How to disable automatic iTunes backups

Updated

When you sync your iPhone or iPad with iTunes, it triggers an automatic backup. Whilst it's a sensible precaution to backup regularly, it is possible to skip iTunes backups. We don't recommend performing an iTunes sync without a backup, but here's how you can disable those backups -- and re-enable them if you change your mind.

How do disable the iTunes backup process on macOS

  1. Ensure iTunes is completely closed. (Use "Quit" in your dock.)

  2. Launch the macOS Terminal application. This can be found using Finder, under Applications / Utilities / Terminal. Alternatively, it can be launched using Spotlight by pressing ⌘ Cmd +  and typing Terminal before pressing ⏎ Enter.

  3. Instruct the Terminal to change disable automatic iTunes backups, by entering the following command before pressing ⏎ Enter:

defaults write com.apple.iTunes DeviceBackupsDisabled -bool true

From this point on, if you open and sync iTunes it will skip taking a backup. If you'd like to undo this, follow the same steps 1 - 3, but run this command, instead:

defaults write com.apple.iTunes DeviceBackupsDisabled -bool false

From now on, if you open iTunes it will allow you to sync your iPhone's without triggering an automatic iTunes backup. If you'd like to undo this, follow the same steps 1 - 3, but instead of true at the end of the command, use false.

On macOS 10.15, changing the ~/Library/Application Support/MobileSync folder to being "Read-only" will prevent the backup being taken. However, this will also disable backups until "Read-write" permissions are restored.

Skipping automatic iTunes backups on Windows

  1. Ensure that iTunes is completely closed.

  2. Open a Command window. Press ⊞ Win + R and the Run window should appear. Enter cmd and press ⏎ Enter.

  3. You'll need to type one of the following commands into the black Command window that will have opened, depending on your version of iTunes. If you don't know which version you have, it doesn't matter: if you run the command for the wrong version it will fail, but it won't cause any harm.

Microsoft Store version of iTunes (most common since 2018)

iTunes.exe /setPrefInt DeviceBackupsDisabled 1

64-bit version of iTunes (most common since 2015)

"%ProgramFiles%\iTunes\iTunes.exe" /setPrefInt DeviceBackupsDisabled 1

32-bit version of iTunes

"%ProgramFiles(x86)%\iTunes\iTunes.exe" /setPrefInt DeviceBackupsDisabled 1

From now on, if you open iTunes it will allow you to sync your iPhone's without triggering an automatic iTunes backup. If you'd like to undo this, follow the same steps 1 - 3, but instead of the 1 at the end of the command, use a 0.

About the author

Aidan founded Reincubate in 2008 after building the world's first iPhone data recovery tool, iPhone Backup Extractor. He’s led Reincubate to win the UK’s highest business honour twice, has spoken at Google on entrepreneurship, and is a graduate of the Entrepreneurs’ Organisation’s Leadership Academy.

His work has been cited in over 20 academic papers on forensics and mobile data, including "iPhone 3GS Forensics: Logical Analysis Using Apple iTunes Backup Utility" (Bader, M & Baggli, I, 2010), "iOS Forensic Investigative Methods" (Zdziarski, J, 2013), "Overcoming Forensic Implications with Enhancing Security in iOS" (Gangula, MR, 2019), and "Direct Message Extraction for Automatic Emotional Inference and Drug Detection" (Fong, G, 2019).

Earlier in his career, he served as CTO at Wiggle through to its $230m breakout exit. Aidan is an occasional investor, and published "So, you want to work in tech?" in 2016.

Reincubate's CEO at Buckingham Palace

Pictured left are members of Reincubate’s team meeting HM Queen Elizabeth Ⅱ at Buckingham Palace, after being awarded the UK’s highest business award for our work with Apple technology.

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Comments (1)

Me encantó el articulo. Me fue útil en Windows 10 64 bits. Muchas gracias Me refiero a la instrucción: "%ProgramFiles%\iTunes\iTunes.exe" /setPrefInt DeviceBackupsDisabled 1

¡Gracias Francisco!


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