How to move iPad backup folder to another drive

If you choose to turn on iCloud backup on your iPad, you do not need to proceed as iCloud backup turns off local backup. However, keep in mind iPad backups can grow to gigabytes and if you do not have the bandwidth or time for such transfers, local backup may be a better option.

As the price of SSD drives fall, more and more people are opting to replace their primary Windows drive with these blazingly fast solid state drives. One of the drawback of SSD drives is their relatively high cost per gigabyte compared to traditional hard drives. Currently, a good deal on a 60-180 GB SSD drive will run about $1 per gigabyte while a two terabyte internal drive will run about five cents per gigabyte. The solution to managing a much smaller primary Windows drive is to offload as much data as possible to another drive. For performance reasons, you obviously want to keep certain files on the SSD drive. These include the operating system files and in my case, my Adobe Lightroom catalogs.

Apple iPad users may encounter a problem as they start to fill up their iTunes catalog. By default, iTunes stores the media catalog in drive C: and that library can quickly explode if not managed correctly. Apple provides a solution by allowing you to move the media library to another drive. However, there is still the problem of the iPad backup folder which can grow to 10+ gigabytes of very valuable SSD space.

Although there is no official way to move the iPad backup folder, you can redirect iTunes to a folder relocated in another drive by using a small utility called junction. Junction is a NTFS utility for Windows that allows you to map one folder to another so instead of accessing the default iPad backup folder, iTunes will in reality be accessing another folder of your choice on another hard drive. Your C: drive must be formatted as NTFS for this to work.

  1. Download and unzip junction to a folder of your choice. You will need to run junction from this location so remember it. You’ll need to access this folder using the command line window so keep it simple such as c:\.
  2. Make sure iTunes is closed.
  3. Find and move your iPad backup folder to another drive such as D:\ipadbackup\. In Windows XP, the iPad backup folder is located at \Documents and Settings\USERNAME\Application Data\Apple Computer\MobileSync\Backup\ and in Windows 7, it is located at \Users\USERNAME\AppData\Roaming\Apple Computer\MobileSync\Backup\. (USERNAME is the name of your Windows account name) You will need to change the Windows folder option to view hidden folder and files to see this folder. The folder name is a series of random characters.
  4. Now delete the folder Backup under \Documents and Settings\USERNAME\Application Data\Apple Computer\MobileSync\. You need to do this because junction needs to recreate it when you issue the command.
  5. Open a cmd windows by going to Start and typing cmd in the search program and files box (in Windows 7)
  6. I find it easier to first navigate to \Users\USERNAME\AppData\Roaming\Apple Computer\MobileSync\by using the CD command cd \Users\USERNAME\AppData\Roaming\Apple Computer\MobileSync\
  7. Once you are there, type c:\junction Backup “d:\ipadbackup” assuming junction.exe is in c:\
  8. If done correctly, you will see Targetted at: d:\ipadbackup
  9. To test if it is correct, type c:\junction Backup and it will show the redirection.
  10. Verify in Windows Explorer that there is now a shortcut icon attached to the old Backup folder.
  11. Start iTunes and sync.
  12. After ITunes syncs your iPad, verify the folder in your new backup location has updated with a new timestamp.

Note that starting with iOS 5, there is an option to backup your iPad data to iCloud. I don’t recommend this as my 64 GB iPad generates a backup folder that is 13 GB in size far exceeding iCloud’s free space of 5 GB. Besides, who wants to upload 13 GB of data?