How to Recover Storage Claimed by “Other” on the iPhone
It is a known common issue when you plug your iPhone into iTunes and notice an unusually large chunk of space occupied by “Other” and there is just no easy way to get get around reclaiming it. Some users on the Internet have even reported to have up to 27GB taken away by this beast. This is definitely one issue which Apple needs to address, or at least refrain from using such a vague label – what the hell is “Other”?
What Is It?
The stuff that is labeled as “Other” is obviously something that does not belong to any of the following categories: Audio, Video, Photos, Apps, and Books. That being said, “Other” mostly consists of system files and any application data contained by the native apps. This can include your iOS system files, browser cache, email cache, downloaded files, Google Maps cache, notes, reminders, etc. Note the emphasis on native apps, which means data such as game saves or downloaded maps on your GPS app do not fall into the “Other” category.
The most common solution to reclaiming this space is by doing a full system restore, meaning you need to restore your iPhone’s iOS without restoring from a previous backup. This is indeed the safest solution that is guaranteed to work if all else fails, but the price is to lose all your saved data on your phone that cannot be recovered through syncing with iTunes. I have compiled a list of things you can do to reclaim this space before you really need to go down the road of doing a full restore.
How to Reclaim “Other” Storage
- Delete your browser cache (i.e. history, cookies, and data): This can be done in Settings -> Safari. If you have never done it before, chances are your space taken up by “Other” is due to the piled up cache stored by your browser ever since the phone was activated.
- Delete your email account and re-add: There is no easy way to clear your email cache other than deleting your account. In terms of accessing your iPhone’s local files directly through means like SSH, I have yet to find where these caches are stored. This should clear any of the recent attachments you have downloaded (like PDFs and images).
- Go to /var/mobile/Media/ApplicationArchives using SSH (requires jailbroken iPhone) or DiskAid and delete everything. This folder contains partially downloaded apps which never completed nor removed and were probably interrupted at some point in the middle of downloading.
- If the above steps fail, do a full system restore :(.
I will continue to to update the above list if I find anything new. As an end note, this post is written in reference to an iPhone 4S running iOS 5.1.