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How to get everything off iCloud from your iPhone, if you want

Get step by step instructions on how to remove backups of Apple and third-party apps, and even of your entire iPhone

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The genius of digital is that (technically) nothing can be eaten by the dog, lost in a Marie Kondo clean up storm, or destroyed by a coffee ring. There, presumably forever, are photos of a child now off to college, the last emails of a lost loved one, and your favorite settings on the Weather app.

Weather app?!, you may ask. Why yes, in fact you can store a remarkable amount of information in Apple's iCloud, a backup storage option that is yours, until it isn't — since Apple can send iCloud information to authorities if asked in the right legal manner. You may, instead, want to have more control over who sees your photographs, or your searches for grow lights, or whatever you want to keep to yourself, and yourself alone.

So for those who want store information on a device, and just their device, and want to create their own backup on an alternate storage option, we're going to walk you through locking down your iPhone from iCloud. It's not for everyone — we certainly think having a backup is crucial. But you can use these steps to also select some items to be backed up, while removing others. It will also help you see what exactly you're storing on iCloud, in case you're already paying Apple a monthly fee.

A screenshot of iCloud settings You can delete specific backups of apps, or most of your entire iPhone data GearBrain

How to see what you're backing up on iCloud

First, you should take a look at what you're backing up on to iCloud. This is a simple thing to find.

Step 1: Open Settings on the iPhone.

Step 2: At the very top, you should see your avatar, name and then in small type the words "Apple ID, iCloud, iTines & App Store" with a right arrow next to them. Click on the arrow ">"

Step 3: At about half way down, you'll see the word "iCloud" next to a picture of a blue cloud. Click here.

Now that you can see the Apple apps, like Weather, Siri and Wallet, and third party apps, like Uber and LinkedIn, you can decide which of these you may want to continue to back up and the ones that you don't. You can also see how much iCloud storage you have, and how much you're using.

Weather may sound like a silly waste of storage. But remember: your weather details, like favorite cities, stay synced across other Apple devices this way.

How to stop backing up some apps to iCloud

If you want to cherry pick the apps you do, or don't want, to back up, all you need to do is:

Step 1: Open Settings on the iPhone.

Step 2: Click on the words "Apple ID, iCloud, iTines & App Store" with a right arrow next to them. Click on the arrow ">"

Step 3: Click on the word "iCloud" next to a picture of a blue cloud.

Step 4: Look down the list of names of apps under the phrase, "Apps Using iCloud."

Step 5: You'll notice that apps are not in alphabetical order, but banded by Apple apps, and those that are third-party.

Step 6: Go to any of the apps, Apple or otherwise, that are being backed up to iCloud and move the slide from the right, where it looks green, to the left.

Step 7: The slide next to the app that you don't want backing up should now be gray in color.

Screenshot of warning before deleting data You'll get a warning before you delete most apps and backupsGearBrain

The top collection of banded apps, are core, like News, Health, Mail, Siri and so forth. Other Apple apps in a different band, Pages, Keynote, iMovie and others, are not treated the same. When you choose to remove the first group — and only these — you will be given an option to either remove the data that's been saved completely, or to save what was already on the device and leave it there. You won't be given this option with other apps.

Once you've cherry-picked through the apps, hey won't be backed up on to iCloud anymore. So if you delete the app, or the data on these apps routinely erases, you won't be able to access them anymore.

But what about the data already stored on iCloud? That can be removed too — some immediately.

How to remove current backed up data on iCloud for apps other than Photos, Backups and Messages

For this option, you'll want to:

Step 1: Open Settings on the iPhone.

Step 2: Click on the words "Apple ID, iCloud, iTines & App Store" with a right arrow next to them. Click on the arrow ">"

Step 3: Click on the word "iCloud" next to a picture of a blue cloud.

Step 4: Look right at the top, below the graph that shows how much you're storing, to the phrase "Manage Storage" and a gray arrow ">" Click on this.

Step 5: Don't worry if this takes a minute to open. But once it opens, you'll actually see all the kinds of files, Photos, Messages, Backups, iCloud Drive and so forth, and how big these files are. We suspect that Photos or iCloud Drive are going to be your biggest — and in the GB range.

Step 6: Click on any of these. It may take a moment for these to open. That's okay. When you do, you'll open a new page, with the actual link to delete. So be careful here. Most of these will have a phrase "Delete Documents & Data," or "Delete Data," or in red. You'll also be warned that deleting this app data from iCloud will also delete the data from connected devices — and won't be able to be undone.

Step 7: Click on "Delete Documents & Data"

A screenshot of apps in the Settings of an iPhon If the slider next to an app is green, iOS is likely backing this up to iCloudGearBrain

How to end backups for Photos and Messages

Now let's tackle, Photos and Messages. We're leaving "Backups" for last. There's a reason we're treating Photos and Messages differently. That's because a back-up of these will remain on iCloud for 30 days — even after you delete the backup.

Step 1: Open Settings on the iPhone.

Step 2: Click on the words "Apple ID, iCloud, iTines & App Store" with a right arrow next to them. Click on the arrow ">"

Step 3: Click on the word "iCloud" next to a picture of a blue cloud.

Step 4: Click on the phrase "Manage Storage" and a gray arrow ">"

Step 5: Once it opens, you'll actually see all the kinds of files. Look for Photos and Messages. Click on either of these.

Step 6: When you click on these, the screen that opens includes the "Delete data" option here. But know, you'll have 30 days to actually retrieve and download them from iCloud before they're completely removed.

Now, let's say you want to completely delete the backup of your iPhone. And frankly, you should also see what's backing up on to iCloud from your iPhone. What's fascinating is seeing that here, there are very likely apps that you have deleted in the past — and are still floating around, holding your data, on iCloud.

Why can this be great? This is great for a number of reasons. Perhaps you don't want anyone to know, who might be checking your iPhone, that you have What's App on your device. Delete the app. But if you're backing up the app to iCloud, when you go to re-install it, the data is right there. Just where you left it.

But perhaps you don't want any trace of What's App to ever be found on iCloud. And you want to know that when you delete it off your iPhone or iOS device — it's actually gone. Here's where you can do that.

How to delete your iPhone's actual backup

For this option, go to:

Step 1: Open Settings on the iPhone.

Step 2: Click on the words "Apple ID, iCloud, iTines & App Store" with a right arrow next to them. Click on the arrow ">"

Step 3: Click on the word "iCloud" next to a picture of a blue cloud.

Step 4: Click on the phrase "Manage Storage" and a gray arrow ">"

Step 5: Click on "Backups"

Step 6: Look for the devices under the word "Backups" whose backup you want to delete. Click on that specific named device, like "iPhone."

Step 7: A new page will open. And if you give it a minute, you can see under "Choose Data to Back Up" all the apps that are backing up from your device. Click on "Show All Apps" in blue.

Step 8: If you want to select which apps you don't wanted backed up here, you can click on the slider, move it from the right to left so that it goes from green to gray.

Step 9: A popup will appear that will ask if you're sure. If you are, click on "Turn off & Delete"

Step 10: If you want to delete your entire backup of the phone, click at the bottom in red "Delete Backup."

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