iTunes says not enough free space to back up phone; I have >TB free

spellflower

macrumors regular
Original poster
Jun 7, 2005
227
15
I'm trying to backup my iPhone 7 to my external hard drive, but iTunes says I don't have enough free space. My iPhone has 210 GB. My external drive has 1.03 TB free. What's the problem?

Details:

iPhone 7 256GB
iOS 11.4.1 (15G77)
210 GB used

2015 MBP
OS 10.12.6

WD My Passport Ultra external drive
1.03 TB free

iTunes 12.8.2.3

I opened iTunes and pressed the option key to choose the iTunes library I have on the WD.
I connected the phone, and selected Back Up Now.
It worked for a bit, then displayed this message:

iTunes could not back up the iPhone "iPhone" because not enough free space is available on this computer. Removing files and emptying the Trash will free up additional space.

What's going on? How can I get this to work?
 

chrfr

macrumors G4
Jul 11, 2009
10,031
3,781
I'm trying to backup my iPhone 7 to my external hard drive, but iTunes says I don't have enough free space. My iPhone has 210 GB. My external drive has 1.03 TB free. What's the problem?

Details:

iPhone 7 256GB
iOS 11.4.1 (15G77)
210 GB used

2015 MBP
OS 10.12.6

WD My Passport Ultra external drive
1.03 TB free

iTunes 12.8.2.3

I opened iTunes and pressed the option key to choose the iTunes library I have on the WD.
I connected the phone, and selected Back Up Now.
It worked for a bit, then displayed this message:

iTunes could not back up the iPhone "iPhone" because not enough free space is available on this computer. Removing files and emptying the Trash will free up additional space.

What's going on? How can I get this to work?
The backups still go to the internal drive, regardless of where your iTunes library is located. How much free space do you have on the internal disk?
 

spellflower

macrumors regular
Original poster
Jun 7, 2005
227
15
The backups still go to the internal drive, regardless of where your iTunes library is located. How much free space do you have on the internal disk?

So, in order to make full use of one's phone storage, and be able to back it up one must have a computer with a larger capacity drive than the phone, or pay for iCloud? Really? If that's true, I might be in the market for an Android phone.

This wasn't true in the past. I often had little room on my internal drive, but never had a problem backing up to an external before.

I thought that was the whole point of being able to create multiple iTunes libraries, so you could keep different files in different places.

I only have 2.26 GB on my internal drive. But my total internal drive capacity is 250 GB, so I will never be able to fully back up everything on my phone if this is true.

Actually, I just checked, and I see that the reason I'm so starved for space on my internal is that it's full of 95.75 GB of iOS files.

Please, somebody, there MUST be a way to get these off of my internal drive and keep them only on my external!
 

chown33

Moderator
Staff member
Aug 9, 2009
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See this article:
https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT204215

Notice in the screenshot that one of the contextual-menu items is "Archive". Try choosing that. If it presents a dialog asking where to save it, pick the external drive. I don't have the hardware at hand to try this myself.

One of the other choices is to delete old backups. If you no longer need those older backups, delete them.

Finally, the article shows where iTunes keeps its iOS backups. You can open that folder in Finder and manually move the backups to an external drive. You should do this when iTunes isn't running.
 

chrfr

macrumors G4
Jul 11, 2009
10,031
3,781
So, in order to make full use of one's phone storage, and be able to back it up one must have a computer with a larger capacity drive than the phone, or pay for iCloud? Really? If that's true, I might be in the market for an Android phone.

This wasn't true in the past. I often had little room on my internal drive, but never had a problem backing up to an external before.

I thought that was the whole point of being able to create multiple iTunes libraries, so you could keep different files in different places.

I only have 2.26 GB on my internal drive. But my total internal drive capacity is 250 GB, so I will never be able to fully back up everything on my phone if this is true.

Actually, I just checked, and I see that the reason I'm so starved for space on my internal is that it's full of 95.75 GB of iOS files.

Please, somebody, there MUST be a way to get these off of my internal drive and keep them only on my external!
You can put a backup folder on the external drive, and then make a symbolic link from that in the location where your current folder is. The process is definitely not supported by Apple, but I’ve done this for years. (I use iCloud as my primary iOS backup anyway.)
iMore has detailed the process here: https://www.imore.com/how-move-your-iphone-or-ipad-backups-external-hard-drive
 

spellflower

macrumors regular
Original poster
Jun 7, 2005
227
15
Thanks, I'll try to find some time to try these suggestions this week.

I guess I shouldn't be surprised that Apple is making it harder for people to manage their data without using their subscription services. But it is another strike against the brand.
 

Analog Kid

macrumors 603
Mar 4, 2003
5,480
3,860
So, in order to make full use of one's phone storage, and be able to back it up one must have a computer with a larger capacity drive than the phone, or pay for iCloud? Really? If that's true, I might be in the market for an Android phone.

This wasn't true in the past. I often had little room on my internal drive, but never had a problem backing up to an external before.

I thought that was the whole point of being able to create multiple iTunes libraries, so you could keep different files in different places.

