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An Easy Way to Clear Out Unused iOS Apps from iTunes 11.

Monday, April 1st, 2013 | Author:

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.

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    1. Jirapat says:

      All my app data isn’t going to be lost , Right?

    2. Gigi Brown says:

      This looks like a great way to clean up my 800 + apps. However, no one mentioned if there’s a problem with keeping your device apps in their respective folders when syncing back to iTunes from the device. I would rather slash my wrists than have to reorganize my folders!

    3. Greg says:

      Step 1 doesn’t seem to work in iTunes 11.1.3. Selecting an app and pressing Command-Delete doesn’t do anything. It just makes the “bonk” sound.

    4. Bas says:

      This was EXTREMELY helpful! I was almost pulling my hairs out about this. And there are not many left already!
      First I was looking for some kind of handy option in iTunes to cleanup the app’s that are not used in anu of the iOS devices. Perhaps difficult for Apple to make, because it needs to keep track of the apps somehow.
      Many thanks and cheers from a happy Dutchman!!

    5. bpow says:

      This was immensely helpful. It’s funny how in the updated version of iTunes that they purposefully remove the ability to filter for “apps not on this iPhone” as was present in earlier versions. Ohhhh apple, sooooo calculated.

    6. moyboy says:

      They want us to buy all their devices yet they don’t make it simple for us to filter out apps. It’s ridiculous. I’ve been looking for this tip for a long time so THANK YOU.

      One thing I would suggest before proceeding is to plug in all your devices once and uncheck the “automatically sync…” check box. Otherwise your devices would sync with the empty app directory in your Mac and therefore wipe them all out.

    7. jaime says:

      oh wow this was great. thank you so much, exactly what i needed!
      although, i just suggest explaining where to find the “apps” section of itunes, i had to look else to find out where to find that.

    8. Eva says:

      Sounds great, but I am not getting past step 1 – I am on a PC, but I am not seeing a way to select all of my apps in itunes and delete them. Am I missing something or can you only do this on a Mac?

      • Yulia says:

        in a PC you select all by pressing Ctrl+A and delete by pressing the delete button. (also the next step where check to make sure the apps deleted, that’s under Libraries > Music > iTunes > iTunes Media > Mobile Applications

    9. iPhone says:

      Hello. Thanks for the great tip.

      But what happen to the music I purchased when I use the button “transfering purchases from …”? Does iTunes overwrite my copies on my mac or will iTunes double the files?

      • OWC Chris S. says:

        While I have not purchased any music on my iPhone, as far as I have observed, this methodology simply transfers items that exist on your iDevice to your iTunes library only if they do not already exist there.

    10. Anna says:

      Thanks for all the tips here. I had 881 apps in my iTunes pc and I wanted to delete some of them but was afraid “what if I need it later”. Thank you all here very much.
      Happy Anna.

    11. Carl says:

      GREAT idea. Only one problem: if iTunes ever stops carrying an app, you’re screwed. I would suggest making a backup somewhere first, and keeping that backup for, well, forever. I had a $30 app (Oxford dictionary) that the company stopped supporting and removed from the app store. I only have access to it now because I had a Time Machine backup I was able to restore from. Otherwise, I would have been out $30. :(

    12. AliZ says:

      There needs to be an option in Itunes to remove the files from itunes app folder if the app is removed from the iphone/ipad. This shouldn’t be very difficult for Itunes developers.

    13. JC says:

      Awesome! Worked great. Thanks for sharing.

    14. Dave says:

      Why would I want ANY of my iPhone/iPad apps in my iTunes library on my PC?

      Can anyone explain what the purpose of having apps in iTunes servers?

      We have 2 iPads, an iPod and I have an iPhone. When I launch iTunes I often see it downloading apps…this strikes me as a waste of disk space and computing cycles.


      • OWC Nick says:

        According to Apple, “If you purchased items from the iTunes Store and the only place you have them stored is on your iOS device or iPod, you can transfer them to any computer that is authorized for your iTunes Store account. This feature adds an extra layer of protection against losing your valued purchases.”

        iTunes may be automatically downloading apps you have purchased or acquired over your other iDevices. There is a setting in iTunes that will allow you to unselect automatic updates and downloads, (iTunes/Preferences/Store). This may or may not stop the behavior. There are a few Apple forums online also discussing the same concerns.

    15. Jayden Lawson says:

      Great article! Exactly what I was needing :)

    16. Ana says:

      I had been frustrated with this iTunes wifi sync. I didn’t set all apps on the
      Computer I’m sure someone did it because they set up new apps n make new name
      Screen names on my apple ID. Please take care of my apple I’d for me I don’t feel
      SAFE with this. They protected me to not turn off the volume or something so they could
      See or hear from me. I need a private life

    17. jLo says:

      Does the same work for the WIN users?

      • OWC Chris S. says:

        In theory, it should. From what I can tell, iTunes feature parity is pretty good between Windows and Mac OS X, and I’m fairly certain the “Transfer Purchases From…” command is in the Windows version.

        However, as I haven’t used Windows actively in well over 10 years, much less used an iOS device with one, I really can’t say with 100% certainty where the Mobile Applications folder would be located, so you’re kind of on your own for finding that.

        Any brave Windows users out there who have tried this and can offer any further enlightenment.

        • Jean says:

          I have iTunes, and Windows 7, and there is nothing I can do to get them off of my iTunes App library. It says I have 81, but the folder you mentioned (re Mobile Applications) only shows 47 (I tried removing from there) but it doesn’t clear them out of the iTunes. There is no way to delete them as you mentioned above with the ‘command’ feature. I tried ‘control” and delete key, but that didn’t work. Ridiculous. Grrr @ apple.

          • OWC Ben M says:

            Keyboard shortcuts between Windows and Mac OS are not always uniform. You can delete the apps by selecting them all then going to the edit menu and chose “delete”

    18. dimmer says:

      Thanks for this excellent tip. Now if I can only find a quick way to delete unused apps off the iPhone as well without restoring the whole thing…

      • OWC Chris S. says:

        Yeah, it would be nice if you could, say, pull up a list of apps sorted by when they were last used, then just delete as necessary.

        Alas, at this time, the only way to do that would be to delete apps manually. Find an app you haven’t used in months. Press icon ’til it wiggles. Tap the little X. Select “Delete.” Press the home button. Repeat as necessary.

        Of course, I recommend doing that before clearing out the iTunes library as mentioned above – that way you’re not bringing over apps from your iDevices that you don’t use.

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