delete the media in the messages, for those people, you should first copy the pictures / videos to your camera roll, then delete them. Plug your iOS device into iTunes after you’re done and you should see some of the “Other” storage space emptied out.
Another great tool that I recently found out about is PhoneClean. It makes removing the “Other” storage, clearing out the temporary and junk files as well as the caches, offline files, cookies, scripts and sync-failed media files really easy.
It automates the process, is really simple to use and can clean out a lot of storage with just a few clicks. The application works on Windows and Mac, and has a free version and paid version. While the free version did everything I needed it to do, the paid version claims to be able to clear out more of the “Other” data than the free version.
To use it all you have to do is download and it install it, plug in your iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch and click the “Start Scan” button. PhoneClean will get to work on searching your device. This can take a little while so just let it do its thing. After it’s done, it will show how much space can be saved.
Next, just click the “Clean Up” button and PhoneClean will get to work on removing all that “Other” junk. Simple, powerful and free.
Empty out the Reading List
The Reading list in Safari is used to save website pages to the Safari cache. Since it actually saves the page to the device, every site page added takes up space because it stores it in the “Other” category. If you go to your device summary page in iTunes on your computer and view the “Other” section while removing sites from the Reading list, you can actually see the space slowly being emptied.
To remove items from the Reading List, open Safari on your iOS device -> tap the bookmarks button -> and then tap the Reading List button.
Delete iTunes Backups
If you take this route, it may help to delete the browser cache as well as the Mail account as instructed above.
To delete your iTunes backups, open iTunes, click iTunes in the Menu bar -> Preferences -> Devices tab -> then delete all the backups. Restart your device, close iTunes and then re-open iTunes.
After deleting all the backups, make a new backup in iTunes and check to see if the other space has reduced.
Backup to iCloud instead of iTunes
Switching to backing up in iCloud instead of iTunes may also work if the “Other” data is corrupt iTunes backup data. To backup in iCloud instead of iTunes, open iTunes, go to your devices summary page and select “iCloud” under Backups.
If you have a jailbroken device you can SSH into /var/mobile/Media/ApplicationArchives and delete everything there. This folder contains all the partially downloaded apps that may have been interrupted at some time in the middle of the download.
Alternatively download a free app from Cydia called “iCleaner”. It automatically scans for all unnecessary files including app crashes, temporary files, app caches, browsing history and cookies. Once it’s done scanning, simply click the “Clean” button located at the upper right of iCleaner, then go back into iTunes and check the “Other” space.
Make a backup before using iCleaner just in case!
If you haven’t Jailbroken your device or are interesting in knowing how to Jailbreak, check out my other article: Jailbreak iOS 6 on iPhone 5, iPod, iPad 4 & mini
System Restore and Restore Backup
If none of the above instructions worked for you, a System Restore will fix the issue. Make note however restoring your device will erase everything on it and will reset it to its factory default settings. If you go this route make sure you make a backup of your device first so that you can restore all your settings and media. To restore:
- Disconnect the USB cable from your iPad, iPhone or iPod
- Launch iTunes
- Turn off your iOS device. (Press and hold the Home and Power button until it turns off)
- Press and hold the Home button while you reconnect the USB cable
- Keep holding down the home button until iTunes shows an alert saying that a device in recovery mode has been detected.
- Click the Restore button
Alternatively, plug your device into iTunes, go to the Summary page and click “Restore [your device here]“.
It can also be done without iTunes or a computer by going to Settings -> General -> “Erase All Content and Settings” on your iOS device.
System Restore without Restoring Backup
If you’ve restored your device, then restored your content from the backup only to find the “Other” category still taking up the same amount of space then you may need to restore your device and NOT restore your backup.
To do this, after your device restores and it asks you for your Apple ID it will ask you if you want to “Set up as a new [your device here]“, “Restore from iCloud Backup” or “Restore from iTunes”. Select “Set up as a new [your device here]“.
This will set up your device without restoring any settings, iMessages ect. If you use icloud.com for your email address however (email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com) then your Mail, Contacts, Calendars, Notes, Safari Bookmarks, Photo Stream, Reminders and iWork Documents will sync back up to your device once you re-add your email account in Settings -> “Mail, Contacts, Calendars” on your iOS device. This route has the highest chance of working as the “Other” category won’t be restored since it’s not being put back on the device from the backup.
Login to icloud.com, check through your Mail and Contacts ect, to make sure it’s all synced. To keep all the photos that are in the Camera Roll you can have the latest 1000 pictures synced through Photo Stream. If Photo Stream is not enabled go to Settings -> Photos & Camera -> Turn on Photo Stream. The photos that are synced to Photo Stream can be downloaded back to the Camera Roll once you’ve restored.
Dropbox can also be used to backup your pictures if you’d prefer not to use Photo Stream. It will sync all your photos to dropbox.com where you can download them all back to your Camera Roll once your done restoring.
Here are a few more ways to get your photos off your iOS device if you like: Import photos from your iPod, iPhone and iPad
The paid version of Diskaid will allow you to copy your Messages, Contacts, Call History, Notes, Media and Voice Memos off your iOS device onto your computer, however I don’t think it’s possible to copy them back onto the iOS device once you’ve restored; at least from my attempts I haven’t been able to.