Is there an approach to querying the local iTunes library to remove apps that aren't currently installed on any of your devices?

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    Unfortunately I don't think there's a reverse lookup of installed apps from the local iTunes library. Apps on the device are referenced in the local library not the other way around. – afragen Feb 22 '12 at 0:28

I might suggest a really wild -- possibly dangerous -- approach. If you have a good backup, it is less dangerous, but until you have restored from that backup there still can be snags and problems in a restore that you want find until that point. The good news is you don't need the backup, it's just there I case a crash happens in the middle of this process.

  • First make sure you've got a good backup of your iTunes library.
  • Then delete all your apps from iTunes.
  • Finally, sync each of your iDevices and when it tells you it found apps on the iDevice(s) that were not in the library, make sure you tell it to restore them back to the library.

You should end up with only those apps that are installed on at least one iDevice! (In theory, at least.) And if anything fails, restore the library from its backup.

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    Actually, you can connect each iDevice and Transfer purchases to iTunes. – Vlad Feb 6 '12 at 9:09
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    I've done this already—I didn't do it quite correctly, and ended up losing a few hundred apps. Restoring from the backup restored the apps, but it took days to download them all and I lost a few apps' data. – Timothy Mueller-Harder Feb 21 '12 at 23:08
  • @TimothyMueller-Harder - I've done the delete all apps from itunes and transfer purchases from iDevice several times and it worked flawlessly each time. However, if your try to sync, it will delete the apps from your iDevice. – Vlad Feb 22 '12 at 8:47
  • @Vlad I didn't do it right. When I restored from the backup, I lost some data. I'm not blaming it on your method. – Timothy Mueller-Harder Feb 22 '12 at 14:51
  • After a healthy round of backups for all devices involved, I tried this approach. It worked just fine. I would say that this approach is not for the faint of heart and if you're not familiar with backup/restore of devices, I don't recommend this approach. That being said, I'm glad to see my app count down to 100 :-) – Bennett Dill Mar 5 '12 at 23:00

This worked for me without any issue:

  1. Connect you iDevice to computer, let the sync complete (or cancel as per your choice)
  2. In the iTunes app library, select all (CmdA) and delete. on the prompt select Move to Recycle Bin.
  3. Do not sync now, go to Files>>Devices>>Transfer Purchase from "Your iDevice"
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  • Since the question specifies any of your devices do you need to connect them all in step one and transfer them all back own step 3? Have you tried this on more than one or ten devices? – bmike Dec 24 '12 at 14:13

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