(UPDATE: This method is not compatible with iOS 9)
Over the years, I’ve managed to amass a large amount of apps for my iOS devices. Some of them are really good and I use them daily. Others, I wind up being less-than-enamored with, and quickly remove them. This is all well and good; well over 90% of the stuff on my iPad, iPod touch, and iPhone I got for free, so I have no problem deleting it.
The problem is, even though I have deleted these apps from my devices, the odds are that I originally downloaded them via iTunes (or wound up syncing them there), and they still reside in my library. I took a look recently, and realized I had well over 750 of apps, most of which I wasn’t using. That’s a lot of space that could be used for more important things.
The most obvious solution for this would be to simply go through my iTunes library and simply delete the apps I don’t use. This would be fine, except that I have three iOS devices, each with apps that aren’t on the other ones. It would be a nightmare of cross referencing over 750 apps to see which ones were used and which ones weren’t. As the popular meme goes, “Ain’t nobody got time for that!”
Fortunately, there’s a simpler solution, using the built-in tools in iTunes 11.
Step 1.) Get rid of all the iOS apps in iTunes.
The first thing we need to do is clear out all the existing apps in your iTunes library, including the ones you want to keep. This is a simple matter of going to the Apps section of iTunes, selecting all, and hitting Command-Delete. Don’t worry about deleting something you want to keep; we’ll be adding them back in a moment and in the worst- case scenario, you can always re-download something (from your purchases).
Step 2.) Clear out any extra apps you may have.
Once you’ve deleted the apps in iTunes, quit iTunes and go to the Mobile Applications folder in your iTunes library folder. If you’ve left it in the default spot it will be located in your Music/iTunes/iTunes Music/Mobile Applications. It should be empty; sometimes, though, you’ll find an app or two hiding in there. If that’s the case, simply drag them to the trash.
Step 3.) Re-import the apps from your iOS device(s).
At this point, as far as iTunes 11 is concerned, you have no apps at all. We’re going to change that.
Relaunch iTunes, and connect an iOS device, but do not sync it. Instead, go to the menu bar and select File>Devices>Transfer Purchases from (the name of your iOS device). This will bring over any apps from your iOS device and re-add them to your library.
Repeat the process for each of your devices. When you’re done, your library will only contain the apps you have installed.
Step 4.) Enjoy the savings.
By doing this, you have removed all the apps that you have downloaded, but do not have installed on any of your iOS devices. I managed to reduce the size of my Mobile Applications folder from 34.79GB to 11.66GB. While my case may be on the “extreme” end of things, you may still be able to benefit, even if it’s just so far as to declutter your iTunes library.