Jul 27

Many users, including myself, have noticed that the backup that iTunes performs when you sync your iPhone usually takes an enormous time to finish. This can be very inconvenient when all you want to do is sync 1 or 2 applications over. Of course, you can cancel the backup, or you can use this method to disable the backup altogether.

On Zerologic’s site, Michael explains how to use Terminal on your Mac to disable iTunes automatic backup of your phone when you sync. I’ll post the entry:

“While I understand that some people like the idea of having a backup of everything on their phone, I’m comfortable knowing that I have backups of all of my important data elsewhere. I use MobileMe for OTA (over the air) syncing, and I have Time Machine running whenever I connect to my wireless network. Text messages, and other stuff on the iPhone just aren’t all that important to me.

With the introduction of the iPhone 2.0 software and the 3G iPhone, the backup process can take a long time. People have suggested that the time it takes is dependent on the number of applications you’ve installed from the App Store. I have 30, and it takes forever. My friend Bracken has 4 and it took seconds.


I found a way (using the strings command in the terminal) to disable the backup function. This means that YOUR PHONE IS NOT GOING TO GET BACKED UP. Let me repeat that. If you do what I list below,YOUR PHONE WILL NOT GET BACKED UP.

This command will change a hidden setting in the iTunes preferences that will force it to skip the backup process.


1. – Quit iTunes.
2. – Open Terminal.app
3. – Copy and paste this in, then hit return:

defaults write com.apple.iTunes DeviceBackupsDisabled -bool true

4. – Open iTunes
5. – Plug in your iPhone (2.0 or 3G) and sync.

It will take a few seconds, assuming you don’t have a ton of music or podcasts.

Changing the ‘true’ in step 3 to ‘false’ will re-enable the backup feature.

He also wrote a simple application that can disable/enable the iTunes backup, along with displaying the current setting if you don’t want to do it using Terminal. The application runs on Mac OS X 10.4 or higher, and can be downloaded here.

If I see a process that can accomplish this on a Windows machine, I’ll let you all know.

Let us know if it works!

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9 Responses to “Mac users: Disable iPhone backup for faster sync”

  1. frag Says:

    Too bad there’s nothing like this for a PC.

    I maybe have 20-30 apps(yeah, it’s a lot) but sometimes it can take 1-2 hours to back up. That’s just ridiculous even for apps.

  2. Andrew Says:

    And the interesting thing is the only time I needed to restore from one of these gargantuan backups it turned out to be corrupt and failed to restore from it.

  3. Ten bug fixes we would like to see in iPhone firmware 2.1 » iPhone System » iPhoneFreakz Says:

    […] since they are dreadfully slow. But there are ways to do this now with a little effort. For Mac, go here, and for Windows, go […]

  4. Finally! Says:

    I am not so high-tech that I am comfy imputing codes and such, so i just ran the app. Downloaded in less than 5 secs, opened, disabled backups and I am back on track! Sweet!

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  6. Sharlene Harding Says:

    OMG…this has got to be the best and useful information, i’ve had in a long time. My back-ups used to take ages!!!!!!


    One question though, when I re-enable the backup, can I not just delete what I pasted or is it advisable to put the ‘false’ in?

  7. Anthony Says:

    Thank you very much for this. You have made life, otherwise fantastic since I found your website. Cheers.

  8. Tribal Says:

    Okay.. so heres the fix.. same issue was happening to me… DELETE FACEBOOK! reinstall after backup is complete, but facebook is causing all the trouble. I Let my iphone sit for 2 hours today before i had enough and decided to fix the damn thing. Facbook is the #1 killer of backup time. Also i use “AppSniper” (Love that app btw.. i recommend it to everyone) if you use it make sure you go into the apps config and delete the icon cache.. Deleting facebook and clearing the appsniper cache made my backup drop from 2+ hours(no idea if it was ever going to finish.. stayed halfway for an hour and a half) 15 minutes. (i got all 9 pages filled with apps.. 15mins isnt bad)
    hope this helps!

  9. Goldbeard Says:

    Windows users can use the same approach:

    Quit iTunes.
    Press Win+R (opens the Windows Run dialog)
    Type or copy the following command:
    “%CommonProgramFiles%\Apple\Mobile Device Support\bin\defaults.exe” write com.apple.iTunes AutomaticDeviceBackupsDisabled -bool true
    Open iTunes.
    Connect the iPhone.
    Make Sync without backing up.

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