Disable iPhone Backup to speed up iTunes Sync

When I first wrote this article in 2009 a lot of stuff on your phone like contacts, notes, email account etc did not sync with iCloud so disabling backups was a bad idea. Now in 2015 most important stuff syncs BUT if you’ve got a ton of apps on your phone and custom settings a backup is still a good idea for most folks (you’ll also have to re enter Wifi setting, and loose a lot of other stuff if you don’t ever do a backup and who plugs their phone into iTunes anyway :)

But the article is still valid to some extent as we can do a WIFI sync and a backup over wifi take longer than over USB cable. Also when you backup, you’re doing a backup from the previous state of the backup, i.e. backing up only whats changed since last time. So bare that in mind when reading this 2009 article.


One of iTunes most annoying features is it’s insistence to do a full backup every time you plug in your iPhone. You know the drill, you’re dashing out the door to go for a run or you’re off to the gym and remember that you want to listen to the latest podcast from the BBC. You plug in the iPhone, fire up iTunes and hit the sync button only to be met by an annoying “Backing up Richard’s iPhone” status message that just sits there for ever while your precious leisure time ticks away.

Why is my iPhone backing up all the time – I already have all my music stored on my computer in iTunes!!!

The backup feature doesn’t backup your music but it does backup a ton of other stuff. According an Apple Support article this is some of what is includes in the backup (no wonder it take so bloody long!!!):

Safari bookmarks, cookies, history, and currently open pages, Map bookmarks, recent searches, and the current location displayed in Maps, Application settings, preferences, and data, Address Book and Address Book favorites,
Calendar accounts, Wallpapers, Notes, Call history, Mail accounts, YouTube bookmarks, SMS messages, Saved suggestion corrections (these are saved automatically as you reject suggested corrections), Camera roll (photos and screen shots taken by the iPhone), Voicemail token (this is not the Voicemail password, but is used for validation when connecting. This is only restored to a phone with the same phone number on the SIM card.) Web clips, Network settings (saved wifi spots, VPN settings, network preferences) Paired Bluetooth devices (which can only be used if restored to the same phone that did the backup), Keychain (this includes email account passwords, Wi-Fi passwords, and passwords you enter into websites and some other applications. PHEW ……!!!!!

Turn off annoying Syncing NOW! Turn it off!!!

The first but not the best option to cull this annoying feature is to click the little round check icon to the right of the status message. iTunes will immediately stop the backup and start doing what the good lord intended it to do, just sync your bloody playlists, podcast, video, photos, ringtones and contacts!

The second method is the best and once executed will disable iTunes from backing up your iPhone permanently. If your on a Mac then do the following.

  1. Quit iTunes
  2. Fire up the Terminal
  3. Type:

(Ok just an update as of May 2015. The correct code to for the terminal is:)

defaults write com.apple.iTunes DeviceBackupsDisabled -bool YES

An even easier option is to download a little app that will do it for you :) Backup Disabler can be downloaded on this page. Now, you can easily sync without waiting for the backups, and just as easily re-enable them whenever you like.

If your on a PC then check out this little program Backupswitch. It enables you to turn syncing on and off without having to type code at the old DOS prompt.

See a discussion here at Apple Support Forums