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System data on iPhone: What is it, and can you reduce it?

System data helps your iPhone function faster, but it can take up a lot of space on your device. In this article, we’ll explain what iPhone system data is and how you can reduce it.

System data on iPhone: What is it, and can you reduce it?

What is system data on iPhone?

System data is a category of storage on your iPhone that contains a variety of cached data. Cached files are typically temporary and help to speed up system processes on your device. That’s why clearing the cache on an iPhone usually reduces the space taken up by system data.

Apple doesn’t officially list all the information stored under the system data category. Still, it’s generally accepted that it includes cache data from iOS-native apps, including Safari, and other temporary files generated by iOS during day-to-day operations.

Other system data includes non-removable elements like fonts, dictionaries, and Cloudkit database files, as well as backed-up files from non-Apple apps. When you see that a certain amount of space is taken up by “apps,” that usually accounts for the applications themselves and not locally stored data. For example, if you save a Spotify track to offline storage, that file will be categorized as system data.

How can you check iPhone system data storage?

To find out how much of your iPhone’s storage space is taken up with system data, follow these steps:

  1. Open “Settings” > “General.”
  2. Tap “iPhone storage.”
  3. A breakdown of your iPhone’s storage will appear. Take note of the gray-colored area marked “system data.”

You’ll now be able to see how much storage is being taken up by system data — it’s probably a lot. It may even be the largest storage category you can see in the breakdown. What’s more, you’ll probably notice that it increases over time.

Why does the iPhone’s system data keep increasing?

Your iPhone’s system data storage keeps increasing because new cache files are generated and stored as system data almost every time you use apps on your iPhone.

If you visit a website on your Safari browser, for example, data from that website will automatically be cached, adding to your system data. While that can be useful — the website will load faster the next time you visit it, since some of its data is held locally — your iPhone’s system data will now take up even more space.

The good news is that there are steps you can take right now to reduce the amount of system data cluttering up your iPhone.

How can you clear system data on an iPhone?

You cannot remove system data as a whole, but you can clear specific files within your system data, from clearing iPhone cache data to completely resetting your device. In all cases, a few simple steps can be carried out within the iPhone settings app to free up space on your device.

1. Clear your Safari cache

Safari’s cache expands every time you use the app, so clearing it will reduce the amount of stored system data on your iPhone. Clearing your cache won’t clear history and website data held by Safari, just the cached information stored on your device.

  1. Open “Settings” > “Safari.”
  2. Tap “Advanced” > “Website data.”
  3. Tap “Remove all website data.”

Following these steps will remove the cached data that Safari has stored on your device. If you check your iPhone storage after doing so, the amount of space marked “system data” should have decreased.

Over time, your Safari app will start to cache more data again, so if you want to avoid that, you can always delete Safari from your iPhone completely. Deleting apps that cache data on your device, or clearing their caches, can open up a lot of space.

2. Backup and restore iPhone

Another option for cutting down on system data is to backup your essential files and then completely reset your iPhone. This process will remove all your data from the device. Even after you restore your backed-up files, your system data should now be reduced to the bare minimum.

Remember, an iPhone factory reset will remove all data, personal files, and settings from your device. Do not perform this process until all the data you want to save is fully synced with your iCloud and Apple ID profile. When you’re ready to reset your iPhone:

  1. Open “Settings” > “General.”
  2. Tap “Transfer or reset phone.”
  3. Tap “Erase all content and settings.”
  4. Tap “Continue.”

After the reset process is complete, log back into your iCloud and restore your synced data.

3. Delete local backups

Some apps save files to your device as local backups. For example, WhatsApp can save and encrypt local backup copies of your messages, and music apps like Spotify will let you download entire albums for offline listening. Many of these files are saved as system data.

To reduce system data, remove local backups or set your apps to not save data locally in the first place.

4. Change iPhone Messages settings

Like most native apps, the iOS Messages app stores data locally. Your message history accounts for some of your system data. You can change your settings, however, and make sure the app only stores message files for 30 days, meaning that your system data storage will be less cluttered. To make this change in your iPhone Messages settings, follow these steps:

  1. Open “Settings” > “Messages.”
  2. Under “Message history” tap “Keep messages.”
  3. Check “30 days.”

These steps will work on any system running iOS, the Apple operating system used on iPhones and iPads. As with all of the tips above, check how much space on your iPhone is available before and after taking these steps.


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