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I'm using an iPhone 6s+ with 128 GB internal storage. It was running on iOS 12.4.1 up until recently when I've decided to update iOS to the suggested 14.1.7. Prior to updating, I've created a backup which is about 116 GB in size (yes, my storage was pretty full).

Now here's the problem: after updating iOS, I can't restore my backup onto the phone because iTunes says there is not enough space on the phone.

What I've tried:

  • trying out different softwares to delete chunks of data ouf of the backup so it becomes smaller in size: none of them worked.
  • downgrading iOS: doesn't work because the old iOS is no longer signed.
  • reverting to factory new state: this also didn't downgrade the iOS it seems. After immediately reverting, the backup actually started loading back onto the phone, only to abort at 99% and returning the same error about having not enough space.

How can I now get my backup (or parts of it) back onto the phone if the new firmware takes up more space and I can't downgrade iOS or "edit" the backup?

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If you are absolutely sure that you have backed up everything you need on the phone, what you may want to try is an erase and restore:

Settings > General > Reset > Erase all content and settings

What happens is there is some amount of cruft that can build up over time and without going into the whole "buy a movie/show that will almost fill up your remaining storage" so that iOS will then delete the cruft (usually temporary files, VM and OS & app related) files allowing you to then do what you need.

I find it simpler to erase and restore. You will (re)start with a blank slate and be able to restore your backup.

Note that iPhone/iPad backups don't backup the apps, they just keep track of them and re-download them once the data is restored. Also be sure and give your backup a password, otherwise the passwords saved on your iPhone will not be saved.

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  • Dear Steve, thanks for your suggestion, it worked. I didn't expect the restoration buttons in iTunes and on the phone to work differently. I didn't create the backup myself (it's my mom's phone), so contacts were not included for some reason and the passwords will have to be recovered, but this is only a minor nuisance now. Commented Aug 19, 2021 at 4:37

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