By popular demand we have come up with a sure method to reclaim the iPhone storage space labelled as 'other' that do not belong to the "Audio", "Video", "Photos", "Apps" or "Books" using DiskAid. It is basically a restore to factory settings without the restore of the prior state of the device, because this is precisely where all the storage gets jammed.
We'd like to reiterate our belief that not all 'Other' storage space is bad - far from that: it's basically files that the device need, like the OS and it's also the stuff that usage of the device generates, like text messages and their attachments. Also and most importantly you won't get rid of all Other stuff, as again some of is part of the core of iOS, after a restore to factory settings you should see 520MB of 'Other' storage space use, which is a minimum. You should then carefully evaluate the benefits of this method in comparing the potential hassle and risks to the storage gain you can expect. We further discuss this topic here and you're welcome to join in the conversation.
As DiskAid does not save media and files to native apps in iOS (the built-in music player, the Photos app and the phone data) we will be using our third party file storage app FileApp - you can get it here in the App Store.
If you are regularly keeping your data in sync with iTunes or iCloud you would naturally skip steps 6 to 10, that's absolutely fine, but if anything gets lost just don't even think about complaining - and read the note below.
Also and incidentally, if you think twice about how tedious this tutorial can be you could also decide to make it simpler and instead of meticulously save every tid and bit of the iPhone contents that you might never ever need anymore you could make some bold choices and really reset the device and start anew - just think of all the apps you have... how many do you really use?
NOTE: Please read the whole tutorial BEFORE commencing, as mentioned in the title it is quite a radical approach to the issue, will lead to changes in workflow and involves lengthy backups and restores of the device. Besides PDF export is only available to DiskAid 6. Some links to other tutorials contained here display the Windows version of DiskAid 5 which has the same controls and menus - DiskAid 6 has more features, but everything the 2 versions have in common works identically.
IMPORTANT: Calendars back ups are not supported. Normally they are being synced between the Mac (or Outlook) and the device, so they already are on the computer and it's fine. If for some reason you don't sync them that way and/or would like to keep a separate backup elsewhere it should be in iCloud, and if you are not an iCloud user you should know that they sync wonderfully nicely via Google (Gmail) for free - and that from there you can create exports and backups as you please.
WARNING: As this tutorial implies a restore the device will have to be activated and therefore you will need a working internet connection and a working SIM card!
That's it. OK, now let's start.
PART ONE - BACKUP YOUR IPHONE
Step 1: Create a Full iTunes Backup of the Device
In case something goes wrong, if you change your mind or anything: make a backup - nobody will be able to help you recover your stuff if you don't.
1. Right-click on the device as it shows up in iTunes' side bar
2. Select 'Back Up'
3. Let iTunes complete a full backup
(Set iTunes 11 to show the sidebar as it is not the default setting, here's how!)
Step 2: Backup Apps Documents and Data
DiskAid creates full backups of your Apps, and this includes documents, preferences, settings and so forth. Naturally the apps that use iCloud sync will see their contents automatically repopulated over-the-air, but we encourage you to actually save all the data you care for.
This is incidentally a good idea at this point to take the time to review your apps, and see for which you really care.
1. Go to DiskAid home window and select 'Apps'
2. Highlight the apps you wish to backup
3. Click 'Manage Apps' at the bottom of the screen
4. Select 'Extract App'
5. Choose a location or a folder you'll remember
Step 3: Back Up iPhone Text Messages
First make sure you have saved the images attachments to MMS (Multi Media Text Messages) that you would like to keep in higher definition have been saved to the Camera Roll and imported in Step 2.
1. Create a folder on your desktop called 'iPhone Text Messages'
2. Click on 'Messages' in DiskAid
3. Export the entire text messages threads into a single text file: click 'Copy to Computer' and choose the folder you just created - see this tutorial for details.
4. Export the same data into a PDF file - click on 'Actions' and select 'Export as PDF' and choose this very same folder as a target - this other article has more details.
