What are iOS files on my Mac and how to remove them?

If you’re running out of storage on your Mac and have done some investigation into what’s taking up space, you may have noticed several gigabytes being occupied by iOS files. You’ve probably wondered what they are and whether you can safely delete them to save space. In this article, we’ll answer all those questions and show you some other ways to free up space on your Mac.

Why are there iOS files on your Mac?

Most of us back up our iPhone or iPad to iCloud. However, if you’ve ever installed a beta version of iOS on your device or you’ve ever had to restore your iPhone or iPad, you have probably backed it up to your Mac. Apple advises that when you install a public beta, you do just that so if anything goes wrong, you can restore it by plugging your device into your Mac.

Depending on which iPhone or iPad you have and how much is stored on it, those backups can take up quite a lot of space.

Is it safe to remove iOS files on your Mac?

The short answer is yes. Nothing will happen if you delete those iOS files. However, you should be aware that if you’re still running a beta version of iOS on your iPhone, there is a small risk that you could lose data if you delete the backup on your Mac. If you’re running a standard version of iOS and back up to iCloud, there is no risk at all.

How to check if your iPhone backs up to iCloud

  1. On your iPhone, go to Settings.
  2. Choose your Apple ID.
  3. Tap iCloud.
  4. Select iCloud Backup.

If the green switch is toggled on, your iPhone is backing up to iCloud, and you will see a message telling you when it last backed up. If it’s not, set it to on and tap Back Up Now.

How to delete iOS files on your Mac

The safest and easiest way to delete iOS files on your Mac is to use macOS’ Optimize Storage feature.

System Preferences - Storage

  1. Go to the Apple menu.
  2. Choose About This Mac, then More Info > Storage Settings.
  3. Look for iOS Files in the list under the colored bar.
  4. You should see a list of iOS backups in the main window, together with its size and the date it was last accessed. Select the backup you want to delete.
  5. Click Delete and confirm.
  6. Repeat for each of the backups you want to delete.

You should now have several gigabytes more space on your Mac.

Other ways to free up space on your Mac

Deleting iOS files is not the only way to free up storage space on your Mac. As you can see from the Optimize Storage window, Apple has many recommendations for optimizing your space. However, there are lots of ways to free up space that don’t appear in this built-in tool. We’ve listed a few below.

Get rid of junk files

When you’ve been using your Mac for a while, it starts to accumulate lots of files you don’t need, like temporary files that should have been deleted by the apps that created them but weren’t, cache files, and language files for languages you don’t need. Deleting these files can save you several gigabytes of disk space, but tracking them all down individually is very time-consuming. That’s where CleanMyMac X comes in. CleanMyMac X is a very useful app that has lots of different modules for keeping your Mac free from unnecessary files and running smoothly. Here’s how to use its System Junk module to get rid of junk files.

CleanMyMac X - System junk scan complete

  1. Download and open CleanMyMac X
  2. Select System Junk and click Scan
  3. Click the Clean button to delete all attachments or click Review details to check what CleanMyMac X has found.

Move or delete large or old files

Moving large files to an external storage or deleting files you haven’t opened in a while are easy ways to free up lots of space. You can identify large and old files in macOS’ Optimize Storage, and CleanMyMac X can also help with its Large & Old Files module, which displays the files that are taking up most space and those you haven’t opened for a while.

Use iCloud Photo Library’s optimize Mac storage feature

If you use Photos to store and manage photographs, you can reduce the amount of space they occupy on your Mac by storing only low-resolution versions on your Mac and keeping the full-resolution originals in iCloud. When you want to edit or share a photo, you can download the original version.

  1. Open Photos, click on the Photos menu, and choose Settings.
  2. Click iCloud and select the box next to iCloud Photos.
  3. Select the box next to Optimize Mac Storage.

If you’ve noticed iOS files stored on your Mac, it’s because you or someone who uses your Mac has, at some point, backed up an iOS device to the Mac. It may be because you’ve installed a beta of iOS on an iPhone or because you wanted to be able to restore from your Mac. However, if you’re now running a non-beta version of iOS and back up to iCloud, it’s safe to delete the iOS files from your Mac by following the steps above.

Laptop with CleanMyMac
CleanMyMac X

Your Mac. As good as new.