How to Reclaim Lost Disk Space by Deleting Old iOS Device Backups

Posted in How To, iOS, Mac on 24/05/2013 by J. Glenn Künzler


Have a small hard drive? Running out of space? Your iPhone, iPod, and iPad backups may be partially to blame.

Every time you sync your iDevice, it creates a small backup file on your computer. If you have multiple iDevices, and consider that each one can hold anywhere from 8 to 64 gigs of space, it’s easy to see how it can all add up. Here’s my backup set before cleaning – there are about 5 backups below what you can see also (click the image to make it larger).

Screen shot 2011-04-20 at 1.45.16 PM

Here’s what to do:

Option 1: Deleting backups in iTunes

Here’s how to delete backups inside iTunes

  • Open iTunes on your Mac or Windows PC
  • From the menu, Click on Preferences
  • Click on the Devices Tab
  • You’ll see a list of all the iOS devices backed up to iTunes, along with the data of the backup. Click on the one you want to delete.
  • Click on Delete Backup…
  • You’ll be prompted to confirm the deletion. Click Delete.
  • Repeat for any other backups you want to delete. Just remember not to remove all of them, or the most current ones, or you won’t be able to restore your iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad until you backup again.

This is my list of backups after the cleaning – much better!

Screen shot 2011-04-20 at 1.46.35 PM

There are other more risky methods that can be used, which may be easier, but we’ll stick to the iTunes method of backup management. And, please do not quit doing backups – they’re important, and make it simple to restore your device after a replacement or firmware restore. Make sure you backup, and regularly.

For more helpful tips, check out our full collection of tutorials by visiting our How-To category!


J. Glenn Künzler

Glenn is Managing Editor at MacTrast, and has been using a Mac since he bought his first MacBook Pro in 2006. Now he's up to his neck in Apple, and owns an old iBook, a 2012 iMac with an extra Thunderbolt display for good measure, a 4th-generation iPad, an iPad mini, 2 iPhones, and a Mac Mini that lives at the neighbor's house. He lives in a small town in Utah, enjoys bacon more than you can possibly imagine, and is severely addicted to pie.