Free up space on the Mac: Delete iOS files hidden on the drive

Find and delete junk files on the Mac's disk to free up space

Did you know there could be iOS files on your Apple Mac drive? They could be using up tens of gigabytes of space. Here is how to find these unnecessary files and delete them. Free up space.

Is space being wasted on your Apple Mac by unnecessary iOS files? What are iOS files doing in macOS anyway? It might seem odd to have iOS files on your Mac, but there is a good reason for them. At least there was. These days they may not be needed and the could simply be a waste of space.

If you have ever plugged an iPhone or iPad into your Mac with a USB cable, it will probably have some iOS files on it. If the Mac is a few years old, it could have a lot of iOS files taking up a considerable amount of disk space. In extreme cases, some people have found iOS files occupying more than 100 GB of Mac disk space.

If the drive in your Mac is not very big, such as a 256 or 512 GB model, you could be running short of disk space and it could be because of unnecessary iOS files. Deleing them could free up a lot of disk space.

How do you find, view and delete iOS files on the Mac? Here is an easy guide.

1 Apple menu options

The Apple menu in macOS
The Apple menu in macOS

There is more than one way to find iOS files on the Mac and first we will use About This Mac on the Apple menu. It is not an obvious place to look for files, but in this case it is very useful.

2 Storage summary in macOS

Storage display in macOS on the Apple Mac
Mac drive storage summary

The Overview tab is shown by default, but we want to look at the space usage on the internal drive. Select the Storage tab at the top of the window. It can take quite a few seconds for the usage bar to be filled in, so wait until all the colored bands have appeared. When it has finished updating, let the mouse hover over each colored band and see if you have an iOS Files item.

Here you can see that I have 4.3 GB of iOS files taking up space on my Mac’s disk. You may have more that this or fewer. I have heard of Macs having over 100 GB of iOS files in extreme cases and it varies a lot.

If you cannot find an iOS Files colored band, then this is good because it means that no storage space is being wasted on the drive. If you do have iOS Files, click the Manage button on the right.

3 Detailed storage usage

Detailed view of storage use in macOS on the Apple Mac
Detailed storage use display in macOS

This storage usage information display can take some time to appear, so wait until it has finished filling in the items in the sidebar. The older your Mac is, the more likely it is to have junk files taking up storage on the drive. A new Mac is much cleaner, obviously.

Select iOS Files on the left and on the right are the items taking up valuable Mac storage. If you have ever backed up your iPhone or iPad to the Mac or even simply plugged it in for some reason, there are likely to be one or more items listed. I found an iPhone 6 backup created years ago and forgotten about.

Click an item in the iOS Files list to select it and then click the Delete button in the bottom right corner. Alternatively, Ctrl+click and item and then click Delete.

The iPhone 6 is not my current iPhone and I don’t care about the backup. It is an old backup for an old phone. It is therefore safe to be deleted. iPhones and iPads automatically back up to the cloud these days and we don’t usually plug them into a Mac to back manually them up. It is still possible though.

Delete old backups that you created a long time ago and do not need, but keep the backups if you rely on them and they are your only backup.

4 Open the Library folder

Access the Library in macOS on the Apple Mac
Open the Library folder on the Mac

You may be wondering where those iOS files are actually stored on the Mac’s disk. Before you delete them, let’s take a look and see where they are. Click the Go menu in Finder, hold down the Option key and click Library on the menu. You need to press Option because Library is a hidden menu item.

5 iOS backups on the Mac

The Library folder in macOS on the Apple Mac
iOS files on the Mac

In the Finder window showing the contents of the Library folder, open Application Support > Mobile Sync > Backup. There are the items listed earlier in Apple menu > About This Mac > Storage > Manage > iOS Files. The names may not be the same on all the items, but they are the same.

6 File information

Finder file info window on the Apple Mac
Show the Info panel for a folder

Eagle-eyed users may have spotted that the items listed in About This Mac > Storage > Manage > iOS Files are not the same as the items in Library > Application Support > Mobile Sync > Backup. In my case, 3.09 GB vs 3.15 GB. Why is there a difference?

The size of a file is not the same as the space taken on the disk. Storage is divided into blocks of fixed size and a file is poured into them. The last block is rarely full of file data, so the disk space used is always greater than the file size. Select the item in the Finder window and press Cmd+I to open the Info panel. Here you can see that the size is 3,088,552,800 bytes or 3.09 GB, but the space taken on disk is 3.15 GB, because of those not-quite-full storage blocks at the end of files.

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Apple Mac apps I use:

CleanMyMac X: A maintenance tool to uninstall app leftovers, block and remove malware, free disk space and optimize your Mac. Learn more
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About Anthony Waddilove 61 Articles
I have been a computer, phone and internet enthusiast for many years. This has enabled me to build up an extensive knowledge about them. I still have a lot to learn, but I am working hard at it!