I only have 2.26 GB on my internal drive. But my total internal drive capacity is 250 GB, so I will never be able to fully back up everything on my phone if this is true.

Actually, I just checked, and I see that the reason I'm so starved for space on my internal is that it's full of 95.75 GB of iOS files.

Please, somebody, there MUST be a way to get these off of my internal drive and keep them only on my external!
Yes, and this is really dumb. The backups should follow your iTunes folder.

In any event, there's a discussion of how to deal with this here:
https://forums.macrumors.com/thread...drive-osx-10-14-mojave.2148182/#post-26988607
 

chrfr

macrumors G4
Jul 11, 2009
10,031
3,781
I guess I shouldn't be surprised that Apple is making it harder for people to manage their data without using their subscription services. But it is another strike against the brand.
It's not as if this is a change that happened when they started the iCloud backup system.
 

spellflower

macrumors regular
Original poster
Jun 7, 2005
227
15
It's not as if this is a change that happened when they started the iCloud backup system.

What does that have to do with it? The point is that, now that they are selling iCloud storage, they are no longer supporting alternative backup solutions. That's a decision that is obviously good for profits, but bad for users. It used to be that they did things that were good for profits because they were good for users. This is an example of how that's no longer the case.
[doublepost=1560713492][/doublepost]Okay, so I looked at the options that people suggested, and I'm a bit intimidated by them. I use Apple because I'm NOT a techie, and, at least up until now, they've made things easy for me.

Much as I don't like it, I've decided that I might just have to start paying them for iCloud storage, at least until I switch to Android.

My concern is that iCloud seems better suited for backups than for file management. I'm specifically thinking of Voice Memos here. I make a lot of Voice Memo recordings, and I want to keep them, but not necessarily on my phone. When I backed up to my external iTunes library, I could delete Voice Memos from my phone and still easily access them in iTunes. Can I still do that with an iCloud backup? Or will it work more like Time Machine, and erase old backups, causing me to eventually lose any content that I don't keep on my phone?
 

chrfr

macrumors G4
Jul 11, 2009
10,031
3,781
What does that have to do with it? The point is that, now that they are selling iCloud storage, they are no longer supporting alternative backup solutions.
The backup solution for iTunes has not changed since its inception. Apple has never intended to save the backup anywhere but in the user's home folder and Apple has not made this process any harder. They have, however, added the option of backing your device up to iCloud, which again did not change the process of backing up to iTunes.
 
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spellflower

macrumors regular
Original poster
Jun 7, 2005
227
15
The backup solution for iTunes has not changed since its inception. Apple has never intended to save the backup anywhere but in the user's home folder and Apple has not made this process any harder. They have, however, added the option of backing your device up to iCloud, which again did not change the process of backing up to iTunes.

Maybe Apple never intended backups to be saved anywhere but the home folder, but following the steps I listed in my OP used to work, and now it doesn't. So if this isn't the result of Apple changing something, what is the reason?
 
Last edited:

chrfr

macrumors G4
Jul 11, 2009
10,031
3,781
Maybe Apple never intended backups to be saved anywhere but the home folder, but following the steps I listed in my OP used to work, and now it doesn't. So if this isn't the result of Apple changing something, what is the reason?
Nope, backups have always been saved in the home folder, independent of where the iTunes Library is saved.
 

spellflower

macrumors regular
Original poster
Jun 7, 2005
227
15
Nope, backups have always been saved in the home folder, independent of where the iTunes Library is saved.

Huh. That blows my mind, but now that I think of it, I used to have a computer with a 500 GB HD and a 64 GB phone. Then I upgraded to a 256 GB phone, but I've only recently hit 200 GB of content.

Two years ago I got a new laptop, with a 256 GB HD.

So I guess I just finally hit the point where my new phone is full enough that it doesn't fit on my new computer.

But here's what I don't get: The biggest space hog on my phone is pictures. They don't go into the backup, though, right? They go into Photos, which is separate. The next biggest category is podcasts. Those go into iTunes, right? After that it's Spotify. Are all the Spotify music files I downloaded to my phone now living somewhere on my laptop?

Actually, I don't understand why Apple thinks I want to backup podcasts at all. They came from the cloud, and they're still there. It's silly to back them up because I could just download them again. If anything, the software should just note which ones I had so that they could be dowloaded again after a restore.

So what are the 95 GB of iOS files on my HD, anyway?
 

chrfr

macrumors G4
Jul 11, 2009
10,031
3,781
Huh. That blows my mind, but now that I think of it, I used to have a computer with a 500 GB HD and a 64 GB phone. Then I upgraded to a 256 GB phone, but I've only recently hit 200 GB of content.

Two years ago I got a new laptop, with a 256 GB HD.

So I guess I just finally hit the point where my new phone is full enough that it doesn't fit on my new computer.

But here's what I don't get: The biggest space hog on my phone is pictures. They don't go into the backup, though, right? They go into Photos, which is separate. The next biggest category is podcasts. Those go into iTunes, right? After that it's Spotify. Are all the Spotify music files I downloaded to my phone now living somewhere on my laptop?

