Slimming down the bloated iTunes installer

Slimming down the bloated iTunes installer

Summary: How do you supersize a simple music manager? Ask Apple. The Windows version of iTunes 8 takes up nearly 200MB of space on a Windows PC, including kernel-mode drivers, multiple system services, and at least one add-in. It takes a supersize helping of chutzpah to create an ad that criticizes Windows for its “bloat” and then deliver an upgrade with as much unnecessary junk as this one. If you’re like most people, you don’t need any of that additional junk. In this post, I’ll explain how you can figure out which parts of the package you need, and then show you how to wrestle control of iTunes back.

TOPICS: Apple, Hardware, Mobility

[Updated 10-Sep-2010. I have completely updated and republished this post to cover iTunes 10. See The unofficial guide to installing iTunes 10 without bloatware.]

[Updated 27-Sep-2009: Apple has now released iTunes 9. I have updated this post accordingly.]

[Updated 3-Oct 11:30AM PDT: After I did the original research for this piece, Apple released iTunes 8.0.1. I have been unable to find a set of release notes or a changelog for this versions, but I have updated filenames referenced in this post to reflect the new version number.]

How do you supersize a simple music manager? Ask Apple. The Windows version of iTunes 8, released earlier this month and quickly patched after it caused an outbreak of blue-screen crashes, is a 64MB download. (For the sake of comparison, Windows Media Player 11 for Windows XP is just over 24 MB.) The full iTunes 8 installation takes up nearly 200MB of space on a Windows PC.

Slimming down the bloated iTunes 8 installerAs it turns out, the iTunes installer has been bulking up for the past year or two. Don’t be fooled by the filename: iTunes801Setup.exe, the most recent version as of this writing, includes much more than the iTunes client. Without any disclosure and without your consent, the iTunes 8 setup program installs kernel-mode drivers, multiple system services, and at least one add-in. It takes a supersize helping of chutzpah to create an ad that criticizes Windows for its “bloat” and then deliver an upgrade with as much unnecessary junk as this one. Update: The iTunes 9 installer is even larger and includes one more component, as I document below.

The last time I wrote about this, several commenters defended Apple by insisting that every component in that full install was necessary, and that trying to carve away any of those bits will degrade Apple’s awesome end-to-end experience. I’ve looked at the iTunes installer on multiple Windows machines and am convinced that those Apple defenders are wrong. If you’re like most people, you don’t need any of that additional junk. In this post, I’ll explain how you can figure out which parts of the package you need, and then show you how to wrestle control of iTunes back.

For starters, let’s look at everything that’s in the iTunes Windows installer, with an explanation of what it’s used for and how you can decide whether you need it:

  • QuickTime is Apple’s multimedia framework, a collection of codecs, plugins, DLLs, and several players designed to help you play back digital media files in most popular formats. The big selling point is support for the QuickTime movie (.mov) format, via the standalone player or an embedded ActiveX control.
  • iTunes is Apple’s all-purpose media player/device sync application. If you own an iPod, this is the only officially supported way to interact with it, although third-party alternatives are available. iTunes also provides access to the iTunes store, and if you own an iPhone you must use iTunes to activate it, update its firmware, and sync its content with your PC.
  • Bonjour is Apple’s implementation of the open-source Zeroconf, a multicast DNS responder used to discover services on a local area network. It’s installed by default with the iTunes download and also installed silently with some Adobe products, a decision that “freaked out” some Adobe customers. Adding unauthorized peer-to-peer services on a corporate network is a distinct no-no, as a number of customers have told Apple on their support forums. (The response? Crickets.) If you want to share iTunes libraries over a network or use Apple TV, you need Bonjour. If you have a printer attached to an AirPort device, you should use Bonjour. However, if you simply want to play media files and sync your iTunes library with your iPod, you don’t need Bonjour. (And Photoshop users can safely remove it as well unless they have a Version Cue server on their network.)
  • Apple Mobile Device Support is the synchronization framework for the iPhone and iPod Touch family of “mobile devices.” This package is not necessary if you have any other member of the iPod family, including the Classic, Mini, Nano, or Shuffle, which sync just fine using just the basic iTunes app.
  • MobileMe is the support software that enables synchronization of email and contacts and calendar items with Apple’s MobileMe service (previously .Mac). It is included with the iTunes installer to update existing installations, but is no longer installed as part of a default new setup.
  • Apple Software Update is a utility that checks for new versions of Apple software installed on your PC. It also pushes new Windows-compatible Apple software programs. Understanding how this utility works is crucial; it can and will install software you have explicitly rejected if you don’t monitor its actions carefully.
  • Apple Application Support is new in iTunes 9. As best as I can tell, it is a framework for managing applications on the iPhone, iPod Touch, and (presumably) future devices. It is a required component for both iTunes and QuickTime.

Four paths to a cleaner iTunes install -->

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So, how do you wrestle back control of iTunes so that you’re not installing unneeded and unwanted junk? Your essential starting point is to unpack the installer files from the single file that Apple provides. You’ll need a third-party utility to do this. If you already have WinZip or WinRAR installed, you can use the File, Open menu to extract files from iTunesSetup.exe (or, on x64 Windows machines, iTunes64Setup.exe). I use the wonderful free IZArc utility, shown here displaying the contents of the 64-bit iTunes 8.0 installer. Note that the iTunes 9 package includes an additional file.

WhatÂ’s inside the iTunes 8 installer?

Performing a selective iTunes install involves three steps:

1. Extract the installer files you need to a local folder.

2. Run the installers with the proper command-line switches.

3. Prevent Apple Software Update from undoing your careful work later.

I believe most Windows users can safely slot themselves into one of the following five installation scenarios. Use the bold-faced text to determine which one applies to you, then follow the accompanying instructions.

You want to play QuickTime movies and media clips. If you don’t own an iPod and you prefer another media player to iTunes, avoid iTunes completely. Go to Apple’s QuickTime download page and choose the QuickTime-only option (don’t accept the default, which includes the full, bloated iTunes installer). If you’d prefer an even lighter option, try the unofficial QuickTime Alternative, which runs on XP and Vista.

You want to use iTunes with an iPod Classic, Mini, Nano, or Shuffle. Extract three files from the iTunesSetup file, AppleApplicationSupport.msi, QuickTime.msi and iTunes.msi, and save them in a local folder. Open a command prompt window, navigate to that folder, and run the following commands:

  • AppleApplicationSupport.msi /passive
  • Quicktime.msi /passive
  • iTunes.msi /passive

(If you have an x64 system, the second command is iTunes64.msi /passive.) The /passive switch performs all installations in unattended mode. After you complete the installation and restart your system, you can rip and burn CDs, play music from your collection, buy music tracks and TV shows from the iTunes store, and synchronize music and other media files with any iPod except an iPod Touch or iPhone.

You want to combine multiple iTunes libraries on a local network and/or connect to an Apple TV device. Install the AppleApplicationSupport, QuickTime, and iTunes packages as described in the previous scenario, and also extract and install Bonjour.msi using the /passive switch. Note that Bonjour must be installed on any computer whose library you want to share.

You want to activate and manage an iPhone or synchronize with an iPod Touch. In addition to installing the iTunes and QuickTime packages, you’ll need to extract and run AppleMobileDeviceSupport.msi (on x64 installations, be sure to use AppleMobileDeviceSupport64.msi.) The original iPhone does not support or require Bonjour; I am unable to confirm whether the iPhone 3G uses it.

And finally, decide whether you want to install Apple Software Update. Given the history of serious security flaws in QuickTime and iTunes, it’s crucial to remain up to date with patches for all Apple programs you choose to install. The trouble with Apple Software Update is that any attempt to “update” iTunes will install the other, unwanted packages as well. If you decide to use Apple Software Update, I recommend using it as a detection system only. When you see that a new update is available, download the iTunes installer manually and then extract and update only those components you want.

Topics: Apple, Hardware, Mobility

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  • Performance?

    Let alone the installer size, does anyone else out there have kind of mediocre performance with iTunes in Windows Vista? I've had a number of times where it just seems to come up black, or respond slowly, or syncing just slows my PC to a crawl. Is this just a local issue for me, or is iTunes truly broken for many other 'normal,' if you will, people out there?

    Also, as a sidenote, why does an update need to be near 60 MB anyway? We don't have to download 26 MB for any Windows Media Player updates, or a multi-gigabyte download for Windows Updates.
    • Typical Apple Junk

      1st: Quicktime is a format that should never have been in the 1st place.

      Everyone always bash Microsoft for tons of reasons, but... Apple is 1000's whorst. Apple software are of very low quality, full of bugs that go unpatched for months, install stuff agains your will....

      The reality is: Apple IS the whorst software maker outthere. The only thing Apple is good at the: Selling hype...
      • Typical MS fanboy

        "Quicktime is a format that should never have been in the 1st place"

        Funny boy if QT was not there in the first place Microsoft woudnt had nobody to copy, after Apple come with QT it took MS many attempts and years to come with something close.
        • Typical Apple fanboy

          Um, the WMV format was around LONG before the Apple
          mov format. Apple copied MS on that one.

          Like the normal Apple fanboy, you are under a rock
          when it comes to REAL computers.
          • My two cents to this storry

            I have recently found CopyTrans Manager which is a decent (and of course free) replacement for iTunes.

            Take iTunes, bring it to its core function of adding/removing tracks, videos, playlists and apps to iPhones and remove all the rest - this is what this tool is.
      • Great Opinion?

