Update iPhone without backing up (Mac and Windows)

The below method is not yet tested with iOS 4.0, if you try it, please post a comment if it works.

Most iPhone OS 2.0 / iPhone 3G users have experienced the very slow backup process each time the iPhone is connected to iTunes, and as more applications are installed the process will take even longer. It is possible to just cancel the backup process, and then make a regular Sync without backing up. However, if you want avoid the backup process from starting, there is a workaround. It is possible disable the automatic backup process from starting, and how to do this is described below; firstly for Mac users, and secondly for Windows users:

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Mac users:

  1. Quit iTunes.
  2. Open a Terminal (Applications > Utilities > Terminal)
  3. Type or copy the following command:
    defaults write com.apple.iTunes AutomaticDeviceBackupsDisabled -bool true
  4. Open iTunes.
  5. Connect the iPhone.
  6. Make Sync without backing up.

To enable automatic backup in iTunes again use this command instead:

defaults write com.apple.iTunes AutomaticDeviceBackupsDisabled -bool false


Note: If you previously have used the command line option that entirely disables the backup feature, then type this command as well to enable to backup process:

defaults write com.apple.iTunes DeviceBackupsDisabled -bool false

Recommendation: If you choose to disable the automatic backup process, it would be a good idea to manually making a backup it once a while to get a safe copy of text messages, call log and like (just right-click your iPhone icon in iTunes).

Windows Users: (updated)

Windows users can use the same approach:

  1. Quit iTunes.
  2. Press Win+R (opens the Windows Run dialog)
  3. Type or copy the following command:
    “%CommonProgramFiles%\Apple\Mobile Device Support\bin\defaults.exe” write com.apple.iTunes AutomaticDeviceBackupsDisabled -bool true
  4. Open iTunes.
  5. Connect the iPhone.
  6. Make Sync without backing up.
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68 Responses to Update iPhone without backing up (Mac and Windows)

  1. John says:

    nope, didn’t work for me. itunes crashes everytime I open it now. ah well, thanks anyways.

  2. On Mac or Windows? – I’m sure it’s Windows, right? It’s actually a bit stupid to play around with this, when it’s possible to just cancel the backup process, press the (x), and then make a regular Sync, which do not initialize the backup. So that would actually be my advise, if you can’t make it work.

  3. Kieran says:

    This worked great on my Mac, thanks! I was having to wait upwards of two or three hours for a backup to complete!

    And as I don’t keep many text messages and all my contacts and emails are stored in Mobile Me a backup isn’t really necessary anyway.

    I shall re-post this to my blog (and quote you of course!) to share the knowledge! Great tip, well done :)

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  5. Douglas Pace says:

    Thank you so much. The constant backup was killing me! I made the change in Vista and it worked like a charm. My sync was just done in less than a minute. So often I just want to add a new video or album to my phone, only to be stuck with waiting another solid 5 minutes for the backup to complete. Thanks again.

  6. Matthew says:

    Windows fix had no effect for me. Didn’t provoke crashes, but didn’t prevent backups either.

  7. Apostol Apostolov says:

    It works!
    This article just made my day and my iPod Touch happier than ever. Thank you guys!

  8. Pingback: Disable iPhone backup while iTunes sync… - Rexiology::Work

  9. trevs says:

    I just tried the directions for Windows on my Vista box at home and it does NOT work.

  10. Tony says:

    Hi guys,

    macusers

    if you don’t want to mess in terminal check this out.

    http://www.macupdate.com/info.php/id/28158/backup-disabler

    it’s a little app that does the trick.
    enjoy

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  13. Epic says:

    Or… you could just cancel de backup process by clicking the cancel button on the itunes status display and continue with the rest of the backup process. HTH

  14. Epic says:

    Or… you could just cancel de backup process by clicking the cancel button on the itunes status display and continue with the rest of the backup process. HTH

    I meant,… continue with the rest of the sync process. HTH

  15. blackbox says:

    Windows method above is overly complicated and prone to errors.
    Why not use the same “defaults” command as on a Mac?

    Try it: press Win+R, paste the following command and click OK.

    “%CommonProgramFiles%\Apple\Mobile Device Support\bin\defaults.exe” write com.apple.iTunes AutomaticDeviceBackupsDisabled -bool true

    To undo, repeat the same replacing “true” with “false”.

