Delete Old iPhone Backups to Save Space

You may have old iPhone and iPad backups cluttering your Mac's hard drive. You can check for them in iTunes and delete ones you don't need anymore. It is important to do this through iTunes, and not to try and find and delete the files in the Finder.
Video Transcript / Captions
Closed captioning for this video is available on YouTube: Delete Old iPhone Backups to Save Space.

Every so often I get a question from somebody who is looking to clear off space from their hard drive. They do a search and they find this folder in their Home folder under Library, Application Support, MobileSync. There's a backup folder and there's a bunch of these folders in here. Some of them are pretty big. If I grab this folder you can see there's a ton of files in it. Command I to get info I can see it's almost 27 gb.

They figure out these backup files here are backups of their iOS devices, iPhones, iPads, iPod Touches and such. When they think about it they think well why have all of these. There are just three here but sometimes there are dozens of these things and take up tons of space. These are, indeed, the backup files for your devices. When you go into iTunes and you backup your device it creates a folder and it puts all this stuff in it. It is a full backup of your device.

But if you only have say one iPhone or an iPhone and an iPad why do you have a ton of these different files and can you get rid of them to clear up space.

Well, usually you can get rid of a lot of them BUT you shouldn't do it here. You should actually get out of this. This is under Library, Application Support. You shouldn't mess with the files in here.

But you can get access to them by going into iTunes. In iTunes you can go to iTunes Preferences and click on devices. iTunes, of course, is the app making these backups so it keeps a record of them. I can see here three different backups. Two of them really recent and they're my current devices so I want those. But I do have this older device that hasn't been backed up in a while. I can click it and select Delete Backup and it will cleanly do the deletion of all those files for me and do it in the proper way.

You can also, by the way, Control click on it not only to Delete but to Show in Finder to jump to it or select Archive and what it will do is it will then save this backup and not delete it and replace it with a new backup the next time I hit the Backup button or Sync my device.

So, for instance, if I was about to upgrade to a new version of iOS I may want to do that and then just basically save the state of my current device as it is now before the backup and not have it overwritten.

Of course that will then add to the clutter so then you do want to go back and delete that backup later on. You can see it gives you a date and time here when you do an archive backup so you do have some reference point.

Comments: 12 Responses to “Delete Old iPhone Backups to Save Space”

    Steve Maynard
    2 years ago

    If I do not “Archive” a file, when I back up my iPhone on my Mac, will Mac (iTunes) create a new file for each back up…or will it save the new backup by replacing the prior one? If not, how many backups would you suggest I save? (P.S. Thanks for this very helpful post!)

    2 years ago

    Steve: Normal backup replaces the previous backup with a new one. The Archive function means you keep the old one and start a new backup the next time. Unless you have some specific need (like a developer wishing to archive states of an iPhone during beta releases) then you never need to use the Archive function. Just having one backup is fine. You can also use only iCloud backups and not have any. I do both iCloud and local since I have plenty of local drive space.

    Lynda Farabee
    2 years ago

    I’m fixin’ to change iPhones so this was very beneficial. Like the new format of newsletter.

    2 years ago

    I back up to the cloud so this isn’t necessary, correct?

    2 years ago

    Marcia: For most people, backing up your iPhone to iCloud is your best option. For people like me that have the drive space, it doesn’t hurt to do a local backup every once in a while too.

    2 years ago

    Why is backing up to iCloud best option?

    2 years ago

    Lynda: Good question. For one, it doesn’t rely on you connecting your iPhone to your Mac. I rarely do, since iCloud means I never have to sync anything. iCloud backup will happen wirelessly on a regular schedule with nothing to do on your part. Second, it backs up even when you are away from your computer — like when traveling. Also, it means in a disaster that takes both your iPhone and computer, you have an off-site backup to get a replacement iPhone going.

    Randy Miler
    2 years ago

    Great tutorial. Found several old backups of devices that I no long even own. Thanks so much and keep up the great work!!

    2 years ago

    Very helpful, but two questions: my 6S Plus shows 51.56 GB as “Used” on the iphone, but when I use “Get Info” to look at back-up on Mac, it’s just 8.8 GB. And to make things even more confusing, the iphone shows 7.21 GB available, but when I back-up on my Mac, iTunes says there’s 11.55 GB available? Thanks.

    2 years ago

    Marty: When you backup, you are including data, not apps. That’s the biggest difference. Other things could be cloud items like photos. There are also differences in what iTunes counts and what the Settings app counts on your iPhone.

    Joe Grillo
    2 years ago

    I love watching your videos. I tried this on and was unable to reach the file you suggested at 0.23 seconds which is Mobile Sync. I am on OS 10.12.1 which may be the reason.

    2 years ago

    Joe: Using 10.12.1, naturally, as it is the current version. Perhaps you aren’t using iTunes to backup locally at all? Did you see anything in iTunes?

Comments Closed.