iPad memory management – how to free up storage space


One of the key reasons the iPad works so well for pilots is that its simple to operate–just turn it on and go flying. There’s really no required maintenance other than to keep the iPad battery charged and periodically update the apps and aviation data. Over time though as you download more and more apps you may run into an alert on your iPad that says “Cannot Download – There is not enough available storage to download these items” when downloading apps or aviation charts. This means it’s time to start thinking about freeing up some space by deleting unused apps and media.

iPad storage options

Before we go further, let’s review the storage options for the iPad. Fortunately this is pretty simple since there are only 4 to choose from: 16GB, 32GB, 64GB and 128GB (the iPad Mini maxes out at 64GB). Since the iPad’s internal memory is not upgradeable, it’s important to plan ahead and buy a model with more storage than you initially anticipate needing.  As a point of reference, downloading all the VFR/IFR charts, airport info and high-resolution terrain data for the United States in ForeFlight Mobile takes 16GB of data. And keep in mind too that if you update your charts a few days before the expiration date, ForeFlight will store 2 sets of charts until the start of the next cycle, requiring additional space for a short period of time.

While many of us don’t need to download charts for the entire U.S., you can see that it still doesn’t take long to fill up a 16GB iPad. On top of that you’ll want room for your other apps, along with additional space to accommodate new features that may be added in the future. So while a 16GB model may work, we think it’s worth spending the extra $100 and purchasing the 32GB model.

You can free up iPad storage space by deleting unused apps.

How to free up iPad storage

There are several ways to free up storage space on an iPad. Start out by checking the current memory status, which is located on the main iPad Settings page. Next select General from the list of options on the left, and then select the Usage option towards the top. At the top of the usage page you’ll first see  how much free space is remaining, along with a list of all your apps sorted by size. The MB/GB size next to each app represents the actual application size plus its downloaded content (e.g. charts, movies, music, etc.). The easiest way to free up space is to review this list and see if there are any apps that you don’t use any more. You’ll probably be surprised to see how space some apps are taking up, especially if they contain embedded video or media.

To delete an app from this list, tap the name and you’ll see a red Delete button appear. After confirming the deletion, the app is removed and that space is instantly freed up. You can also delete apps directly from the home screen of the iPad. To do this, tap and hold the application icon until it wiggles. You’ll see a small “X” in the upper left corner, and tapping this will bring up the deletion confirmation alert. Keep in mind too that deleting an app does not mean you will have to buy it again if you decide later on that you want it back. Simply find that app in the App Store, and you’ll see an ‘Install’ button to re-download it at no cost.

There are other ways to free up storage besides deleting apps. Browse through your music and movie collections and see if there are items there that you don’t listen to or watch anymore. Review your stored photos and videos as well, as these can quickly eat up storage space. Finally, open up your aviation apps and check if there are states or regions selected for download that you realistically won’t be flying through–for example removing downloaded charts for Alaska instantly frees up 2GB.

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  1. I take advantage of help whenever I can get it. Most Ipad users are happy to share info and tips. Out of all my apps, Foreflight is one of the best and most used. Customer service for both Ipad apps and Foreflight are way above the rest. John D.

  2. There is a free application available for Mac or Windows called PhoneClean. Just plug in your iPad or iPhone via USB and it unclutteres and defragmentises your device. Typical memory savings are in the neighborhood of 2 gigs! Available from iMobie.com/phoneclean .

  3. Very helpful article! I kept receiving the “not enough storage ” alert. Snd was hesitant to just start deleting apps. good to know that you will not have to buy them if i remove them, Never hear of Phone Clean, Ted but I will be trying it out.

  4. I have deleted most of my apps and media and the memory remains unchanged. Is there something hidden taking my space?

  5. Apple products are crap. I thought here I will find how to free up 16bg sons ipad, but all I find, delete apps, movies and songs. People must be stupid not to think about this first. The question is, what takes on that piece of crap all space? Apps are taking just 1GB!! 13,2GB was free storage after I bought it. That means it stores all old crap in it.

    • Do you sync with iTunes? About a a year ago I had an issue where iTunes showed the “other” category of media on the iPad to be taking up 5GB of wasted space. I did some research and the only way to clear this out was to use the Reset function in the iPad’s settings, and select Erase All Content and Settings. I made sure everything was backed up to iCloud first so that after restoring it all my settings and preferences came right back. I’d also recommend backing up any pictures manually and not rely on iCloud for those.

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