Save disk space by deleting old iPhone/iPod Touch backups

Backups of your iPhone and other iOS devices (iPod Touch, iPad) can take up more disk space than you think. If you are in a tight spot thanks to your small Mac hard drive and need to clear out files to make space, consider deleting older backups of iOS devices.

Backups can go back quite a while, and together, they might take up a few GBs of space (yes, GB). For most users, deleting all but the most recent backup(s) will suffice. Let’s look at a list of items backed up, so you can get an idea of how bulky the backups could get:

  • App Store data and In-app purchases, app settings/preferences, and saved data.
  • Call history
  • Camera data ie. images and videos
  • Keychain data
  • Address book
  • Calendar data
  • Location service preferences
  • Mail
  • Map data
  • Network settings
  • Notes
  • Offline webapp data
  • Bokmarks, cookies, history, offline data, and currently open pages, YouTube bookmarks and history
  • SMS and MMS
  • …and many more

Backup location

The location of backup files are different for each OS:

Windows XP: \Documents and Settings\username\Application Data\Apple Computer\MobileSync\Backup

Windows 7/Vista: \Users\username\AppData\Roaming\Apple Computer\MobileSync\Backup

Mac: ~/Library/Application Support/MobileSync/Backup

How to remove a backup

Below are steps to delete the backups, note that the device does not have to be connected. Assumes that you use iTunes 7 or later.

  1. Open iTunes Preferences:
  2. Go to Edit > Preferences (Mac users go to iTunes > Preferences).
  3. Hit Devices.
  4. Locate the backup to be deleted. Select it and hit Delete Backup.
  5. Confirm deletion and hit OK.
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