How to change the iPhone backup location on windows?

iPhone Backup

Well, some of us more technically-oriented people out there rarely stick with the standard hard drive configuration of a newly purchased PC/notebook.  This is usually because it is not terribly efficient or safe to have all of your data sharing the same partition as the operating system, amongst other things… so we usually set the OS partition of the HDD down to a more reasonable size (for example, my laptop uses a 40GB partition for it’s primary OS, while the rest of the 300GB drive is a partition for all my documents, development work, etc).

Of course, one can always be a bit too smart for their own good, especially when you are forced to use locked down applications like iTunes to backup/manage your iPhone. In the case of iTunes, it stores all of your iPhone backup data on the drive that it installs to, which for nearly everyone out there is the OS partition.  If you have a 16GB or 32GB iPhone, the backups for these can fill up your OS partition quite rapidly, you run out of disk space, and iTunes will start informing you that it cannot successfully backup your iPhone!

There is no way to change the backup location from with iTunes (thanks Apple!), so I googled my issue and came across a number of articles (for example, link) about changing the location of the backup files… However, they all relied on a little bit of command line knowledge, so I thought that I would clarify a bit more for the rest of you out there.

There is a tool called Junction (link) that creates an NTFS symbolic link between a “pseudo folder” and another folder that can be located on another drive. This means that “pseudo folder” will “fool” iTunes into thinking backup folder on the other drive is actually located where the “pseudo folder” resides.

For example, if your backup folder is located at C:\Users\UserName\AppData\Roaming\Apple Computer\MobileSync\Backup but you wish to move it to E:\iPhone\Backup, then you will want to do the following:

  1. Close iTunes
  2. Using Windows Explorer, copy the contents of C:\Users\UserName\AppData\Roaming\Apple Computer\MobileSync\Backup to E:\iPhone\Backup
  3. Create a folder called Temp at C:\Users\UserName\AppData\Roaming\Apple Computer\MobileSync.
  4. Move the contents of the ..\MobileSync\Backup folder to the newly created Temp folder (his just provides a backup of your current system which can be easily moved back to the Backup folder if anything goes wrong).
  5. Delete the now empty Backup folder (this is because we will be creating a new Backup “pseudo folder” here).
  6. Download Junction (via the link above) and extract it to the E:\iPhone\Backup folder.
  7. Open a command prompt and enter these commands:

E:
cd E:\iPhone
junction "C:\Users\UserName\AppData\Roaming\Apple Computer\MobileSync\Backup" E:\iPhone\Backup

Points of Note

  1. Change UserName in the C:\Users\UserName\AppData\Roaming\Apple Computer\MobileSync\Backup folder detailed above to whatever your user name is.  Also, this location is for Windows 7, so Vista and Windows XP may use different paths for this sort of user data.
  2. I have tested this only to determine whether or not I can get iTunes to backup to the new location (which it does)… However, I am yet to actually attempt a backup restoration using this setup. If anyone does, please drop me a comment here and let me know.
  3. Also, if a newer installation of iTunes (I am using 9.2.1.5) blows away the Backup folder and then recreates it (anything is possible in the world of software), then this new folder will no longer be linked to the E:\iPhone\Backup folder

Special thanks to Am1rr3zA at http://efreedom.com for his original answer to this question, which is where I sourced most of this information.  However, the main reason that I have written this article is primarily due to the fact that I found the syntax for the commands were incorrect, which caused a bit of frustration for myself when I was attempting to sort all of this out.

I hope that this helps the some of you out there.

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  1. #1 by Dick Boner on Apr 21, 2011 - 11:58 pm

    Thanks thanks thanks thanks thanks thanks thanks thanks thanks thanks thanks thanks thanks thanks thanks thanks thanks thanks thanks !!!!111eleven
    Searched really long for this… It works great!
    Why the eff they don’t provide such an obviously needed option in iTunes? Imagine you had lets say two or three 32GB iPhones, a 64GB iPad, some iPods.. And all of them will be backed up to C:\…
    Seriously…

  2. #2 by Sumit on Jan 5, 2012 - 4:38 am

    I am able to create link using junction and point to an external drive…….but but but..itunes now creates backup at both the locations i.e. on my c drive (old location) as well as one created using junction…so no benefit c drive still choking for space

    • #3 by Reid on Feb 1, 2013 - 6:05 am

      Are you sure? It may appear to be in both, but may only be in your new location. If you are just looking at Windows explorer or a hard drive usage program that doesn’t read the junctions correctly, it may appear to be in both. I was referred to WinDirStat http://windirstat.info/ which reads thing correctly.

