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How to delete old iPhone backups in iTunes to reclaim gigabytes of hard drive space

How to delete old iPhone backups in iTunes to reclaim gigabytes of hard drive space
How to delete old iPhone backups in iTunes to reclaim gigabytes of hard drive space (Image credit: Joseph Keller/iMore)

iTunes makes it easy to have a local backup of an iOS device on a machine you control. But those backups can take up precious space, especially if you have more than one. Good news then that iTunes lets you delete your excess backups reasonably quickly. You can also get rid of unnecessary iOS software updates after you've used them, as well, which should also free up a little bit of room.

Here's how you can go about getting rid of old backups and iOS software updates on your Mac.

How to delete an iPhone or iPad backup on macOS Catalina

iTunes as we've known it has split up into multiple apps in macOS Catalina, and the iPhone and iPad backup and update capabilities have made their way to the Finder. Here's how to delete a backup through the Finder on macOS Catalina.

  1. Click on the Finder icon in the Dock.
  2. Click on your iPhone or iPad in the sidebar.

Deleting iPhone backups showing how to open a Finder window and click on your device in the sidebar (Image credit: iMore)
  1. Click Manage Backups...
  2. Click on the backup that you want to delete.

Deleting iPhone backups showing how to click Manage Backups and clicking the backup you want to delete (Image credit: iMore)
  1. Click Delete Backup.
  2. Click Delete.

Deleting iPhone backups showing how to click Delete Backup, then click Delete (Image credit: iMore)

How to delete an iPhone or iPad backup from iTunes on macOS Mojave and earlier

  1. Open iTunes from your Dock or Applications folder.
  2. Click iTunes in the Menu bar.

Delete iPhone backup on macOS Mojave showing how to open iTunes and click iTunes in the Menu bar (Image credit: iMore)
  1. Click Preferences.
  2. Click on the Devices tab.

Delete iPhone backup on macOS Mojave showing how to click Preferences then click on the Devices tab (Image credit: iMore)
  1. Click on the backup you want to remove.
  2. Click Delete Backup.

Delete iPhone backup on macOS Mojave showing how to click on a backup you want to delete and clicking Delete Backup (Image credit: iMore)

How to delete iOS software update files

Even though iTunes doesn't exist as its own app in macOS Catalina, you'll still find the Software Update file you want to delete in the iTunes folder in Library, just like you did in previous versions of macOS.

  1. Go to Finder.
  2. Click Go in the Menu bar.

Delete iPhone software update file showing how to open Finder and click Go in the Menu bar. (Image credit: iMore)
  1. Hold down the Option key (maybe labeled 'Alt') on your keyboard.
  2. Click Library, which should appear when you hold down Option.
  3. Open the iTunes folder.

Delete iPhone software update file showing how to click Library while holding down the Option key, and click on the iTunes folder (Image credit: iMore)
  1. Open the iPhone Software Updates folder.
  2. Drag the iOS update file to the trash. Its name should end in "Restore.ipsw".

Delete iPhone software update file showing how to open the iPhone Software Updates folder and drag the update file to the Trash (Image credit: iMore)

Questions?

If you have any more questions about removing old device backups or iOS update files from iTunes, let us know in the comments.

Updated April 2020: Updated for macOS Catalina.

Joseph Keller is the former Editor in Chief of iMore. An Apple user for almost 20 years, he spends his time learning the ins and outs of iOS and macOS, always finding ways of getting the most out of his iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, and Mac.