So in El Capitan (and probably earlier), I was able to go to Library/Application Support/MobileSync/Backup and copy that folder to an external hard drive, delete the old folder on my internal drive, and use terminal to create an alias folder of the one on my external hard drive to place where the folder went on my internal drive (ln -s /Volumes/INSERT HARD DRIVE NAME HERE/MobileSync/Backup ~/Library/Application\ Support/MobileSync/Backup). The alias folder had the same name ("Backup") as the "real" one and so, as long as I had my external drive connected while I was trying to run iOS device backups, it worked. iOS device backups were saved to the external hard drive instead of internal SSD.

However, in Sierra, this doesn't work. Even if I do it the other way of highlighting the "Backup" folder on the external drive, pressing ⌘-L, and manually moving the alias folder to where it would go on my internal drive, it still doesn't work. Everything in Finder looks just like it did in El Capitan, however I get "iTunes could not backup the iPhone because an error occurred" when I try to backup my iPhone.

I am running the latest version of Sierra, the latest version of iTunes, and my iPhone is running the latest version of iOS. I've restarted both my Mac and iPhone and even tried backing-up a family member's iPhone, but to no avail.

  • That error message isn't very helpful :( So we can't even be sure that the problem is what you think it is. Have you only just upgraded to Sierra? Or was it working until the latest Sierra update? Also, have you tested to see if the backup will work if you leave it as the default location?
    – Monomeeth
    Apr 6, 2017 at 3:10
  • @Monomeeth Sierra shipped on my MBP when I bought it new a couple months ago, but this is the first time I've tried to change the location of iTunes backups with it. The backup works fine when I change it backup to the default location. Apr 6, 2017 at 3:13

1 Answer 1


A slight correction in terminology may help. Theres no such thing as an alias folder at the Unix level, but what you are actually creating is a soft-link to a folder.

Depending on how the target is specified ln may not complain if the folder still exists, but it will not overwrite it. I find it's safer if I am in the folder I wish to create the soft-link in.

I have setup the following on Sierra and High Sierra, and it works correctly:

$ cd ~/Library/Application\ Support/MobileSync/
$ rm -rf Backup
$ mkdir -p /Volumes/EXTERNAL_DISK/iPhoneBackup/Backup
$ ln -s /Volumes/EXTERNAL_DISK/iPhoneBackup/Backup Backup
$ ls -l
total 0
lrwxr-xr-x  1 user   staff  35 10 Oct 21:16 Backup -> /Volumes/EXTERNAL_DISK/iPhoneBackup/Backup

Now start iTunes and try the backup.

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