Scott Hanselman

How to change the location of your iPhone backup and iTunes MobileSync Backup folder

November 26, '11 Comments [20] Posted in Tools
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worksonmymachine My C:\Users\Scott\AppData\Roaming\Apple Computer\MobileSync was almost 25 gigs and on a 256 gig hard drive, that's 10% and that's tight. I wanted to move it but there's no officially support way.

Here's a way. It's totally not supported and could totally screw up your computer, so you've been warned. Remember that you googled your way to this blog and I'm just a random guy. No warranty, Dear Reader. If you are reasonably savvy and you understand that this Works On My Machine, then we'll get along fine.

Here's the idea. You'll move it to a drive with more space, but you'll LIE to iTunes using a little-used Windows Utility that will make a LINK between the folder iTunes expects to find and the folder you want your backups in.

 

  • First, make sure iTunes isn't running
  • Now, move the C:\Users\(yourname)\AppData\Roaming\Apple Computer\MobileSync\Backup\ folder to your preferred location. My was F:\iTunesMobileSync. This is up to you.
  • Finally, start a command prompt as an administrator. You can do this from the Start Menu, type cmd.exe, then right click and select Run As Administrator. From the command prompt, create an junction point as I do below, just change f:\yournewfolder with your new location.
    • One thing to to make sure of, don't end up with a folder like f:\yournewbackupfolder\Backup\Backup, so be sure to check how your folders ended up when you moved them.
mklink /J "C:\Users\yourname\AppData\Roaming\Apple Computer\MobileSync\Backup" "f:\yournewfolder\Backup"

You should see something like this in Windows 7. Note the little "shortcut" overlay icon? That's saying this is a link.

 MobileSync as a Junction Point

You can also confirm it with dir from the command line. Note the <junction>:

C:\Users\Scott\AppData\Roaming\Apple Computer\MobileSync>dir

Directory of C:\Users\Scott\AppData\Roaming\Apple Computer\MobileSync

11/25/2011 10:10 PM <DIR> .
11/25/2011 10:10 PM <DIR> ..
11/25/2011 10:10 PM <JUNCTION> Backup [f:\iTunesMobileSync\Backup]
0 File(s) 0 bytes
3 Dir(s) 97,594,851,328 bytes free

If you are still on XP and not Vista or Windows 7, you don't have mklink, but you can use the junction utility in the same way.

Again, if these instructions don't make sense do you, I urge you to find a techie and please, be careful. You've been warned. That said, I've just opened up 25 gigs on my C: drive, so I'm happy.

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About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. I am a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Saturday, November 26, 2011 10:09:32 AM UTC
Ahh excellent post, my main SSD had 13 gigs of this stuff on it taking up valuable space!
Saturday, November 26, 2011 3:23:20 PM UTC
There is even better way to move your complete iTunes library.

"How to open an alternate iTunes Library file or create a new one" - http://support.apple.com/kb/HT1589

Using this method you can put iTunes library on some shared drive and then share it between multiple computers, even Macs.
Sunday, November 27, 2011 1:03:21 PM UTC
Be careful using reparse points, especially if you might want to upgrade or repair Windows at some point. There's a bug where symbolic links are deleted when reinstalling or upgrading windows (in Windows-managed folders including /Users). This bug may or may not affect junctions.
Monday, November 28, 2011 10:01:21 PM UTC
You can make links in Windows?? Excellent!
Monday, November 28, 2011 11:44:36 PM UTC
Don't do it! This screws up iphone/ipad updates, the upgrade to iOS 5 would not work with junctions in place. Trust me I wasted half a day on it.
Ross
Wednesday, November 30, 2011 12:51:41 AM UTC
I'm actually surprised this would work across volumes - a better choice on Vista+ would be a Symbolic Link (i.e. mklink /D); I use this a lot to solve the SSD size problem.

Regardless, it's an awesome tip!
Thursday, December 01, 2011 11:03:13 PM UTC
Another option is simply to delete the backups in that folder and start again.

Sometimes when updating to the latest iOS or if you have to restore your iPhone then backup again it will create a new backup.

I simply deleted all old backups and performed a backup from iTunes again - this got the folder back down to about 4/5gb.

Cheers

Alex
Wednesday, January 18, 2012 5:48:10 AM UTC
By default iphone backup location is :
Windows XP: Documents and settings/Username/Application Data/Apple computer folder/Mobile Sync folder/ Backup Folder.

Windows Vista and Windows 7: Users/Username/AppData folder/Roaming folder/Apple Computer folder/Mobile Sync folder/Back up folder.

But you can change your iphone backup location according to your preference.
Saturday, March 24, 2012 5:49:46 AM UTC
To Lizaright,
and how would you do that?
Moving iTunes library doesn't move your MobileSync backups...
Saturday, March 24, 2012 6:03:40 AM UTC
To Ross,
True, for some reason devices with iOS 5.1 never even create a backup point in the folder available across the symlink even if you explicitly right click on the device and choose Back Up. Devices running iOS 4 are backing up just fine. And this sounds fishy since backup is IMO a function of iTunes application, not a device itself.
Since this one in not really a supported solution, one cannot file a bug reprt to Apple, I reckon. :-)
Tuesday, April 03, 2012 2:55:43 PM UTC
after doing it, my itunes cannot detect the previous backups, what should i do ??? heelp!!
darawsha
Sunday, May 20, 2012 3:02:49 AM UTC
This did not work for me. I was able to back up to the linked directory, but when trying to update my iPhone to iOS 5, it continued to give the same error message as before (not enough space for backup - using the space available on drive C).

This is soooo frustrating.. I am literally unable to upgrade to iOS 5 because of this, unless I want to wipe the entire iPhone.

Any help greatly appreciated.

Erin Daly
Thursday, September 20, 2012 8:09:43 AM UTC
It's worth mentioning that environment variables can be used with the mklink command, specifically %APPDATA%. For example, I use:

mklink /J "%APPDATA%\Apple Computer\MobileSync\Backup" "M:\iTunesMobileSync\Backup"
Tuesday, September 25, 2012 8:30:04 AM UTC
I have Win XP and tried Junction. The backup started creating files in the new location, but it also created filed in the old location. I don't have enough disk size in the old location to go ahead with the backup. Please help.
Chris
Friday, October 05, 2012 2:27:36 PM UTC
Great trick. Saved 30GB space on my system SSD :-)
Olof
Monday, October 15, 2012 3:50:15 AM UTC
Great Post. Saved me a host of trouble figuring out how to get iTunes to understand me. c: is functional again thanks to you.

The same technique applies to the outlook folder in Appdata/Microsoft and didnt have to bother about moving PSTs around (I have 5). Just move the folder and mklink :).
Sunday, October 28, 2012 4:24:12 PM UTC
Another thing you can do is uninstall I-tunes, and reinstall it on your external device. You'll have to always run it from your external, but it will put your back-up file on the external too. WARNING: Worked on my computer, your mileage may vary...
Karen G
Sunday, December 16, 2012 6:38:26 PM UTC
Thanks a lot, it worked perfectly
Amit
Thursday, January 31, 2013 7:28:02 PM UTC
Might want to add, if you want to link to a network drive, /J doesn't work. But you can always create a symbolic link with /D
Sunday, February 17, 2013 11:38:52 PM UTC
Why can't you just go into iTunes and change the storage location?
Mike
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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.