Step 4: Back Up Call History
Click onto 'Phone' in DiskAid to export the phone logs to your desktop into a text file as detailed in this tutorial. If you need your data under a specific format or if you want it organised in a spreadsheet, you might want to choose to export the data as CSV in order to import and format it in Microsoft Excel or other. If so:
1. Go to 'Call History'
2. From the 'Actions' menu, choose 'Export as CSV'
3. Import and format data as wanted, then save the file in Excel or PDF format (to be later reimported to the device via FileApp)
Step 5: Back Up Voicemail
The voice mail should be saved to the computer into another folder (on the desktop or any other easy-to-find location on the computer) as this tutorial shows, they will be readable directly from the FileApp Media player.
Step 6: Backup iPhone Pictures
Your pictures might well sync automatically with Photo Stream (you can copy pictures from iCloud using DiskAid too) or have been imported via syncs. If it is not your case, DiskAid 6 has a handy feature that will sync the picture from the Camera Roll to iPhoto (or Aperture).
Alternatively we will create a single folder containing all the pictures to be easily re-imported to the iPhone via FileApp in a later step.
Make sure images attached to MMS (Multi Media Text Messages, if you will) you would like to keep in higher definition have been saved to the Camera Roll - to do apply a long tap on the image from the text messages thread on the iPhone and choose 'Save to Camera Roll' from the dialog.
A. Camera roll
1. Go to Photos and select 'Camera Roll'
2. Choose the location where to save the Camera Roll content - choose iPhoto to import them directly
NOTE: DiskAid 5 users will save them to a folder, we explain how to manage to get these back in folders as we discuss the re-import in the iPhone via FileApp anyway. Do create an easy to remember and locate folder for that purpose in this case.
3. At the bottom right click 'Download All'
B. Photo Library
1. Create a folder named 'iPhone Pictures' on your desktop and import all images.
2. Open 'Photo Library"
3. Click Copy to Mac, choose the folder you just created (you can create as many folders as you like in order to replicate existing albums as the album sorting will not be replicated during the import - all pictures will come in a single batch otherwise)
4. Choose import all
5. Import the picture files to the photo manager that is syncing with iTunes if you did not have them there already. From there you will be able to sync those pictures to the device once reset. You will also have the choice to keep them stored in folders, copy those folders to FileApp and view them through FileApp.
NOTE: We are trying to cover all possible cases here, so for most these pictures will already be there but it's always better to have duplicates than to loose files anyway!
Step 7: Backup iPhone Music, Videos and Other Media
Make sure all music, videos, podcasts that are on the device are on the computer. iTunes does not let you do that for items that haven't been purchased in the Apple Store, so you will be using DiskAid's music copy feature. A detailed tutorial is available here.
Step 8: Back Up Contacts
If you are using iCloud or Gmail your contacts are kept in sync in the cloud (with iCloud or Gmail) and should be automatically reimported to your iPhone via the cloud once the corresponding account has been restored. That said, it is a good idea to keep a backup of the contacts. And in every other case, exporting the contacts to the computer is necessary to re-import them after.
Note that in this case the contacts will be re-imported to the native contacts app on the device via an iTunes sync (or iCloud). Therefore once the vCard has been saved to the computer's desktop, you can import it to your contacts manager if needed (Outlook in Windows or Contacts in Mac OS X)
An extensive coverage of the Contacts copy can be found in this tutorial, and this one explains the difference in vCards formats for Mac or PC and how to import them to the latter. On the Mac you can import vCards by a simple drag and drop to an open address book. This short article will provide help if necessary.
Step 9: Back Up Notes
Notes are likely to be set up to sync automatically if you are keeping your iPhone in sync with your computer using iCloud or an IMAP email account (see this article), Mac OS X has a dedicated app for that and Windows PCs get them in Outlook via iTunes sync.
If the above is not true for you and in every case to make sure you won't lose any data, just back up the Notes, as simply as:
1. Create a folder on your desktop called 'iPhone Notes'
2. Click on 'Notes' in DiskAid
3. Click on 'Copy to Computer'
4. Select all entries and choose the newly created folder as target
Step 10: Back Up Voice Memos
Voice memos are normally properly synced and are being added to your iTunes library automatically. Nevertheless if you want to keep them in a safe and handy place where you will be able to quickly reimport it to be stored on the iPhone via FileApp.