  3. #4 by Brian on Nov 25, 2012 - 5:10 pm

    The only problem with the article is the junction.exe needs to be in the \iPhone\ folder not the subfolder \Backup\. will create lots of problems. 🙂

  4. #5 by Simon on Nov 26, 2012 - 9:37 am

    Hi Brian. Thanks for your comment, but could you expand on what sort of problems would be created? I have had no issues with this setup and iTunes (to date) and I would be curious about any further details that you could provide. 🙂

  5. #6 by John on Jan 3, 2013 - 12:11 am

    Hi Simon, I have similar issues as Sumit, am able to create link but the C:\ Folder(old location) is still there. How do we move it the the new location without it duplicating in the old folder?

    • #7 by Simon on Jan 3, 2013 - 7:34 am

      Hi John,
      Have you deleted your backup copy that you moved to the Temp folder that you created under ..\MobileSync? Until you have done this you are definitely not going to see any space saving.

    • #8 by Simon on Jan 3, 2013 - 7:42 am

      Also, as I understand it, the Junction command will fool any File Management tool (eg Windows Explorer) into think that the junction folder is a standard folder with sub folders (though in reality these sub folders are on another drive). This is the whole idea of this exercise. 🙂
      A simple test to see if this has worked is to go to the ..\MobileSync\Backup junction folder and create a simple TXT file. Then, go to the folder where you created the junction to (on the other drive) and check that the TXT file exists there. If it doesn’t, then you have made a mistake with the steps above.
      Let me know how you go.

  6. #9 by Reid on Feb 1, 2013 - 4:16 am

    I can’t create a junction point.

    I deleted the Backup folder at “c:\Users\Reid Desktop\AppData\Roaming\Apple Computer\MobileSync/Backup

    I’ve downloaded and extracted the junction.exe to D:\Reid’s Data\iTunes 2013\Back Up, opened a CMD promt, change to that directory,

    enter junction “c:\Users\Reid Desktop\AppData\Roaming\Apple Computer\MobileSync\Backup” d:\Reid’s Data\iTunes 2013\Back Up

    but when I list the dir for junction “c:\Users\Reid Desktop\AppData\Roaming\Apple Computer\MobileSync I don’t see the junction. I’ve also have run this command with upper case for the drive letters

    I’ve tried to add back the backup directory at c:\Users\Reid Desktop\AppData\Roaming\Apple Computer\MobileSync/Backup but still no luck, I’m the administrator

    Thanks,

    Reid

    • #10 by Reid on Feb 1, 2013 - 5:42 am

      Was able to make the junction, by using the mklink command, not by using the junction command.

  7. #11 by James Andrews (@JamesRAndrews) on Feb 5, 2013 - 5:05 am

    Use MKLink in Windows Vista, 7 & 8.

    As Reid says, you’ll find success with MKLink in newer Windows versions.

    Example syntax:

    C:
    CD Users\MyUserID\AppData\Roaming\Apple Computer\MobileSync
    mklink /D backup d:\applebak

    symbolic link created for backup <> d:\applebak

    • #12 by Simon on Feb 5, 2013 - 7:10 am

      Thanks James for the details!

  8. #13 by http://google.com on Feb 13, 2013 - 8:10 am

    Exactly how long did it take u to write “How to change the iPhone backup location
    on windows? Tech·Knowl·o·Gist”? It seems to
    have quite a bit of very good details. With thanks ,Corinne

    • #14 by Simon on Feb 13, 2013 - 8:17 am

      Thanks Corinne for the compliment!

      Wow… um, this post was written over two years ago so my memory on how long it took to write is a little sketchie. I think that it would have taken me 1-2 hours to write plus 30 minutes to edit.

      I hope that answers your question. 🙂

  9. #15 by Reid on Feb 27, 2013 - 9:06 am

    Had to reinstall a drive image on my system and recreate this. Having syntax problems with:

    mklink /J “C:\Users\Reid Desktop\AppData\Roaming\Apple Computer\MobileSync\Backup” “D:\Reid’s Data\iTunes 2013”

    What’s wrong?

    Thanks,

    Reid

  10. #16 by Reid on Feb 27, 2013 - 2:57 pm

    It may not have like an apostrophe in the file name. I changed the location and it worked.

  11. #17 by granddaddymasterfresh on Mar 3, 2013 - 4:51 pm

    Hi,

    I am kind of new to all this and so i was wondering if someone could explain exactly how I go about properly entering the commands into the command prompt. I appreciate any help. Thanks in advance.

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