I normally like to provide dizzying insight about technology, delivered with rapier wit and a certain insouciant éclat, but once in a while something prosaic but irresistible comes my way, necessitating a downshift in stylistic gears. This time, it’s a hack of prima facie absurdity that I promise you is the legitimate goods. So stay with me here and be amazed.
We’ve all experienced that irritating moment when our iPhone or iPad informs us that we’re low on storage, or, even worse, that we can’t download a song or email attachment because we’re just plain out of room. Then begins the exasperating process of cleaning up ancient emails or marginal music and hoping you can get enough space back before you have to decide between deleting “Cheap Thrills” or those photos of your old college roommate, Purple Haze, who’s now selling knockwurst on the Lower East Side.
Cheer up. Help is at hand. But, in the same way that Tinkerbell doesn’t appear unless you really, really believe, you really, really have to trust me on this one. If you have fewer than about 6 GB of available memory remaining, the following method is nuts but it works and is completely safe. I freed up 2.4 GB on my iPhone and 1.8 GB on my iPad the first time I tried it.
Let me give you the steps, and then I’ll tell you why it works.
1. First, see how much available memory you have by going to Settings > General > About. If you’ve got more than about 6 GB available, stop right here.
2. Go to either the iTunes Store or the built-in Videos app and search for the 1956 movie “War and Peace.” (Breathe normally and stay with me.)
3. Tap the “$3.99 RENT” button.
4. If you’re asked to enter your iTunes ID, stop. You’ve already got enough memory and this method won’t work.
5. Otherwise, after 10-20 seconds of the spinning Wheel of Waiting, you should see a message that says, “Cannot Download: There is not enough available storage to download ‘War and Peace.’ You can manage your storage in Settings.”
6. Tap “OK” to get out of the error message, and wait about ten seconds.
7. Go back to Settings > General > About. You should have gained 500 MB or more of storage.
8. Repeat steps 2-6 until either a) you stop recovering more memory, or b) you’re asked for your iTunes ID.
Et voilà. You’re back in business. (No need to thank me.)
As to the why of this oddball technique: Turns out that there are a boatload of useless cookies and cache entries that accumulate over time and clog up memory. Apple provides no cleanup to get rid of any of it, except when you try to download a large file (like the 1956 version of “War and Peace”) that exceeds available memory capacity. When that happens, iOS tries to free up memory by clearing all that junk out.
I’d like to tell you that I had the brains to have figured this out myself, but the last hack I can lay claim to had to do with getting ketchup out of a bottle, a great idea unfortunately made obsolete by the invention of the plastic squeeze bottle.
Lee Gruenfeld is a Principal with the TechPar Group in New York, a boutique consulting firm consisting exclusively of former C-level executives and "Big Four" partners. He was Vice President of Strategic Initiatives for Support.com, Senior Vice President and General Manager of a SaaS division he created for a technology company in Las Vegas, national head of professional services for computing pioneer Tymshare, and a Partner in the management consulting practice of Deloitte in New York and Los Angeles. Lee is also the award-winning author of fourteen critically-acclaimed, best-selling works of fiction and non-fiction. For more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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