If I temporarily have large downloaded files on my phone, can I accelerate iOS (16) backups by simply moving them to the trash, thereby excluding them from iTunes backup altogether?

On macOS I know I can do this, but there it's usually enough that I've excluded my Downloads directory permanently.

I'm not prepared to do a backup and restore just to find out, but it'd be useful if anyone already knows. There really is no reason to repeatedly backup gigabytes of stuff that can be downloaded again.

1 Answer 1


I just did a little test to confirm, and yes the trash is in my backup. I'm on iOS 17.0.2 and my File app Downloads folder is in my iCloud Drive location in Files. I deleted a couple of PDFs and see them in my Recently Deleted in Files, and then I made a backup. The two PDFs are there in HomeDomain--Library/Mobile Documents/com~apple~CloudDocs/.Trash

I work on an app called Decipher Backup Browser, so I used it to go look at whether the files in the backup.

In general, the answer is probably "it depends", leaning towards "usually yes" because I could see iOS offloading the deleted iCloud files to iCloud if the device was low on space.

  • 1
    Thanks for sharing the results. Some quick observations: "iCloud Drive" and "On my iPhone" are distinct file sources in Files. Your path also suggests the trashed items you tested with are local to iCloud Drive: com~apple~CloudDocs. Other apps likewise have their own local .Trash directories (or at least exposed as such over afp:, e.g. in Ubuntu). Is it not possible that you only tested iCloud Drive's files' backup behavior, and not that of files owned by Files?
    – Andreas
    Oct 3 at 18:14
  • Correct, since you asked about Downloads, I tested downloaded files in the Safari app, which store on my iPhone to the "Downloads" folder in iCloud Drive section of files. I can't speak to the other apps' Downloads without knowing an example app to look at.
    – Kelly
    Oct 3 at 23:14
  • This question mainly concerns the trash of the Files app. Granted, the boundaries are blurred within the app UI. Regarding "downloads", I doubt it will matter in what way you acquired the deleted files to begin with.
    – Andreas
    Oct 5 at 5:08

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .