How to: Delete old backups of your iOS instance and free up GBs of space

How to: Delete old backups of your iOS instance and free up GBs of space

Summary: I recently discovered where more than 100GB of space was being used: iOS device backups!


I keep a lot of data on my hard drive. Be it every picture ever taken, or video ever shot, it's not unusual to suddenly run out of space on a 500GB drive. That said, I recently discovered where more than 100GB of space was being used: iOS device backups!

If you're not familiar with iOS device backups, it's the magical backup of your device that Apple's iTunes creates every time you sync. I used to think that it would only keep one or two backups around, but I've recently learned that I had backups on my computer from three years ago, and from a variety of devices.

After some research I discovered a few different ways to delete the backups and have detailed the most efficient one below. I should also mention that you should make sure to backup your device beforehand, and then only delete the oldest backups, just in case.

Deleting backups

  • Open iTunes Preferences
  • Then click on Edit > Preferences (or iTunes > Preferences, depending on your OS)
  • Click Devices
  • Select the backup you want to delete and click Delete Backup

In my experience, while you can click multiple backups to delete at once, you should really only do one a time. In my case, I deleted multiples only to soon experience a waiting cursor that wouldn't go away.

If you require even more hand holding, check out the great guide at

By the way, if you're wondering what's using all of the space on your hard drive, I recommend WhatSizeMac. I currently don't have a favorite for Windows, but WhatSizeMac is my preferred on Mac since it easily does a deep dive and shows you where all of your space is being allocated. Then you can delete files directly from the interface. GBs freed up instantly!

Topics: Mobile OS, Apple, Data Management, Storage

Joel Evans

About Joel Evans

With more than 15 years of mobile, Internet and wireless experience, Joel specializes in taking existing brands and technologies into the mobile and wireless space. Joel is currently the VP of Strategy Integration for Mobiquity, an enterprise-class mobile solutions provider.

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  • hmm just had one backup

    I guess this is for someone with multiple i-devices.
    Mr. Dee
    • Yep. Same here. One for iPhone, one for iPad.

      me thinks the author has upgraded his iOS devices many times over the years, or worked with a lot of demo models.
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    • RE: How to: Delete old backups of your iOS instance and free up GBs of space

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  • RE: How to: Delete old backups of your iOS instance and free up GBs of space

    I have multiple i-devices and I have only 1 backup of each. Unless iTunes ran into a backup problem, that's all I've ever had.
  • One for Windows

    A good app for determining where disk space has been eaten up on Windows is TreeSizePro!
  • Windows option for WhatSizeMac

    I've been using WinDirStat for years, and I love it.

    While it can initially be confusing to some users, I also love the treemap view - I can instantly skip to the largest files on the drive. (I recommend turning on the "Show free space" option in the Options menu.)
  • Apples not perfect? What?

    Apple devices may need some user intervention?

    Will the average Apple user be able to figure it out?

    Stay tuned .....
    • Message has been deleted.

  • RE: How to: Delete old backups of your iOS instance and free up GBs of space

    @Joel Evans, Did you do any research into this alleged issue, other than opening up iTunes Preferences on your own mac, before writing the article?

    Have you found ANY other examples of this alleged issue?

    Finally, why did you write this article at all?
    Graham Ellison
    • RE: How to: Delete old backups of your iOS instance and free up GBs of space

      @Graham Ellison I've noticed my iTunes keeps a few backup sets. I'm not sure what makes it create a new one. it's not like they happen at regular intervals
    • Re: How to: Delete old IOS backups

      @Graham Ellison

      I too have had multiple backups on my computer and have been able to delete them. At least Joel put up something of use to readers as opposed to writing to get attention and add nothing useful.

      I too use Winderstat and have recommended it to others who have found it useful.
      • RE: How to: Delete old backups of your iOS instance and free up GBs of space

        @APH3 So in your little world, asking questions adds "nothing useful" to the debate. But then sheep apparently don't question why they flock.
        Graham Ellison
  • Wondering how to make more backups...

    I have a Windows XP desktop and an iPad1.
    Never understood why I cannot make more than 1 backup.
    When I backup or sync my iPad, it overwrites the old backup.

    If someone knows a way to solve that, will be very appreciated! (my ipad - not jailbroken - is getting slower every day and I don't have a way to copy my Garage Band tunes to my Windows desktop).
  • Back-up

    only one per device here................why didnt windows system restore think of this.
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