Setting iTunes to Disable Automatic iOS Device Backups

We have just finished an iPad deployment project for one of our customers that had a specific requirement. The 90 iPads needed to be restored to a predefined state, once every two weeks, for the foreseeable future.

To achieve this, we had to ensure that they did not attempt to update their backups each time they are connected to iTunes. Otherwise, the next time one of the iPads was connected, the backup would have been updated with the newer settings.

So to stop iTunes running an automatic backup when you plug in an iOS device quit iTunes, launch terminal and type in the following command:

  • defaults write AutomaticDeviceBackupsDisabled -bool true

To stop iTunes running any backups at all (even manually, or before a restore) quit iTunes, launch terminal and type in the following command:

  • defaults write DeviceBackupsDisabled -bool true

To undo the above commands, quit iTunes, launch terminal and type in the following commands:

  • defaults delete AutomaticDeviceBackupsDisabled
  • defaults delete DeviceBackupsDisabled

3 Replies to "Setting iTunes to Disable Automatic iOS Device Backups"

  • Rafael

    I think this would allow oninrizatgoas to create and distribute their own podcasts using OS X Server. Say you were a large company or academic institution that wanted to start offering podcasts to employees or customers… this would allow you to do it.On the Leopard client side, there is probably an application that hooks into Podcast Producer that actually does the audio/video capture and content-creation.

  • Walter


    Excellent information, thank you!

    I’m currently working on a project for my employer, where we would like to give kids in our Emergency Departments iPads pre-configured with games to use while waiting for the doctor. We currently use AirWatch for MDM and our iPads are DEP.

    While there is only so much that can be locked down on the devices with a restriction profile, items like the Calendar, Notes, Reminders, etc. can not be blocked or removed. Not to mention many games on iOS typically have you type in your name and it remembers your progress.

    It almost seems like the best option to ensure that the device is “fresh” when given to each child would require a re-image of sorts, to ensure there is no data in any of the built-in apps or game progress, etc. While this could be done from the device via a wipe and re-register in to AirWatch, it’s probably more time consuming than what the workflow allows (nurses are pretty busy). I also don’t want to require the staff to launch iTunes and restore the device from backup (like the topic of this blog post) — as it will be done several times per day.

    Do you know if there is a simple way in which I could setup a “checkin” kiosk of sorts, so that when a nurse plugs an iOS device in to the machine it’s automatically refreshed back to a pristine image? My thought is you may know of an iTunes or Apple Configurator command via the shell that I could drop in to a bash script or Automator action and have it run when the device is connected.

    Thoughts and feedback? My Googling has turned up very little on the subject.

    Your advice is appreciated!


    • David Acland

      Hi Walter, this would definitely be a case for Apple Configurator if you want them wiped but re-setup with some apps.

      I think AirWatch and DEP may be complicating things. In this case, I would probably just use Apple Configurator and if needed, enrol with AirWatch each time just for record keeping.

      Apple Configurator can be configured to automatically wipe and restore iPads as they are plugged in so I would have it running on an 11-inch MacBook (or something similar).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *