It can be really frustrating trying to manage space on your iPhone. No matter how carefully you try to manage the space on your iPhone through iTunes – paring down playlists and removing unwanted apps – it always seems that there are things taking up space that you can’t get to. And that’s because there are. Here’s how to free up gigabytes of space on your iPhone without getting rid of anything that you actually want, by deleting text messages attachments.
Here’s one of the things: That big section designated “Documents & Data” includes all of the attachments associated with all of your text messages. Every time you text someone a picture or a video or some other file – and every time they send you a picture or other file in a text message – that file gets associated with that text message thread, and stored on your iPhone.
And if you send the exact same picture to ten different people in ten different threads? That same file gets stored ten different times.
It’s no wonder that our phones start filling up!
So here is how to delete all of those attachments without having to go into each individual text message.
To be very clear, this will delete only the attachments, NOT the SMS text messages themselves. However, this is also the first step to being able to delete text messages on your iPhone and having them stay deleted. (Go here to learn how to delete iPhone text message threads so that they stay deleted.)
First, download the rather awesome program iBackupBot. It is available for both Mac and Windows PCs. There is a free trial, however once you regain all that space on your iPhone, we hope that you will agree it’s worth paying for it.
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IBackupBot allows you to go into your iPhone backup directories on your computer, and, with precision, to delete (and export first, if you want to) all sorts of media files, including SMS attachments. (A flip side of this issue is that your iPhone backups can eat up space on your computer. If you are running low on disk space on your computer, check out our article Running out of Disk Space? iPhone Backup May be the Culprit.)
Now, connect your iPhone to iTunes, and make a backup of your iPhone. When the backup process is done, disconnect your iPhone from your computer.
Then using the information here, find your iPhone backup directory on your computer, and drag the new backup folder to your desktop (this is for safe keeping, just to be sure that you can fully restore your iPhone to the state it was in before you started this process, just in case).
Once you have dragged that backup file to your desktop, connect your iPhone to iTunes again, and make another backup. This will be the backup you will work with.
Disconnect your iPhone from your computer again (you don’t really have to, but just to be safe), and now open the iBackupBot program. It will look like this – the top pane is your iPhone backup directory on your computer:
Click on Multimedia File Manager
..and click on the ‘Other Multimedia Files’ tab.
Now you will see a list of all of the various ‘other’ multimedia files that are in the backup you just made of your iPhone (so these are also the files that are actually on your iPhone). These include any multimedia files that are not part of your camera roll, voicemail, or voice memos.
You will see a list of hundreds of files. Click on the “Filename” just above the list, to sort the list by filename.
Scroll down the files until you get to the section of files that have names that start with MediaDomain/Library/SMS/
Now, at this point there are a few things that you can do. You can go through each image, video, and other attachment one at a time, to see whether or not you want to save it (by exporting it, for example) before deleting it from your phone.
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Or you can just go ahead and delete them all.
If you are impatient, and want to delete them all but think there might be some you want to archive, you can export them all to your computer and then delete them all off your iPhone.
Once you have deleted all of the SMS media files from the Other Multimedia Files section, go back to the top level, and double-click on System Files.
Go all the way down to the MediaDomain folder, and expand the MediaDomain folder.
Within the MediaDomain folder, click on the Library folder.
And within the Library folder, click on the SMS folder.
Finally, underneath the SMS folder, select the Attachments folder.
Select all of the subfolders and delete them.
Now remember, up until now you have been working on files that are on your computer, in your iPhone backup. To transfer the new, leaner version of your data to your iPhone, you need to do a restore from backup – you’ll be restoring from your new, improved backup files.
So, connect your iPhone to your computer again, to iTunes, and hit “Restore Backup…”.
If you get a message saying that you can’t restore from a backup because there isn’t enough space on your iPhone, go into your phone’s settings in iTunes, and uncheck all of your music and even remove some apps, and sync your phone – this will free up some space on your phone for you to do the restore. And don’t worry, your music and apps will magically reappear on your phone when you do the restore because they were part of the backup.
Then go ahead and restore from the backup.
Once your iPhone has been restored from the backup from which you removed all of the SMS attachments, you will be amazed at how much space you have freed up!
Huge props to NickC25 over at the Apple discussion boards, who was, as far as we can tell, the first person to document this.
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