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How to change iPhone backup location on Mac

by David
How to change iPhone backup location on Mac

Why doesn’t the Mac offer a built-in way to change the default iPhone backup location? Even after completely abandon iTunes in macOS Catalina, it is all the more strange that changing the backup location of the iPhone is not yet a standard feature. Fortunately, we have figured out how to change the backup location of the iPhone on Mac.

I’m going to talk about a clever workaround that will allow you to switch the default iPhone backup location, either to an external storage drive or to another internal directory on your Mac. So tighten your seat belts, and let’s get started.

Change iPhone backup location on Mac

From macOS Catalina, it is the Finder application and not iTunes that backs up your iPhone to the Mac via USB or Wi-Fi. The backups are stored in a hidden location in your user profile, in particular in a folder called Backup , which in turn is in another folder called MobileSync.

To switch backups to another location, you must use a workaround that involves symbolic links (or symbolic links). A symbolic link allows you to create a dummy folder that points to another location. The folder that will look like a shortcut becomes a “wormhole” where everything copied to it appears in the location to which it points. Sounds cool, doesn’t it?

This means that we are going to “ fool ” Finder to back up your iPhone to the location of your choice, either on an external storage drive or in a different internal directory. And the following steps will show you how.

In short, you will start by copying the existing backups to the new location, then create the symbolic link that “connects” the default iPhone backup folder to the new location using Terminal.

The whole process is quite long and involves going through many stages, including granting the terminal the permissions required to create symbolic links, so be very careful.

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Note: Before you start, think about create an iCloud backup of your iPhone, just so you have an extra backup to fall on if something goes wrong.

Step 1: Open Spotlight (press Cmd + Space), type the following path, then press Enter:

~/Library/Application Support/MobileSync

A Finder window will open the MobileSync folder, which in turn contains the backup folder which stores your iPhone (and iPad) backups.

2nd step: Right-click the backup folder, then click Copy “Backup”.

Step 3: Open a new instance of Finder, then navigate to the location you want to use as the new storage location for iPhone backups. It can be an external drive or another directory on your Mac’s internal storage drive.

Once there, right-click on a vacant area, then select Paste Item. I will choose the root of an external drive named “Files” as my preferred location.

Step 4: Wait until the backup folder is completely copied to the new location. This may take some time depending on the size of your previous backups.

Step 5: Return to the previous Finder window that opened in the MobileSync directory in step 1. Then right-click the backup folder inside, then select Rename.

Step 6: Rename the folder to Backup.old.

Note: You can delete this folder, but it is better to keep it for now if there is a problem.

Step 7: Open the Apple menu, then select System Preferences.

Step 8: Click the thumbnail titled Security and Privacy.

Step 9: Click the “Click the lock to make changes” option in the lower left corner of the screen. Follow the authentication process required to allow changes to your Mac’s privacy settings.

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Step 10: Scroll down the menu on the left, select Full Disk Access, then click the “+” icon, as shown below.

Step 11: Click Utilities, click Terminal, and then click Open.

After adding Terminal to the Full Disk Access list, exit the Security and Privacy window.

Step 12: Open another new instance of Finder, open the Go menu, and click Utilities.

Step 13: Double-click Terminal.

Step 14: Insert the following command into the terminal after making the adjustments listed below:

ln -s /Volumes/Files/Backup/ ~/Library/Application Support/MobileSync/
  • Modify the “/ Volumes / Files / Backup /” part of the above command with the actual path of the location where you copied the backup folder previously. For example, if the folder was copied to a folder called iPhone, which in turn was located in a volume or drive called Vault, the folder path should look like ‘/ Volumes / Vault / iPhone / Backup /’.

Point: If you’re not sure of the exact path to the folder that leads to the backup folder, just open it in the Finder, go to View (in the menu bar), and then click Show path bar. ‘access. You will then see the full path to the bottom of the Finder window.

  • If a name (volume, external drive, or folder) in the folder path consists of two or more words, you must use a backslash followed by a single space between words. For example, if the name of the external drive to which I copied the backup folder was My Files, the folder path should look like ‘/ Volumes / My Files / Backup /’.

Once you have executed the command, the symbolic link must be active and functional.

Step 15: Revisit the MobileSync folder in step 1 and you should see a shortcut folder called Backup located there. You can test if the symbolic link works correctly by double-clicking on this folder. Do this, and you will be taken to the actual backup folder in the new location.

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Everything looks good? Then you’re ready to start backing up your iPhone to the new location.

Step 16: Connect your iPhone (or iPad) and then make a backup. It should transparently back up to the backup folder in the new location.

Once the backup is successful, you can safely delete the Backup.old folder (the one you renamed previously) in the MobileSync directory. Very useful if you want free up space on your Mac.

If you have moved locations to an external drive, be sure to connect it each time you make a backup. Otherwise, the symbolic link will not work.

Note: In case you want to move the iPhone backups to their old location later, just delete the symbolic link that you created in the above steps. Go to the MobileSync folder and delete the backup shortcut folder. Then copy the backup folder (wherever you copied it previously) to the MobileSync folder. Subsequent backups will occur again at the original location.


Do you have a PC? Here’s how to change the backup location of iPhone on Windows 10.


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