  16. sanjay says:

    @echo off
    @REM Simple Batch file on windows to enable/disable Automatic Backups on the IPhone
    c:
    cd “%CommonProgramFiles%\Apple\Mobile Device Support\bin”
    @if %1X==X goto help
    @if %1X==trueX goto itstrue
    @if %1X==falseX goto itsfalse
    goto help
    :itstrue
    Echo Disabling Backups
    goto doit
    :itsfalse
    Echo Enabling Backups
    goto doit

    :doIt
    set VALUE=%1
    defaults.exe write com.apple.iTunes AutomaticDeviceBackupsDisabled -bool %VALUE%
    goto end

    :help
    echo “To Disable IPhone Automatic Device Backups execute “%0 true”
    echo “To Enable IPhone Automatic Device Backups execute “%0 false”

    :end

  17. FliP says:

    Worked perfect on WinXP for me. Thanks! Saves me having to stop backup everytime.

  18. The post is updated with the better approach for Windows users…

  19. I have written a small Windows program called “iPhone Backup Switch”. The program will allow you to enable and disable the iPhone backup feature in iTunes. I have tested it pretty well in Windows XP and VISTA. There is a backup feature that will backup the iTunes configuration and let you restore a previous version, if something goes wrong. Comes complete with installer and uninstaller.

    Get it here:
    http://www.microseconds.com/backupswitch.html

    Spread the word please!

  20. Emma says:

    Thank you so much !! this problem as been so annoying having to wait soooo long and I had been in the itunes settings and everything, but this as done the job ! thanks once again =]

  21. coreymon77 says:

    thank you! works perfectly! (mac)

  22. Xico Bandito says:

    worked like a charm (windows). thank you!

  23. Paul says:

    Vista (mine is beneath the “Program Files (x86)” folder:

    \progra~2\common~1\Apple\mobile~1\bin\defaults.exe write com.apple.iTunes AutomaticDeviceBackupsDisabled -bool true

  24. Mike says:

    iPhone Backup Switch Worked Great, thanks Dennis.
    Since I upgrade my Ipod Touch Software this started and it took forever to run the backup .. got tired of canceling the backup .. I just want to plug and sync while I do other things and not babysit it.

    Vista, iTunes 7.7.1.11, iPod Touch Software 2.0.2

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  26. Aris says:

    Here is the correct path for PC (the one posted has no spaces and is all wrong).

    “C:\Program Files\Common Files\Apple\Mobile Device Support\bin\defaults.exe” write com.apple.iTunes AutomaticDeviceBackupsDisabled -bool true

  27. earthcoder says:

    Thanks – Dennis, The backup app is so handy
    Added to my fave apps list ;)

  28. Pingback: Turn off iPhone backups in Windows iTunes « onlydarksets

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  30. ivan says:

    OH MY GOD! Finally I don’t have to sit around for hours, waiting for the iphone to backup to my mac!…. Good job guys, you’ve just saved a good couple of days of my life, waiting for my phone!! :o)

    cheers

    ivan – UK

  31. jeroen says:

    well downloaded dennis’ program, but it doesn’t seem to work with me. I use xp, maybe i am doing something wrong? it says nowhere how this program works…….

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  33. Denny says:

    To: Dennis Nederlof

    Excellent Program, it runs on my 64bit Vista with iTunes 8 (iPhone Firmware 2.1)

    Thank you

  34. Chad says:

    To: Dennis Nederlof

    Excellent Program, it runs perfectly on my Vista with iTunes 8.01 (iPhone Firmware 2.1)

    What a time saver!!

    http://www.microseconds.com/backupswitch.html

  35. Rob B says:

    Thx – the windows app worked!!! THANK YOU!!

  36. Ali says:

    Thanks Dennis, the program worked perfectly, on vista

  37. kris says:

    I am running Vista and used the code above but when running itunes again it tried to back up.

    I used the program in the link above and it worked and it’s now updating my phone!

    thanks dennis!!

  38. Oskar says:

    I had to replace the dots with my own, if you get it :p
    The ” dots where not properly made for me.

  39. Adam K says:

    Dennis:

    Kudos on the program m8!! :) iPhone is currently updating and no 2 hour backup!!! thanks for the App!

