How to Reclaim Disk Space By Clearing iTunes Backups and Data

One recent experience that had us racking our brains here was iTunes using up a ton of memory/disk space on the PC. This iTunes was used to backup and sync an almost-full 16GB iPhone and the result of that exercise ended up in iTunes actually eating up a ton of disk space.

A good thing to come out of it was finding out what the heart of the problem is. If you are facing the same issue where iTunes is using too much of your disk space, these tips might come in handy. Take a look:

How to Reclaim Disk Space By Clearing iTunes Backups and Data

Clearing Backups on iTunes

For an iPhone filled to its brim, the backup is going to be enormous even though it’s compressed. If you backup through iTunes and if you have set up iTunes to backup automatically, the problem of disk space actually escalates because iTunes creates multiple backups.

While each backup is not a full package, you will still find that clearing one or two backups can free up more than 1-2 GB of data. And that’s a ton. If you have multiple backups, clearing many of them and retaining just the latest one would help. Here’s how to do that:

  • Open iTunes
  • Click on EditPreferences
  • Click on Devices
  • Do you see a list of backups with date/time info on the right? If you can identify your device here and it appears more than once, you have a way to clear some space. Click on the backup that is not the latest and then click on Delete Backup.
  • Do this for every backup listing (except the latest one).

Clearing Backups on iTunes

One of the other cool things that you can do is clear out all backups and then create a new backup of your device right now.

Clearing Apps on iTunes

This is something that I got only recently. In iTunes 11, you could remove apps from iTunes and that will still not affect the apps on your iPhone/iPad or any iDevice that you sync through iTunes. Which is great because you can clear a lot of app data from your computer and still be in the safe zone.

Technically, you can delete apps from the iTunes Library (not the device and not from iTunes → Device → Apps) and clear out a lot of data while avoiding any problems with app sync. Clearing, however, means you will lose the app should in case it ceases to exist on the App Store. That’s an acceptable risk for most of us.

Again, just to be sure, clear apps from iTunes library. If you are still unsure, do this without connecting your iDevice to the computer.

Moving the Media Folder

The other core problem comes from where iTunes syncs your photos, videos and the larger chunk of data which occupies a lot of space. By default, this is within your OS folder (in Windows, this is C:/).

Fortunately, you can move to this location. You can tell iTunes to place the synced data elsewhere. This is not exactly a solution to iTunes using up a lot of disk space, but for Windows users at least, this can be helpful in preventing lower disk space issues in the OS drive.

To Move Media Folder do this:

  • Open iTunes
  • Go to EditPreferences
  • Click on Advanced
  • Do you see the iTunes Media folder location section? Click on Change.
  • Choose a suitable drive/folder where you have enough space.

Moving iTunes Media Folder

So from now on, whenever you sync your iDevice to iTunes, it puts all the data (especially the media that includes photos, videos, music, etc.) to this folder. If you were smart enough to push it to a drive that had a lot of disk space, you’d be preventing iTunes from screwing up your OS drive’s disk space.

Clearing the ‘Other’ Data on iTunes

The ‘Other’ data on your iPhone/iPad can grow to scary levels if you don’t ration with the cache data. And this is always puzzling. Most of the Other data comes from sources you can’t directly control, edit or delete. Our own solutions like this one involving a backup restore and this one involving BackupBot and PhoneClean can be helpful to a certain extent.

Clearing Other Data on iTunes

But wait. Why should “Other” data on the iDevice impact hard disk space via iTunes? That’s because when you sync and backup via iTunes, Other data also gets stored on the computer so that next time you restore from a backup, all that data is fed back to your iDevice.

If your Other data eats up as much as 1GB or 2GB (in some cases it goes upwards of 4GB), that’s almost how much of your disk space you lose.

A Word on Media & Apps

Clear out apps that you don’t use. Really, it’s that simple. So many apps are only 10MB or 20MB but have ten of them on your iPhone and that’s about 100-200MB. Top it up with the data that these apps store (in many cases that exceeds 100MB), and you will easily add up to 1GB or more. Now that’s a very generic and untested stat but that’s how most users end up wasting disk space.

The same goes for photos and videos and in many cases, music too. I don’t want to dive deep into this discussion because this is more of a personal choice but it always – and I mean always – helps to clear out a lot of photos and videos that are just redundant in many ways.