iOS Backups When Connected To Mac = Annoying, Potentially Useless?

I’m probably in the minority of how I use my iOS devices but I connect them to my computer on a regular basis to transfer files. I load video files to watch, I plug it in to download pictures because I don’t want to use iCloud Photos because I don’t want Apple to scan my photos to protect me from CSAM.

I connect my iOS devices to my Mac several times a week. Sometimes a few times each day. And each time, it tries to create a local backup because I have iCloud backups disabled and I don’t think there’s any way to fully disable backups in settings.

In the past, I came across a terminal command that let me stop this behavior.

Not only is it annoying in that it slows down the sync of files, but the backups take up a lot of space on my Mac. Each one can be like 5GB.

And I don’t think the backups actually do anything for me. There’s been two cases where I wanted a backup to help me and I learned the backup doesn’t do that thing.

  1. I wanted to revert to a previous version of 1Password because each new version gets worse and worse since they switched to the subscription model a few years ago, and I accidentally updated the app. But it turns out the backup file doesn’t store app files.

  2. I wanted to retrieve downloaded podcasts because Overcast gets a bug a few times a year where it decides to delete and redownload all of the podcasts I have saved to the device. Which would be just a minor annoyance except many podcasts limit how many recent episodes are available for free download. And as it turns out, the backup doesn’t save my podcasts.

I’m not sure what’s actually in these 5GB backup files, but I can’t imagine it’s anything I actually need. I sync my Photos to my Mac each time I plug it in. My contacts are synced. I know which apps I have on my iOS devices because I’ve hidden purchases in the app store history of apps I stopped using. So when I get a new iOS device, I just download all of the listed owned apps, so I don’t need to backup a list of apps. I’d love to be able to backup the old app version in case the developer goes kooky but that doesn’t seem like it’s possible anymore.

iCloud Keychain has the WiFi passwords saved to it.

I struggle to think what of any value to me could live inside this backup file that takes up tons of space and slows down my sync.

I lost the terminal command to disable the function, but can probably find it on Google. Before I do that, is there any actual benefit to these backup files?

Yes, a Backup is potentially useless!

Until you need it to restore your lost data…
iCloud Backup saved me 2-3 times my ass, and I would never switch it off.
BTW CSAM should be, at least partly, be done on the device itself, so you will not be protected from it, by switching off the cloud.

To be protected from CSAM, the easiest way is to just not take, or posses, pictures that could fallen into this category… :thinking:


The iMazing app probably does what you want but I have never used it myself as it feels too much like jailbreaking my phone.

The iCloud backup of my iPhone is only good for setting up a new iPhone and even then relies on an odd mix of apps that must be retrieved from the the App Store and things like photos that may be stored in iCloud separate from the “backup.”

What was in the backup that was helpful to you? I looked at the apple website and it was not too descriptive of what was in the backup.
Here’s some of what it said:

iMessage content. Okay, those are already stored on my Mac because iMessage syncs across devices. So having a second copy of the iMessages inside this 5GB backup file on my mac won’t help because the iMessage app and message history is already on my Mac.

‘Files you synced to your iOS device like PDFs and music files”. Okay, those by definition are already stored on my Mac because I synced them from my Mac to my iOS device. So why do i need another copy of them inside the backup file?

“App Data” - okay, overcast already has an account system that keeps tracks of the podcasts I’m subscribed to. So if I wiped the phone I could just put the username/password in and it gives the same podcast list. The backup does not store the actual podcast files even though I’d want it to.

“Home Screen and app organization” - okay potentially useful but would take me less than 5 minutes to remake from scratch. The headache of the backups and storage space it takes up exceeds the benefit of 5 minutes. I don’t know exactly how many backups are stored locally on my Mac but I’ve seen 20% of my hard drive taken up by multiple backup files per iOS device.

“photos and videos” - already download them to my computer when I connect the device. Don’t need a second copy in the backup file on the same device.

“purchase history” - seems silly, it’s literally your apple account that stores this.

So what exactly does this backup do that helps?

  1. If you lose or destroy your device, a current backup is the best/easiest/probably-only way to get the replacement back to nearly exactly the state of your old one.

  2. Some apps store data and settings locally on the device. If you’re a user of such an app, backups save you if you suffer a device failure or loss.

If those things are of no use to you then maybe backups aren’t for you. Personally, I would rather have the backup and not need it than need it and not have it. My wife was certainly grateful that her phone was backed up after it had an unfortunate encounter with our lawnmower.

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Like @Ulli I use iCloud Backup mainly for convenience. When I run into a problem with my iPhone/iPP if I can’ fix it in a reasonable length of time I wipe the device and restore from iCloud. Unlike Time Machine it has never let me down. And the rest of my data is on or synced to my Google Workspace account or B2 and backed up locally and via Arq to Backblaze. In addition I use iMazing to export my iMessages as PDFs along with any attached photos and files. And I manually backup my Contacts, on my Mac, each time I make additions or edits, and do the same with Calendar.

Yes, if you phone is wiped once its back online and connects to iCloud all your messages will re-sync. But if you happen to delete a message or thread they are deleted everywhere and all you can do is restore the entire message store with a backed up version.

(Assuming the process hasn’t changed in the last few years) If your backup is three days old after you restore you lose everything you sent/received for the past 3 days. This is the same problem that occurs when you lose files in the and don’t recovery them within 30 days.

I use iMazing to export my iMessages as PDFs and attached photos and files. And I manually backup my Contacts each time I make additions or edits, and do the same with Calendar.

Unlike normal files Messages and Notes, as well as contacts and calendars, etc. can be more difficult to protect.