    Note To Future Users: I am normally skeptical about downloading random programs for fear of viruses… this one is clean, friendly and easy to use! :) Keep up the good work Dennis!

    ~Adam
    Vista 32bit. program worked flawlessly.

  40. basma says:

    telephone gratuit

  41. corym says:

    I deleted Facebook and the sync was significantly faster. Facebook was reinstalled and still backup speed was still quick. I think it is/was due to some cache problem in the app.

    I also prefer to do backup; you never know when the phone is going to crash, and you don’t want to lose any new numbers/contacts that have been saved in the meantime, spesh with the inability to save stuff to the SIM card.

  42. James says:

    Im Getting the following error when i Copy and paste
    “%CommonProgramFiles%\Apple\Mobile Device Support\bin\defaults.exe” write com.apple.iTunes AutomaticDeviceBackupsDisabled -bool true
    into “Run” it gives me the following error:

    Windows cannot find “C:/Program’. Make sure you typed the name correctly, and then try again.

    Help?

  43. Pierre Richard says:

    The Windows iTunes solution worked on Windows XP. Synchronization with iTunes is much faster now. It speeds through the backup, I suppose because it actually does nothing at that stage.

    But you give a soltuion to reverse back to automatic backup this for Mac OSX. How do you reverse the Windows version?

  44. Pierre Richard says:

    I see that the change in speed of ITunes synking I reported earlier did not work forever. I think it might have been forgotten after I rebooted my PC. I had to run the code again and it worked. I guess one has to redo it every time one starts up Windows.

    Is that correct, Klaus?

  45. Horacio says:

    On x64 Windows systems, you have to add (x86) to the command like this:

    “%CommonProgramFiles(x86)%\Apple\Mobile Device Support\bin\defaults.exe” write com.apple.iTunes AutomaticDeviceBackupsDisabled -bool true

  46. Mark says:

    I have an iPod Touch (2nd generation) that I want to update to 3.1.3 (think that is the latest version). I have about 581mb available on my C: drive. My Touch backup file folder is 589mb. Can I delete that backup via iTunes and then have enough room to download and install the latest version? Or will it create a backup before installing and in the process I will run out of space on my C: drive?

    Thanks,
    Mark

  47. Hi,

    It does not work with me.
    It still do the backup iphone

    Cheers!

  48. kaveh says:

    Works with 4.0 OS installation with the new itunes (9.2?)
    saved… HOURS, i would say, of my time.

  49. Pingback: Backup automatisch aan/uit - iPhone Forum - alles over de Apple iPhone, iPhone 4, iPhone 3G S en iPhone 3G

  50. Rob says:

    My girlfriend was having huge trouble with her iPhone not backing up or syncing. She deinstalled Java Runtime and Hey Presto! it works just fine now. In addition to this some HOGs she installed that didn’t run also now run.

  51. Adam says:

    Didn’t work for Windows 7, which might need a different – probably more elaborate – solution. It’s however perfect on Mac OS X. Thank you for sharing it.

  52. julian says:

    Thank you thank you thank you thank you – that backupswitch software has saved my life – after trying several times and aborting after a couple of hours of stuck backups prior to the OS 4 update I’ve now updated my 3G iphone in minutes!

  53. TGUG says:

    Awesome! the run dialog did not work for me but the PROGRAM DID! Thanks Dennis Nederlof and whoever made this post.
    After i have the original IOS4 on my ipod touch 2g im gonna try to jalibreak it with this tutorial which uses redsn0w http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fQEyzUxUnCg
    Good luck guys!
    thanks again

  54. DC says:

    I have a 32GB i-pod touch and I want to update to OS4. I manage my music by copying onto an external hard drive and then transferring onto my i-pod. When i click to update I get the message about needing to back up which may take more than an hour. After clicking continue I get an error message saying that backup not possible as 13GB space is required and only 1GB available on my laptop. It also says “continuing without back up will result in the loss of all media on this Ipod”. Please help…………………Is there any easy way around this?

  55. Burns says:

    I downloaded the app to delete back up but cant find it anywhere on my itunes, where is it?

  56. iNick says:

    There is a much easier way just go to http://www.digidna.net/products/backoff/download and download their software, it’s for both windows and mac.

