On my PC, the iOS apps synchronized by iTunes take up a pretty substantial percentage of my total disk space.

Since most, if not all of them, can be recovered from the App Store, is it safe to delete them on my PC?

I've already verified that removing apps does not affect any apps currently installed on my device; now I'm wondering if it might cause problems once I have to restore from a backup.

It seems as if the backup itself only contains the data of the applications, and not the apps themselves. What happens when restoring a device with most or all .ipa files missing in the iTunes folder; will the missing apps be downloaded from the app store, or will restoring the apps and their data fail?

  • I don't know what happens on a restore, but I wanted to add that you can indeed confirm app data is in an iTunes backup—a tool like iExplorer can show this to you. macroplant.com/iexplorer
    – Mattie
    Oct 4, 2013 at 17:02
  • What does safe mean to you? It's clear that you no longer get a chance to have your own copy of apps so you risk not being able to reinstall a specific version of an app. What problem are you trying to solve here?
    – bmike
    Oct 4, 2013 at 17:56
  • @bmike will the app data be backed up it the app is deleted in iTunes but the app is left on the IOS device?
    – mmmmmm
    Oct 4, 2013 at 19:24
  • "will the app data be backed up it the app is deleted in iTunes but the app is left on the IOS device?" Yes, that's the point. It backs up the contents of your device, not what's in iTunes. You could have 100 apps on your device but 3 in iTunes. A backup will backup all 100 apps (just their data not the actual IPA). If device backups contained IPAs, they would be monstrous in size.
    – user10355
    Oct 4, 2013 at 19:38

2 Answers 2


The apps can be safely deleted from iTunes without affecting either the apps currently on the device or your backups. When you perform a backup, all of your data is backed up regardless of the apps you have in iTunes.

However, when you restore from a backup, apps are re-download from the iTunes Store. If one of your apps is no longer available on the store for some reason, that particular app won't be restored. If you still have a copy of the app on your computer, you'll be able to install it on your device from iTunes. (I'm not sure what happens to the app's data in this case, however. I suspect it depends on whether you're restoring from an iCloud backup or a local backup, but I've never had the chance to test it.)

  • Where would the apps be downloaded, on iTunes or on the device itself? Does this happen immediately? I've just wiped and restored my device, and the apps were not restored.
    – lxgr
    Oct 5, 2013 at 20:32
  • When you restore your device from an iCloud backup, the device itself downloads the apps from the Internet. I believe when you restore from a local backup the apps get copied to the device from iTunes, but I haven't done that for a while and I can't quite remember what happens. Oct 5, 2013 at 22:23
  • Good point, however, when an app is no longer supported, I generally discontinue use, as it won't support new APIs and will probably crash all the time--not to mention look ugly.
    – alord1689
    Feb 3, 2014 at 2:12

When restoring your phone from a backup the applications, music, address book etc all get uploaded. If you do lose your apps they are always saved to your Apple Account so you can just re-download them, however sometimes you may lose the data saved within them i.e. a place in a game where you left of before.

  • That's exactly what I'm worrying about - losing the data from the backup that corresponds to the deleted app. Is there a way to prevent this?
    – lxgr
    Oct 4, 2013 at 17:39
  • 2
    This answer does not actually answer your question. App data and app executables are stored in two different places. Running a backup does not transfer the app executable from iPhone to the computer, only the app data (after the first time...the first time you sync after an app is downloaded to your phone it will be transferred to the computer. But they are still separate processes).
    – tubedogg
    Oct 4, 2013 at 18:42

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