Disabling iPhone Backups

Q: I have a couple of questions. First off, I am really annoyed by how iTunes is syncing my iPhone, it is taking forever to backup, sync contacts, calendars, and notes, and copy purchases and update applications, and then finally sync my music. Is there a way I could speed up this process to just sync my music? There are times when I need to leave in a hurry and it would take forever to just add one track on to the iPhone. My other question is, now with Windows 7 around the corner, its going to be time to format my laptop and install windows 7 over it. What is the best way to handle a laptop format with the least headache and save all the data from my apps on my iPhone. They way I have it now is auto sync so everything is automatic, but when I format my laptop its going to think of the laptop as a new computer and ask to wipe itself and sync all over. How can I either prevent this, or prepare for this?

– Faisal

A: It may be possible to reduce the amount of time it takes to backup your iPhone during an iTunes sync by looking at the applications you’re using on a regular basis to see if the iPhone is backing up an excessive amount of data. There are still some applications out there that store large caches of information, which would increase the time required to backup this data. Also be sure you’re running the latest version of iTunes and the iPhone OS, as recent versions have made improvements in backup speed.

You can also cancel the backup process during a sync simply by clicking the “X” in the iTunes status panel. The backup will be cancelled but the rest of the iPhone sync process will continue.

Disabling iPhone Backups

Further, it is possible to disable automatic backups entirely by enabling a hidden preference in iTunes. You can do this by modifying your iTunesPreferences.xml file, which is located in a hidden folder named Application Data\Apple Computer\iTunes under your user profile folder in Windows XP or AppData\Roaming\Apple Computer\iTunes on Windows Vista. Simply open this file in a text editor and search for “User Preferences” and add the following text as shown:


Disabling iPhone Backups

Note that even with automatic device backups disabled it is still possible to backup your iPhone on-demand by right-clicking on your iPhone in the iTunes Devices list and choosing the “Back up” option from the context menu.


Disabling iPhone Backups

This will trigger an individual backup of your iPhone content on-demand. Note that only a backup will be performed in this case, and not a sync operation.

While there are some third-party tools available that can set this preference for you automatically, these tools use the older “DeviceBackupsDisabled” setting which will disable your iPhone backups completely and you will not even be able to initiate a manual backup of your device. Since it is highly recommended that you at least make occasional manual backups of your iPhone, using the method above to disable automatic backups is preferable to disabling them entirely.

With regards to your second question, the simplest way to preserve your iTunes and iPhone configuration while reformatting your laptop and upgrading to Windows 7 is to simply ensure that you have a complete backup of your iTunes library before reformatting your computer. You can restore this iTunes library to your laptop once you’ve installed Windows 7 and the iTunes application, and iTunes should just pick up right where it left off with your existing library. The association between your iPhone and your computer is based on the information in the iTunes library database, so as long as you restore this to your computer after you’ve reformatted it, everything should continue working the way it was before. You can find more information on this in our articles on Transferring your iTunes Library and Backing up your iTunes Library.

Note that there is one exception to the above pertaining to computer authorization. iTunes Store authorization information is not stored in the iTunes library and if you have any content purchased from the iTunes Store you will need to re-authorize your computer after you reinstall iTunes on it. You should be sure to deauthorize your computer in iTUnes before reformatting it so that you don’t use up an unnecessary authorization slot.

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