  57. Fred says:

    Againb, gee what a life saver http://www.microseconds.com/backupswitch.html was. MANY THANKS!

  58. JK says:

    The command line worked to disable the backup for the sync but did not work when I tried to update the iphone software. The digidna software worked for both. Thank you.

  59. John says:

    I also found this tutorial

    http://www.iphone-without-itunes.com

    very useful to update my iPhone without iTunes

  60. rAAAAATED! says:

    WHAT THE FUCK IS THIS ACTUAL QUOTE ?!!!!!!
    “%CommonProgramFiles(x86)%\Apple\Mobile Device
    Support\bin\defaults.exe” write com.apple.iTunes
    AutomaticDeviceBackupsDisabled -bool true YOU HAVE QUOTED IT LIKE
    YOU’D QUOTE A NORMAL SENTENCE USING ” SYMBOL ??? OR AM I SPOSE TO
    FUCKING COPY WHICH FUCKING PART OF THAT NONSENSE YOU SAY WE SHOULD
    COPY AND PASTE INTO THE RUN PROMPT ????!!!! PLEASE…. I AM NOT A
    FUCKING MICROSHAFT OR APPLE ENGINEER, OK!

  61. rAAAAATED! says:

    TYPICAL FUCKING GEEK THREAD!! DOES’NT HELP AT ALL WHEN YOU
    ARE TOLD TO COPY THIS GARBAGE:
    “%CommonProgramFiles(x86)%\Apple\Mobile Device
    Support\bin\defaults.exe” write com.apple.iTunes
    AutomaticDeviceBackupsDisabled -bool true AND PASTE IT INTO
    C:/WINDOWSISSHIT/RUNPROMPT I AM TOTALLY CONFUSED AND AS EXPECTED
    THIS… “%CommonProgramFiles(x86)%\Apple\Mobile Device
    Support\bin\defaults.exe” write com.apple.iTunes
    AutomaticDeviceBackupsDisabled -bool true ..BULLSHIT IS BRINGING
    NOTHING BUT ERROR MESSAGES! THANKS FOR NOTHING BUT A WASTE OF TIME,
    I THINK I WILL READ THRU THE COMMENTS TO FIND A HUMAN BEING WITH
    CLEAR AND CONCISE INSTRUCTIONS!

  62. Anurag says:

    Correction for iTunes ver. 10.2.1 – there’s no bin folder under Mobile Device Support. Please use this command instead (copy paste including all quotes too!):

    “%CommonProgramFiles%\Apple\Apple Application Support\defaults.exe” write com.apple.iTunes.AutomaticDeviceBackupsDisabled -bool true

    If you want to undo this, simply replace true with false and run.

  63. c-dub says:

    On Windows 7
    Start Button | type cmd in search field | hit enter |
    copy and paste below including quotes.

    “C:\Program Files\Common Files\Apple\Apple Application Support\defaults.exe” write com.apple.iTunes.AutomaticDeviceBackupsDisabled -bool true

  64. qqqqq says:

    start -> run then type cmd to get command prompt

    TURN BACKUPS OFF
    “C:\Program Files\Common Files\Apple\Apple Application Support
    write com.apple.iTunes.AutomaticDeviceBackupsDisabled -bool true

    TURN BACKUPS BACK ON
    “C:\Program Files\Common Files\Apple\Apple Application Support
    write com.apple.iTunes.AutomaticDeviceBackupsDisabled -bool false

  65. qqqqq says:

    Meant to say the post is for Windows XP!!!

    start -> run then type cmd to get command prompt
    TURN BACKUPS OFF
    “C:\Program Files\Common Files\Apple\Apple Application Support
    write com.apple.iTunes.AutomaticDeviceBackupsDisabled -bool true
    TURN BACKUPS BACK ON
    “C:\Program Files\Common Files\Apple\Apple Application Support
    write com.apple.iTunes.AutomaticDeviceBackupsDisabled -bool false

  66. Luciano says:

    Dude! Your post saved my life, I was updating 6 iPads to iOS4 and it was driving me crazy, more than 12h to finish backup.

    Thanks man!

  67. Khadijah says:

    C:\Program Files\Common Files\Apple\Apple Application Support\defaults.exe write com.apple.iTunes AutomaticDeviceBackupsDisabled -bool true

    For Windows7 :))))
    Worked for me..

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