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Tech advice: Your iPad or iPhone full? Here’s how to regain space, fast

By Dwight Silverman
Houston Chronicle
Was8575736
BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI - AFP/GETTY
Running out of room on your iPad or iPhone? There’s an easy way to quickly clear out some space.

Apple has released iOS 7.1.2, an update to its mobile operating system.

It’s nothing major – it fixes some bugs and closes some security holes. Most folks, alerted to it, likely installed the update and went along their way.

But some iPhone and iPad owners could not install it because they didn’t have enough space available. This is a common problem, particularly with those devices that only have 16 gigabytes of memory.

For example, when my wife went to update her 16-GB iPhone 5, she was told she needed 610 megabytes of space free, even though the update itself is only a fraction of that. The installation process needs room to work, unpacking the update components, backing up files, generating temporary files and so on.

When this happens, device owners scramble to clear space by removing photos, videos and maybe even seldom-played music. It’s a tedious dance – delete a few things, try to install the update, get told there’s not enough space, delete more stuff, go back and try again, lather, rinse, repeat.

I have discovered there’s often one type of iOS data that can be deleted quickly and easily, and in big chunks, making for a quick, efficient reclamation of space.

Try deleting text messages – specifically, whole threads of messages at a time.

I have a 16-gigabyte iPad 3. I don’t keep music or photos on it. I don’t hoard apps there, either. But when I went to download an update recently, I found I didn’t have enough room. It turns out I had many gigabytes of messages, much of it photos and videos others sent me.

You can see what’s using the most storage on your iOS device by going to Settings > General > Usage and waiting for a minute or two while a list of apps and the data they store is generated. If you send and receive a lot of messages with photos and video, you’ll likely be surprised at how much data they take up, particularly if you’ve owned iOS devices for a while.

Fortunately, it’s fairly easy to clear these out. However, keep in mind that, if you do, you’ll lose the photos and videos on that device, along with the information included in the text (though they’ll remain on other iOS devices associated with your Messages accounts).

Here’s what you do:

1. Open Messages. If it opens to a specific message thread, tap the Messages button at the top left to get back to the list of threads.

2. Find a thread that you think you can live without. The threads that contain the most data are often group threads, in which your correspondents send messages to each other with photos and video regularly.

3. Save any images or videos that you want to keep to the Camera Roll. Tap on the item, tap the Share icon, then tap Save Image or Save Video.

4. When you’re ready, go back to the threads list and swipe the thread to delete from the right side toward the left. You’ll get a Delete button. Tap it to delete the thread.

Now go back to the Usage list and see how much space you’ve restored. By deleting just a few of these threads, you likely can reclaim a lot of storage quickly.

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