How to Change iTunes Backup Location (or Any Windows App)

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The vast majority of Windows applications store their backups and large data directories directly on the primary partition. This means that backups consume precious space on your solid-state drive (SSD), a less-than-ideal situation. Read on as we show you how to move your backups to a data drive.

Why do I want to do this?

Most people have switched to using a fast Solid State Drive (SSD) as their primary drive. These drives are known for their fast response time, not their extensive storage capacities. There is no point in storing bulky and infrequently accessed data like your iPhone and iPad backup files on your SSD.

Also, in some cases, the application functions will fail completely if the primary disk does not have enough space. All modern iPhones and iPads have internal storage measured in the hundreds of gigabytes. A few full backups can put a dent in your average SSD. Although SSDs are getting bigger and less expensive, as of August 2022, they will still cost more per gigabyte of storage than conventional hard drives, making hard drives extremely attractive for storage uses. intensive.

RELATED: CMR vs. SMR Hard Drives: What’s the Difference?

In today’s tutorial, we’ll look at a quick and easy way for Windows users to easily move their backup directories and/or data for iTunes (or any other Windows application that doesn’t support backup directory changes/ data in the application) to a secondary disk.

What I need?

You need very little for this tutorial. Tools for adjusting the location of directories within Windows are built right into Windows.

Beyond that, the only thing you’ll need is a secondary drive to move your backup data. For this tutorial, we’ll move our backup data to the F: drive, but any large drive other than your operating system drive will do.

Finally, although we will specifically move the iTunes backup directory to our secondary drive, you can use this trick to move any large data or backup directory from your small primary drive to a larger secondary drive; you will just need to locate the data directory on your main drive and adjust the commands accordingly.

Move backup directory via symbolic links

The magic that drives this whole operation is the symbolic link system. A symbolic link is effectively a very advanced shortcut that is transparent to the requesting application. After moving the iTunes backup directory, iTunes will never be smarter (but iTunes data will end up on the secondary drive). If you want to read more about symbolic links, check out our Complete Guide to Symbolic Links (Symlinks) on Windows or Linux. Otherwise, let’s dig deeper.

Create a new backup directory

Before pointing an application to a new backup directory, we need a new backup directory. As we pointed out earlier, we are going to redirect iTunes to drive F:. In light of that, we have created a new “iTunes Backup” folder in the F: drive. Create a new backup folder on your secondary drive now.

Open File Explorer on the new iTunes backup folder on drive F:.

Locate and rename the current backup directory

We need to locate the current iTunes backup directory and rename it.

Hit the Start button, then paste the following into the search box:

“%APPDATA%AppleComputerMobileSync”

This will take you to the backup folder used by iTunes. Inside that folder, you’ll see a folder simply titled “Backup.” Rename that folder to “Backup-Old”.

Renamed the original backup folder to "backup-old".

Open a symbol of the system

Hold down the Shift key and right-click inside the File Explorer pane of the current folder (/MobileSync/). Select “Open command window here” to conveniently open an already focused Command Prompt in the current directory. Alternatively, you can type “cmd” in the File Explorer address bar and press Enter.

Open Command Prompt in the new backup folder, with the symlink command pasted.

Create the symbolic link

Note: Any file path that contains a space must be enclosed in quotes. For example, C:\FolderName does not require them, because FolderName is a word. If it was called Folder Name, then the path would be written C:”Folder Name” or “C: Folder Name” instead.

At the command prompt, again making sure you are in the MobileSync directory, enter the following command (adjust the F: iTunes Backup entry to point to your chosen backup directory):

mklink /J "%APPDATA%Apple ComputerMobileSyncBackup" "F:iTunes Backup"

The “mklink” command is the Windows shell command for creating a symbolic link, and the “/J” switch creates a special type of symbolic link known as a directory traversal, which will seamlessly redirect any application that queries the copy directory. original security to iTunes. Backup to secondary drive.

Open Command Prompt over File Explorer, showing the symlink command and the link you created.

At this point, you should see a folder with a shortcut icon in the Mobile Sync folder, labeled Backup. If you click on this folder, it will appear to open like a normal folder (it won’t appear to switch to the secondary drive as it would with a normal shortcut), but anything placed on this drive will be physically stored on the secondary drive .

Try the join

If you can click the link without an error, you should be good to go, but let’s double check to be sure. While in the MobileSyncBackup directory (accessed via the new symbolic link you just created), right-click and create a new text document as a temporary file placeholder. After creating it, navigate to the actual backup directory you created on the secondary drive (in our case, F: iTunes Backup ). You should see the file sitting in the directory. Delete the placeholder file once you’ve confirmed that it’s in the child directory.

Start an iTunes backup

Whether you’re following this tutorial to transfer your iTunes backup directory or another Windows application’s backup directory, the real test is whether or not the application works as intended with the symbolic link in place. . Let’s turn it on and see.

After starting the backup process, visit the backup directory on the secondary drive:

A new backup successfully moved the data to drive F:.

There we can see a new collection of backup files created at the time of our new backup. Success!

Copy the original backup data

At the beginning of the tutorial, we renamed the Backup directory to Backup-Old. That Backup-Old directory contains all of your old iTunes backup files. Now that we’ve successfully tested the symbolic link and performed a successful backup operation, it’s time to move the backup data to its new home.

Unlike a normal transfer from same disk to same disk, this transfer will take a bit longer as Windows copies the data via the symbolic link to the secondary disk. Once the copy is complete, you can reconfirm that the data is safe on the secondary drive.

The Properties window on the left shows C: storage usage before moving the backups to the symbolic link.  The Properties window on the right shows the C: drive after moving the files.

As you can see from the screenshot above, after copying the iTunes backup directory, we freed about 7 GB of data on our main drive. The whole process took about 5 minutes from start to finish and our reward is additional space on our primary drive and backup data stored on a secondary drive.