You use a PC and you have an iPhone, a not-so-optimal combination because the two do not easily sync with one another. And if you use an older iPhone, you may find yourself perilously close to running out of storage, a situation I’ve found myself in for the last six months. With a stream of fall birthdays followed by Christmas, this is not an ideal time to buy a new $1,000 or more phone for myself (my original plan was to wait for the iPhone 12, which I did, but didn’t think about the holiday timing and the impact on my budget).

While you may not have the same set of issues, this article will likely be helpful if you’re struggling with any of these problems: not enough storage on your iPhone and you’ve have tried the usual methods to free it up; you’re not sure how to backup your phone without losing any of your files; or you’re finding it difficult to use the files like Notes and Photos stored on your phone with your PC.

Let’s start with the iPhone. When you go into Settings > General > iPhone storage, you’ll see the chart that shows how much storage is currently being used and by which app. To free up storage, you can delete apps you don’t use, photos and videos you don’t need, offload apps that you use infrequently without losing the associated data, delete photos and videos from text messages and clear the cache from Safari browser. But what if that’s not enough?

Take a look at the chart and note how much storage System and Other is consuming. For me, this was over 14 gigabytes on a 16GB device, leaving very little room for anything else. And yes, I’d tried all of the actions above with little effect on these two storage hoggers. There is only one solution and all advice online cautions against it. Reset your phone to the original factory settings.

There is no reason to be afraid of this option. The secret is to backup your phone first, which is built right into your phone’s system. Here’s how to do it. Start by opening Settings and then General. Scroll down to the bottom and tap Reset. Select Erase All Content and Settings. A message will pop up asking if you want to update your iCloud Backup before erasing. You do. Choose Backup Then Erase.

But wait — are you using iCloud? I have spoken to many iPhone users who do not, but you should. This is the key to backups and easily accessing all of the files from your phone to use with your PC. I know there are people who use Google Drive, Amazon photos and others to store their photos and videos, but that makes things more complicated than they need to be.

When it comes to technology, you want to minimize the number of operating systems you are using to maximize integration. Ideally, you’d use one such as Apple: phone, computer and smart devices, but in today’s world that rarely happens because Apple products are expensive and its competitors offer really good alternatives like Amazon Echo, Google Home, Roku and the many PC makers. So when you can use a matching product, iPhone and iCloud for instance, do it. The only real difference in accessing iCloud from a PC is that you may have to open a new browser tab and log into iCloud rather than it being a click away on your Mac’s app tray.

If you are able to download the iCloud app for PC, then you can set it up as a desktop icon. (My company does not allow adding “unapproved” apps.) iCloud comes with 5GB free storage and an increase to 50GB will cost you $0.99 a month, a small price to pay to have everything in one place.

Back to our resetting. When your iCloud backup has been created, you will have to enter your passcode to proceed and then confirm the reset. When you see the Hello screen, the same one you saw when you first purchased your phone, the reset is complete. You’ll now go through the steps to set up your phone and at the end of the process, you’ll choose restore from backup. And voilà, all of the apps, data, site password information and settings you had at the time of reset will be there. Now take a look at the iPhone storage chart. You will see a significant reduction in the storage used for both System and Other. When I did this, I regained nearly 6GB and was able to install apps I’d been missing for months. New life for an old phone!

Leslie Meredith has been writing about and reviewing personal technology for the past eight years. She has designed and manages several international websites and now runs the marketing for a global events company. As a mom of four, value, usefulness and online safety take priority. Have a question? Email Leslie at asklesliemeredith@gmail.com.

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