Are your iCloud backups suspiciously large? Here’s why…

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A few days ago, a message popped up on my iPhone, saying that I’m almost out of storage on my 5GB iCloud account. It turns out that my iPhone 5 iCloud backup was ridiculously large, especially considering I tend to keep my camera roll empty. Why would the backup be so huge? After a quick investigation, I found out why.

My insanely large iCloud backup size…

One thing to note is that this problem, at least on my end, occurred in iOS 5 as well as iOS 6. More on that in a bit…

Because I rarely keep anything inside of my Camera Roll, I knew that it couldn’t have been related to anything regarding my photos. When I bought my iPhone 5, I started fresh. Because of how locked-down iOS is, a user can’t simply browse all of the device’s filesystem (without a jailbreak at least, however there are ways to view directories, but not all of them). Fortunately, DiskAid is able to view the Media folder, located in /var/mobile/Media. I went through these folders to find something suspicious, but couldn’t find anything.

Long story short, whenever you clear out a conversation in the Messages app, whether it be an SMS or an iMessage, the app might not actually be removing all of your sent and received attachments. This also occurred in iOS 5, which is why I always used iFile to periodically remove everything in /var/mobile/Library/SMS/Attachments, as the Messages application wouldn’t do that, for whatever reason.

iPhone Backup Extractor doing its thing…

I found this out by first doing a completely new device backup inside of iTunes, and using a free Mac OS X application called “iPhone Backup Extractor” to take a look at what was actually backed up.

Gotchaaaaaaa!

Sure enough, the “Attachments” folder within my particular backup is well over 4GBs in size, despite me deleting all of my open conversations prior to creating the backup. I found attachments that I sent and received over a month ago, which could also be thought of as a potential security threat.

So, how would one be able to solve this? Unless you’re jailbroken, there’s nothing you can do, but hope that Apple fixes this in iOS 6.0.1. If you happen to be jailbroken, whether it be on iOS 5 or iOS 6, you can easily use iFile to navigate to the /var/mobile/Library/SMS/Attachments folder to delete everything in there.

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  • Asd

    This was driving me mad and you’ve nailed it. Well done. Not jail broken though so need apple to fix.

  • Pissed consumer

    For ***** sake, I’m trying to backup my important apps TO icloud so I can jailbreak because it set an encryption passcode and I have NO idea what it is. Now I learn there’s nothing I can do to fix icloud? ohohoh apple, you’ve lost another customer.

    • besweeet

      Sounds like you should manually backup your data (using iExplorer, for example) and restore your device.

  • Mike_S_Htown

    Thank you! My phone is not jailbroken, but a deleting threads w/ attachments did the trick.

    • Tony Chandler

      Yep, this worked for me too, no jailbreak, deleted all the conversation threads, and my iCloud backup has dropped from 2.5gb to 224mb! One odd thing was that the “size of next backup” only dropped after I reset the phone after doing the deletes.

  • Anton Bukov

    Just solved this issue without jailbreak:
    1. Make backup with iTunes
    2. Download and run iBackupBot
    3. Delete heaviest SMS Attachments from backup
    4. Restore from backup with iTines
    (May be you need restore defaults and then restore from backup)
    5. Remove iCloud backup and make whole new iCloud backup

    • Daniel Pulliam

      This! This! This! Works like a freaking charm!

    • BVNati

      Holy cow this worked! You’re a genius!

    • destrilogy

      I installed iOS7 and iBackupBot ain’t working. welp.

      • Anton Bukov

        I think iBackupBot for iOS7 will be published very soon.

        • besweeet

          It’s still working fine for me.

    • Emanuele Albenga

      YOU ARE AWESOME.
      Thank you very much, you solved in 5 lines a problems i had for months.

  • Maxx Well

    Here’s also a blog named “how to back up iPhone“.

  • Privat Privat

    I did the same, however i ran into a problem after i jailbroke, my phone froze… have no way of restoring anything.. so i was forced to send inn the phone… now i got a void of warrenty… fok :C im screwed and its expensive now.