Actually, I don't understand why Apple thinks I want to backup podcasts at all. They came from the cloud, and they're still there. It's silly to back them up because I could just download them again. If anything, the software should just note which ones I had so that they could be dowloaded again after a restore.

So what are the 95 GB of iOS files on my HD, anyway?
It’s probably just a bunch of backups. Otherwise, there are utilities that let you look at iOS backups to retrieve files from them.
 

chown33

Moderator
Staff member
Aug 9, 2009
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How many backups of your phone currently reside on your Mac?

I provided a link above that shows how to review the phone's backups, and either delete or archive them.

Try deleting old backups you no longer need.
 
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spellflower

macrumors regular
Original poster
Jun 7, 2005
227
15
Ok, so it seems I had 3 backups on my Mac: 2 from my old phone, and 1 from my new phone. The 2 old ones were surprisingly small and both over 2 years old, so I deleted them.

The backup of my current phone was 95 GB. (I'm still confused about how it could be that big, since most of the contents of my phone is photos/videos and music, none of which should be included in a backup. The remainder is well under 40 GB. But anyway...)

I copied the 95 GB backup to an external drive and deleted it. Oddly, my available storage only increased by about 4 GB. The Backup folder is only 6 KB now, so the backup is definitely deleted. What's going on?
 
Last edited:

chown33

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Aug 9, 2009
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Ok, so it seems I had 3 backups on my Mac: 2 from my old phone, and 1 from my new phone. The 2 old ones were surprisingly small and both over 2 years old, so I deleted them.

The backup of my current phone was 95 GB. (I'm still confused about how it could be that big, since most of the contents of my phone is photos/videos and music, none of which should be included in a backup. But anyway...)

I copied the 95 GB backup to an external drive and deleted it. Oddly, my available storage only increased by about 4 GB. The Backup folder is only 6 KB now, so the backup is definitely deleted. What's going on?
Did you empty the Trash?

If you did empty the Trash, do you have Time Machine turned on? Because I'm fairly sure TM will keep emptied-trash items around for at least a while.
 

spellflower

macrumors regular
Original poster
Jun 7, 2005
227
15
I did empty the trash. I didn't see the deleted backup folder in it, and it only got me another GB.

Time Machine is off, and has been throughout.

I even relaunched Finder.
 

spellflower

macrumors regular
Original poster
Jun 7, 2005
227
15
Nope. I don't have anything besides TM.

Before, when I checked my system storage, the biggest item was iOS backups. Now its "System". So it seems that, instead of deleting the backup, my computer simply reclassified it.

What now?
 

chrfr

macrumors G4
Jul 11, 2009
10,031
3,781
Nope. I don't have anything besides TM.

Before, when I checked my system storage, the biggest item was iOS backups. Now its "System". So it seems that, instead of deleting the backup, my computer simply reclassified it.

What now?
"System" is the default category for files the operating system has not indexed yet, so it doesn't know what those files are.
Get a utility like DaisyDisk or OmniDiskSweeper and those apps will tell you what's using your space on the disk. It may just be Time Machine snapshots.
 

spellflower

macrumors regular
Original poster
Jun 7, 2005
227
15
"System" is the default category for files the operating system has not indexed yet, so it doesn't know what those files are.
Get a utility like DaisyDisk or OmniDiskSweeper and those apps will tell you what's using your space on the disk. It may just be Time Machine snapshots.

Ok, I'll look into those apps. But how could it be Time Machine snapshots? According to Apple, these are counted as available storage:

You don't need to think about how much storage space local snapshots are using, because they don't use space needed for tasks like downloading files, copying files, or installing new software.

Your Mac counts the space used by snapshots as available storage. Even so, Time Machine stores snapshots only on disks that have plenty of free space, and it automatically deletes snapshots as they age or as space is needed for other things.
https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT204015
 

spellflower

macrumors regular
Original poster
Jun 7, 2005
227
15
I looked at Time Machine preferences, and noticed that it said a full backup of my MacBook would be 245 GB.

I checked About This Mac again, and it said that 93.9 GB of storage is devoted to Trash.

I checked the trash: there were some small files, along with a folder called "Recovered files" that I did not create.

I emptied the trash.

Then I got a message that said "Recovered files" could not be deleted because it was in use (even though it was in the trash).

I checked my storage, and I'd gained about 90 GB.

I tried to empty again, and it worked.

Finally, I attempted to backup my phone to my computer, and..... IT WORKED!

I still think it's crazy that backups are stored on the local drive, while music is stored on the external, within the same damn application. It's even crazier that this is not made clear to the user. Thank goodness I found out this way and not when I was depending on using the backup on my external drive! I could have deleted it from my laptop not realizing that this was the only copy. Just one more thing to dislike about iTunes. I hope whatever replaces it makes more sense!
 

McScooby

macrumors 6502a
Oct 15, 2005
746
378
The Paps of Glenn Close, Scotland.
If you ever have 'stuck' space that you know is free & mac doesn't register this, then goto about this mac at top LHS, click storage section & let it recalculate, sometimes maybe have to reboot. I've found lately that it happens when large amounts of data are deleted over a short space of time.
 
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