        I always value the opinions of people who can't spell

        ...Even if they did spell it right though, what they have to
        say is still a load of crap.

        Talking about the facts:
        1) Is iTunes bloated - definitely
        2) Is Quicktime a great format - yes, but the software for
        Windows is still very buggy and does lack some nice
        • You too?

          At least it wasn't txt spl or l337. that always impresses the hell out of me, and usually means I've lost the argument...

          There's never a suitable 'rolleyes' smiley, one that transmits the level of resigned disdain such things evoke...
    • I have the same issues with iTunes on my

      son's machine (I took it off mine) it's XP-Pro and it is just horrible and slow. My daughter switched to a Zune after her 2nd iPod went kaput...and software peformance has been very good and she saved some money as well.
      • The Zune Player is nice

        Visually and in terms of performance it beats iTunes, hands down. I love the artist info view while you play music, MixView is quite visually appealing and functional at the same time, transitions are smooth, podcast organization is awesome (I hated that podcasts would disappear from the list if I deleted the file - I like knowing what podcasst have come out even if I already saw the podcast and don;t want the file in my computer).

        Also, iTunes always seemed to have problems maximizing/minimizing videos (podcasts) whenever I played them. Kind of annoying
    • Black iTunes

      I get those about 50% of the time on the off moments I fire up iTunes. I never even tried iTunes 8, though; I don't like that Apple is hellbent on installing all sort of random Sh on your computer w/o telling you.

      I stayed with 7.something since it serves the purpose to download whatever free iTunes songs I get from promotions and such.

      Yes, iTunes is slow.

      Anyway, whenever I get the black iTunes it's usually fixed by minimizing and maximizing the window.
      • Re: Black iTunes

        "Anyway, whenever I get the black iTunes it's usually fixed by minimizing and maximizing the window. "

        That sometimes works for me, but not often enough to make it reliable.
        • Oh absolutely

          It's not reliable at all
          iTunes is certainly a piece of crap in Windows
    • Black iTunes

      "I've had a number of times where it just seems to come up black, or respond slowly, or syncing just slows my PC to a crawl."

      It's a common problem for me...

      and it happnes in Aero, the lower eyecandy Vista and the 'I've made it all look like Windows 98' skins...
      • The problem is not Windows

        The problem is iTunes

        Making Vista look like Win 98 won't do anything.

        The only program that has given me any issues in Vista, for the year or so I've had Vista, is iTunes.

        Apple can't write Windows software for sht
  • Outlook Abuse

    iTunes also installs an Outlook add-in to facilitate synchronizing of contacts and calendar. I've seen it cause serious stability problems in Outlook. You can remove it with Outlook's add-in management, but the next time you update iTunes it reinstalls.

    I've never been able to get the calendar synch to work.
    Larry Seltzer
    • Works on my wife's iPhone

      I'll look more closely at where that add-in comes from and then update this post.
      Ed Bott
      • Two Apple Outlook Add-ins


        Apple installs two add-ins in Outlook,iTunes and Change Notifier. Both have been reported to cause stability issues and are unnecessary unless you are syncing your Outlook calendar with your iPod.
        • Do you know which installers they come from?

          I'm going to test but am curious whether you know.
          Ed Bott
  • this is idiotic...

    200MB... whoop-di-doo! in this age of broadband and computers
    with hundreds of GB to multiple TB of storage... who the hell cares?
    ...seriously? ...who the hell cares?

    like the average users want to ferret through all these things and
    figure out what they need and don't need rather than just get it all
    and know in any eventuality.. when i all likelihood it doesn't impact
    them in a bad way at all either way.

    like the Mobile Device Support.. yeah, everyone has the time to sit
    around and figure out that... ok which iPod do i have.. ok don't need
    that.. nice.. i reclaimed 5MB on my 500GB drive... then they buy and
    iPod Touch... hey why the hell is my iTunes not working anymore?

    or same with Bonjour and AppleTV...

    if you are on a commodor 64... this article might be of value to you,
    but c'mo, for anyone else.. honestly... who the hell cares... most
    people just don't have the time, need or inclination to be worrying
    about this at all... this is just no an issue for most people... not an
    issue for almost everyone.
    • I disagree...

      I don't think it's a waste of time to go hunting around for services and stuff that is installed on your machine. I for one KNOW I don't have an iPod Touch or an iPhone... don't want it, don't need it. I have no need for the MobileMe or the Mobile Device support... that's not just saved space (which on my laptop IS a premium) but it's useless clutter in my control panels and drags the performance of my PC down.

      I have also, on more than one occasion, had my computer crash due to Bonjour, so it's nice to know I can just uninstall it without breaking the software I need (Apple Store, iTunes, etc.)

      This article is worth the read for those who want to know what they can and can't remove for performance sake. And what's the worst thing that happens? You just reinstall the software at the next version release anyway.

      Just my two cents