How To Disable Automatic iPhone Backups [Fixed in 2.1 Update]

Long backups were addressed in the 2.1 update. This tip is likely no longer relevant for most people. Ever since version 1.0, the iPhone has automatically backed itself up every time an iTunes sync was started. The feature makes sense on a phone and has definitely saved my bacon quite a few times. However, with the iPhone 2.0 update, the backup feature has gotten arguably out of hand. Most users report obnoxiously long backup times which make it extremely frustrating to refresh your iPhone’s information.

So if you’re tired of automatic backups that take forever, here’s how to disable them.

For Windows users:
First, grab a copy of Notepad++. The standard apps that come with Windows won’t work well for editing the iTunesPrefs.xml file.

To apply this hack, you’ll be editing the iTunesPrefs.xml, which is generally found at C:Documents and SettingsUSERNAMEApplication DataApple ComputeriTunes. You may need to enable hidden folders if you don’t see the “Application Data” folder.

  1. Quit iTunes
  2. Make a backup of iTunesPrefs.xml. If you mess up, you’ll wish you had a backup, so it’s a good idea to make one.
  3. Open iTunesPrefs.xml using Notepad++
  4. Search for “User Preferences” without the quotes and you should find something like “<key>User Preferences</key>”
  5. Right below the first <dict> that comes after “<key>User Preferences</key>”, paste the following:


    Your results should look something like this:

  6. Save the file and open iTunes. If all went well, your iPhone will sync, but it won’t back up. To back up manually, right click your iPhone in the source list and choose “Back Up”.

For Mac Users
Things are a little easier here. :]

  1. Quit iTunes
  2. Open Terminal (HD -> Applications -> Utilities)
  3. Paste in the following and hit return:

    defaults write AutomaticDeviceBackupsDisabled -bool true

  4. That’s it! Next time your iPhone syncs, it won’t back up. To back up manually, right click your iPhone in the source list and choose “Back Up”.

To re-enable automatic backups, follow the same steps only use this instead:

defaults write AutomaticDeviceBackupsDisabled -bool false

How sweet is that? We recommend doing regular backups of your iPhone anyway, but this should be good for those who miss the ability to quickly sync before you run out the door.

Thanks Stan!

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