How to stop iTunes or Finder from automatically backing up your iPhone and iPad

Learn how to stop your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch from automatically backing up to your computer when you connect it using a USB cable.

iTunes logo

Whenever you make important changes to your iOS device and then plug it into your Mac or Windows PC, Finder or iTunes may launch and attempt to automatically sync and back up your device.

Although it’s generally a good idea to back up your devices frequently in case of failure, some people would rather do it manually because they have a lot of data on their devices, and it will go on for ages before the backup process completes and can move on to syncing.

When the backup is in session, it will keep you waiting and may prevent you from doing other things like syncing video files to the VLC app on your iPhone or using your iOS device as a pen drive.

The last major thing I can think of is if your computer is running out of space and you know you have a lot of photos or videos on your iOS device, and you just don’t have the room to store such a backup. Disabling this automatic backup will prevent that precious storage on your Mac from disappearing when it doesn’t have to.

We will show you three ways to keep Finder on Macs running macOS Catalina or later and iTunes on Windows PC or older Mac from automatically syncing your iOS device when you plug it into your computer.

1. Turn off computer backup and use iCloud instead

One way to keep iTunes or Finder from automatically backing up your device is to set it to back up via iCloud instead.


1) Connect your iPhone or iPad to your Windows PC or Mac running macOS Mojave or earlier.

2) Launch iTunes on your computer (for some, it may launch automatically after step 1).

3) Click the Device button at the top of the app.

iTunes Device Top Left

4) From the device information screen in iTunes, select iCloud from the backup options and then click on the blue Done button.

iPhone backup to iCloud instead

5) When prompted about applying the changes, click on the blue Apply button.

Apply Changes in iTunes

Now, when you plug your iPhone into your computer to sync it with iTunes or to charge it while iTunes is open, your device won’t sync with iTunes anymore. Instead, it will back up to iCloud, which won’t get in the way of transferring information back and forth with your device.


If you have a recent Mac, connect your iPhone or iPad to it and find the device in the Finder sidebar. From the General section, check the box for “Back up your most important data on your iPhone/iPad to iCloud” and hit Apply.

Back up your most important data on your iPad to iCloud

2. Switch off automatic backup by preventing auto-sync

Another thing to note is that backing up only occurs when you sync your iOS device with it. So you can actually prevent Finder or iTunes from automatically backing up your device by preventing your device from being automatically synced when it’s plugged in and iTunes is launched.


1) Plug your iOS device into your Mac or PC.

2) Launch iTunes, and then open the iTunes preferences. On a Mac, go to iTunes > Preferences in the Menu Bar.

iTunes Preferences

3) In the preference window, click on the Devices tab.

iTunes Devices Tab Settings

4) Put a checkmark in the box entitled “Prevent iPods, iPhones, and iPads from syncing automatically” and then click on the blue OK button.

Now, your device won’t automatically sync when you plug it in and launch iTunes, which means it shouldn’t automatically back up with iTunes either. It’s like magic!


Uncheck the “Automatically sync when this iPhone/iPad is connected” option in the General section of your iOS device and hit Apply.

Uncheck Automatically sync when this iPhone or iPad is connected in Finder on Mac

3. Disable automatic iTunes backup with Terminal

If you don’t really want to use either to back up your device, you can also use Terminal to handle the situation.

Ah… good ol’ Terminal! I know lots of advanced Mac users are going to love this approach even more.

To turn off automatic iTunes backups with Terminal on your Mac, follow these steps:

1) Quit iTunes on your Mac.

2) Launch Terminal and enter the following command:

defaults write DeviceBackupsDisabled -bool true
Disable Device Backup With Terminal Mac

3) Press the return key on your keyboard to execute the command.

4) Restart your Mac. It’s good practice to do this after a command like this, but you can also probably get away with the killall Dock command.

Note: You can re-enable automatic backups in iTunes by using the same command above and replacing -bool true with -bool false.

Do you like having automatic device backups in iTunes? Share in the comments!

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