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Delete iPhone, iPod and iPad Backups and Reclaim Gigabytes of Hard Drive Space

SNAGHTML343c93Unless you’re a jailbreaker, you’ve likely never dealt with .ipsw files, and likely will never have to. That doesn’t stop iTunes from saving them on your hard drive and taking upwards of 2 GB (or more, depending on how much data was on your iPhone when it was backed up).

Deleting these old iPhone backup .ipsw files is a breeze in Windows and OS X.  First I’ll show ya how to do it for Windows then I’ll review the steps for Mac OS X.

For Windows Users

The conventional way to do this is through iTunes. Click Edit > Preferences… and Click the Devices tab. There, you’ll see a list of your backups which can be deleted with the click of a button.

delete iphone backups

But as is often the case, this list isn’t entirely inclusive—there could be other iPhone backups lurking on your hard drive. The newer versions of iTunes are good about keeping track of these, but if you’re a longtime iPhone user, there are likely to be some strays. Use the following steps to sniff them out and eliminate them.

Step 1

Navigate to C:\Users\[your user name]\AppData\Roaming\Apple Computer\iTunes.

delete temporary itunes files

Note: The original tipster from Reddit advises you to navigate to C:\Documents and Settings\User Name\Application Data\iTunes, but this may not work if you’re running Windows 7—you’ll just get a “Location is not available” alert that reads “C:\Documents and Settings\ is not accessible. Access is denied.” That’s because that folder is just a junction point that redirects to C:\Users\[your user name]\. It’s used by the system and isn’t meant for users to tinker with.

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Step 2

Look for any .ipsw files. They may be in a subfolder called iPhone Software Updates or iPad Software Updates or iPod Software Updates. Essentially, any device you have running iOS may have an .ipsw file floating around. You can delete them safely.

delete ipod backups

Step 3

Also, look for any .ipsw files in C:\Users\[your user name]\AppData\Roaming\Apple Computer\MobileSync. On my computer, I had a Backup subfolder in MobileSync that was almost 500 MB and hadn’t been modified for five months. I deleted it safely.

Locate ipsw iPhone backups

Step 4

You can also navigate to C:\Users\All Users\Apple Computer\Installer Cache and delete whatever’s in there with impunity. For me, there wasn’t much there, but it did clear up about 30 MB.

Delete old iPhone backups .ipsw

For Mac OS X Users

You can find .ipsw files and other iTunes clutter in the ~Library/iTunes folder.  Launch Finder and Click your Username on the left. Then, choose Library > iTunes.

ipsw on mac


You can delete these backups and temporary files without affecting your iTunes library or your iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch. But remember: you are deleting backups here. Only do this if you’re sure you don’t need them anymore. I recommend actually backing up your iPhone or iPad right after completing the above steps. That way, you’ll know which backup is a keeper (and it’ll show up in the iTunes preferences pane).

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13 Responses to Delete iPhone, iPod and iPad Backups and Reclaim Gigabytes of Hard Drive Space

  1. Herb January 29, 2011 at 9:28 am #

    Thanks! I deleted over 5GB in the MobileSync folder!

    • MrGroove January 29, 2011 at 11:03 am #

      5 Gigs… nice. I cleaned up about 3gigs on my system. Still, not bad.

    • mr-reddit January 29, 2011 at 11:13 am #

      how long have you had itunes installed? I had 2 gigs after about 18 months.

  2. mr-reddit January 29, 2011 at 11:12 am #

    2 gigs nuked for me. thnx

    • MrGroove January 29, 2011 at 12:05 pm #

      Nice. Only 1 gig on my system however I’ve only just recently built it so not much Junk or Music on it yet.

  3. Nigel Green January 30, 2011 at 10:40 pm #

    On Mac in Library/iTunes there were only ipsw files in the ipod software updates folder so I haven’t deleted these yet. I await a comment on this please

    • Nigel Green January 30, 2011 at 10:47 pm #

      Wow! I cleaned up 2 files worth 112 and 67 Gb!!!!

  4. Windows 7 Professional November 29, 2011 at 6:04 am #

    naturally like your web-site however you need to check the spelling on quite a few of your posts. Many of them are rife with spelling issues and I in finding it very bothersome to inform the truth then again I will surely come back again.

  5. Victor Diniz March 13, 2012 at 3:37 pm #

    Well done tutorial! I saved almost 5gbs in my hard drive thanks to you xD

    • Brian Burgess March 13, 2012 at 7:47 pm #

      That’s great Victor! Glad we could help!

  6. jed June 23, 2012 at 6:37 am #

    i already done all the steps for windows but still im loosing 10GB+ of disk space. 🙁

  7. Jay April 4, 2013 at 10:47 pm #

    Dude, thank you for explaining this! I was doing a SSD migration from 500GB to 128GB. Idea was to store programs and email .pst files in SSD and leave everything else in a secondary standard hard drive. I almost a day I cleaned up the entire hard drive by moving docs, pics, vids, removing unwanted programs, defragmenting and even compressing the old drive, but still was missing an elusive 7GB! I stumbled upon this .ipsw file when I used the Win 8 search feature to search for files by size (gigantic) and say 12 of these about a Gig each! Read your post and figured out it was safe to delete and now I’m off to enjoying my new SSD. Thank you!

    To the dude that commented about the spelling, uhh… get a life, I guess!

    • Steve Krause April 6, 2013 at 11:27 am #

      Hi Jay — Thanks for the comment. I’m actually doing an SSD migration right now also (going from a 1T down to 256GB), moving all my photos and movies to my slower external drive. Anyway, another great tool I’ve been using is TreeSize Free.

      It’s a great tool, super simple to use and I can vouch that it’s safe and simple to use.

      btw – welcome to the blog! 😉

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