1. Create a folder on your desktop called 'iPhone Voice Memos'
2. Click on 'Voice Memos' in DiskAid
3. Click on 'Copy to Computer'
4. Select all entries and choose the newly created folder as target
Step 11: Check your Backups!
As you are now about to restore the device to its factory settings make sure all valuable data, file and document have been saved accordingly.
PART TWO - RESTORE IPHONE TO FACTORY STATE
This is the most straightforward task as you will proceed to a regular restore of the device, without restoring the previous backup but instead reset the device as if it was a new one - hence without the storage space currently used by 'Other' files.
NOTE: You can find an extensive coverage of the restore feature in this Apple Support Article, this linked article covers the way to roll back to how it was just before you begun this sequence in case you changed you mind.
Step 1: Restore iOS
1. Go to the 'Summary' tab in iTunes
2. Click 'Restore iPhone...'
3. Accept the iTunes warning telling you all media is going to be wiped, because you did back it up using DiskAid!
4. Once the device has rebooted, choose to 'Set it up as a new iPhone, this is where you are saving yourself from the
massive storage space clogging with 'Other' files usage in your previous backups.
As expected, the device shows up clean - see that there is 522MB used by the core of iOS 7 in the example below.
Step 2: Activate the iPhone and set it up as New
You need to have a working internet connection to activate an iPad or an iPod plus a SIM card from the operator you got the iPhone registered with.
Once the iPhone has restarted iTunes will give you two options, choose 'Set up as new iPhone'. (Again, if you restore from your backup, you'll get that space used by those 'Other' files too - you'll have a chance to get back to this state if so you wish after you finish set up.)
Step 3: Sync with iTunes
iTunes account data, media and apps are going to be set onto the iPhone during the next sync of the device: contacts, calendars, mail accounts, notes and media will be added at once.
1. In iTunes click on the 'Info' tab
2. Tick the boxes for every data set you would like to be imported to the device
3. Go to the 'Apps' tab and select your apps - remember, they will be reinstalled anew without your data or settings - you will restore their data and settings in a next step.
4. Make you selection of media form the following tabs: Music, Movies, TV shows, Podcasts, Books and Photos.
5. Launch the iTunes sync!
Step 4: Start Up as a New Device
The iPhone, iPod or iPad will now be loaded with media and apps, but it still need to be started up - as new. Just follow the set up screens on the device and when prompted, make sure you don't restore it from an iCloud or iTunes backup again, so choose the 'Set Up as New iPhone'.
PART THREE - COPY DATA TO RESTORED IPHONE
If you are reading this as part of a full reset of your device you know the bad news already: the iPhone is not be exactly as before and the former text messages, call history and voicemail will not be in their native apps or locations anymore as you set the device as a new one.
Anyway that's also the good news: files and data can be also all conveniently be copied and stored to the device in FileApp. Even better: copying items to FileApp is easy dragging the folders you created from their actual location on the computer to FileApp via DiskAid.
Step 1: Restore Apps & Data
1. Go to DiskAid home window and select 'Apps'
2. Click 'Manage Apps' at the bottom of the screen
3. Select 'Install App' and choose the folder or location you just chose during the backup process
4. Select all the apps you wish to restore.
Step 2: Copy iPhone Data
As mentioned many times before the former state of the iPhone data is not being restored in their native locations, but quite handily in one place: FileApp, here's how:
1. In DiskAid click on Storage, then FileApp
2. Copy the folder 'iPhone Text Messages' including the text file and the PDF exports of your SMS to FileApp
3. Repeat the operation for all the data you saved and want to carry along onto your iPhone, such as Call history, Voicemail or any other previously exported data set.
4. On your iPhone, launch FileApp
5. Open 'Files' from the home screen
6. Refresh the display - tap the circular arrow on the top bar of FileApp
7. You can navigate through the various data sets and views of your former iPhone data.
Congratulations: your iPhone is pristine, that 'Other' space usage is now as low as can be and it's carrying all your history and logs!
Thanks to Dave and John from the Mac Geek Gab podcast for the inspiration :)