How to view and delete old iCloud backups on iPhone and Mac

iCloud backups on an iPhone 11 in hand
(Image credit: Joseph Keller / iMore)

If you have an iPhone in your hand right now, chances are very high that you have accumulated a ton of sensitive and private data on it. Whether that's messages, voicemails, contacts, social media accounts, emails, photos and video, app and game data, settings, and everything else — it's a lot of stuff, and a pain if you lose it all when transferring to a new device or updating the operating system. That's why it is imperative to backup everything that is on your iPhone, iPad, and Mac.

One of the easiest ways to make sure you have a backup on your best iPhone and iPad is by using iCloud, at least, if you have one of the paid plans that offers you more than the measly 5GB that Apple gives for free. But even if you have 2TB of iCloud storage, that's still limited space that you have available, so you may need to do some housekeeping on it every now and then.

If you've been using iCloud to backup your devices, especially if you have multiple iPhones and iPads, then those backups are taking up precious space. Here's how to view and delete old iCloud backups on your iPhone and Mac, so you can continue to have space for new backups in the future with less digital clutter.

What is an iCloud backup?

iCloud automatically backs up all of the data on your iPhone or iPad every day, as long as the device is connected to Wi-Fi, turned on, locked, and connected to a power source. This makes it easy to restore a device if you need to wipe it or set up a brand new iPhone or iPad with your existing data.

Here's what gets backed up to iCloud:

  • iTunes purchase history
  • Photos and videos (unless you have iCloud Photo Library enabled)
  • Device settings
  • App data
  • Home screen and app organization
  • iMessage, text messages, MMS messages (if restoring, the SIM card used during back up is required)
  • Ringtones
  • Visual Voicemail password (if restoring, the SIM card used during back up is required)
  • Health data
  • HomeKit configuration

All of this information can end up being quite big in size — most definitely more than the 5GB that Apple gives you for free. We definitely recommend taking a look at which iCloud storage plan works best for your needs first, though Apple's prices are pretty reasonable and competitive with other cloud services.

Personally, I have used iCloud as my primary backup method for my iPhone for the past few years, and I have had zero issues. I find just having iCloud backup as an option to be well worth the cost, along with plenty of space for my iCloud Photo Library.

Why it's good to keep your iCloud backups

Holding onto your iCloud backups means you get to take your data virtually anywhere, with the ability to access and restore your iPhone or iPad's data from just about anywhere as well. It's convenient for folks with multiple devices, especially those who rely on Accessibility settings, since you don't have to set everything up again manually.

Why it's OK to delete iCloud backups

When someone mentions deleting a backup, you may look at them with a bewildered expression on your face and ask, "but why?!?" Relax, relax. I mean, if you have a backup on your best Mac or PC, then it's okay to delete one iCloud backup. You are backing up in more than one place, right?

Get an iTunes backup of your iPhone or iPad going, then you can have a backup of your backup, just in case. And don't forget, if you turn iCloud backup on again, your device will still be backed up when you're connected to Wi-Fi, the device is locked, turned on, and connected to power.

How to delete iCloud backups on your iPhone or iPad

  1. Launch the Settings app on your iPhone or iPad.
  2. Tap your Apple ID banner right at the top of the screen.
  3. Tap iCloud.

Open iCloud From Settings: Launch Settings, tap the Apple ID banner, and then tap iCloud (Image credit: iMore)
  1. Tap Manage Storage under iCloud.
  2. Tap Backups.
  3. Tap the device whose backup you want to delete.

Manage Storage Menu To Access Backups: Tap Manage storage, tap backups, and then tap on the back you want to delete. (Image credit: iMore)
  1. Tap Delete Backup at the bottom.
  2. Tap Turn Off & Delete.

Delete Icloud Backups: Tap Delete, and then tap Turn Off & Delete. (Image credit: iMore)

How to delete iCloud backups on your Mac

  1. Launch System Preferences from the dock, your Finder, or by clicking the Apple icon on the top left of your screen.
  2. Click your Apple ID and sign in if prompted.
  3. Click Manage... in the bottom right corner of the window.

Delete iCloud backup on Mac: Open System Preferences, click Apple ID, then click Manage (Image credit: iMore)
  1. Click Backups in the menu on the left.
  2. Click the backup you want to delete.

Delete iCloud backup on Mac: Click backups on the left, then click a backup that you want to delete (Image credit: iMore)
  1. Click the remove icon on the bottom left the pane. It looks like a minus icon.
  2. Click Delete in the pop-up.
  3. Click Done or repeat steps 5 to 7 to delete another backup.

Delete iCloud backup on Mac: Click the Remove icon, then click Delete to delete the backup (Image credit: iMore)

Please backup your Apple devices

Again, your iPhone has all of your most important data and memories, so we highly recommend making a backup so that everything is safe and sound. iCloud is one of the easiest ways to make sure that everything is automatically backed up every day, and it happens in the background so you don't usually need to worry about it (but you can always check it and do it manually too, just in case you need a very recent backup before updating iOS 16, for example).

But remember, your backups will take space! That's why sometimes you'll need to delete older backups that you no longer need because chances are high that they're super out of date anyways. After all, why restore to a backup you made right before getting the latest iPhone, instead of the one you just made five minutes ago?

No matter how you do it though, just don't ever be caught without a backup!

Updated July 2022: These steps are still up to date with the latest versions of iOS and macOS Monterey.

Christine Romero-Chan was formerly a Senior Editor for iMore. She has been writing about technology, specifically Apple, for over a decade at a variety of websites. She is currently part of the Digital Trends team, and has been using Apple’s smartphone since the original iPhone back in 2007. While her main speciality is the iPhone, she also covers Apple Watch, iPad, and Mac when needed.

When she isn’t writing about Apple, Christine can often be found at Disneyland in Anaheim, California, as she is a passholder and obsessed with all things Disney, especially Star Wars. Christine also enjoys coffee, food, photography, mechanical keyboards, and spending as much time with her new daughter as possible.

With contributions from