Free Up Hard Drive Space By Moving Your iPad and iPhone Backups


Joe writes:  I was listening to Mac Geek Gab 313 where Dave talks about off-loading his mobile sync backup folder to his Drobo. I am in a similar situation in that I have a 120G SSD and am always trying to find a way to get stuff off it to free up space. I don’t have a Drobo, but I do have an OptiBay which holds a second 500 GB HD in my MacBook Pro.

I, too, have moved my iTunes and iPhoto libraries to this second HD. I would like to do the same with the mobile sync backup folder to save that space, as well. How do I do that?


Smart move, Joe. Mobile device backups can take up a lot of space — perhaps even gigabytes worth — especially if you have apps in which you store documents. Getting this data off your SSD can free up valuable space, for sure. To do this you simply move the contents of the mobile backups folder to another drive and then repoint the system so it sees this new folder as the destination for mobile backups. The steps are a bit more involved than that (of course!), and are as follows:

  1. Quit iTunes (you don’t want it syncing and backing up while you’re making these changes!) 
  2. Copy your ~/Library/Application Support/MobileSync/Backup folder to your external drive (the ~ means “home directory”)
  3. (be sure #2 is done — it’s important!)
  4. Delete the original “Backup” folder by dragging it to the Trash
  5. Create a Symbolic Link from the old location to the new location of the backup folder. This requires the Terminal unless you have a 3rd party utility to create Symbolic Links. Think of SymLinks as aliases, because they’re almost the same, but Mac OS X sees them differently (and that distinction is important for this purpose). If your new location is on the root level of a drive named “My Stuff”, then the command would be:

    ln -s “/Volumes/My Stuff/Backup” “~/Library/Application Support/MobileSync/Backup”

  6. You’re done. Go ahead and launch iTunes and you should be good to go!