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Unwanted iOS 7 Occupying Space on iOS 6 Devices

Are you intentionally holding off on upgrading your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch to iOS 7, perhaps until you’ve had a chance to look at someone else’s device to see if the visual changes will prove problematic? Maybe you’re unhappy about the requirement that you upgrade to iTunes 11.1 to be able to sync your Mac with your iOS device? Or perhaps you’re just hesitant to commit to an upgrade that you can’t back out of, since Apple has made downgrading to iOS 6 impossible, no matter how reasonable your issues with iOS 7 may be? (To be clear, I like many things about iOS 7; I just think it’s unacceptable to lock users into an upgrade if they have problems with it.)

Unfortunately, Apple’s zeal to encourage everyone to upgrade has resulted in an iOS 7 “tax” on the free space of some iOS 6 devices. In short, some people are discovering that iOS 7 itself has been automatically downloaded without having been requested. Once downloaded, it takes up a significant quantity of space on the device and can’t be easily removed. Thanks to alert reader Dave Laffitte for identifying this issue and running it down with Apple — I’ve been able to confirm his findings on my father’s iPhone 5.

To discover if iOS 7 has automatically been downloaded to your device, navigate to Settings > General > Software Update. In that screen, you’ll see one of three things. If your device is too old for iOS 7 — our old test iPhone 3GS, for instance — you’ll see a message telling you that you have iOS 6.1.3, and that your software is up to date. On a newer iPhone, though, you’ll see a screen advertising iOS 7.0.2, with one of two buttons underneath: “Download and Install” or “Install Now.”

In the former case, you’re fine — iOS 7 has not been downloaded to your iPhone already. But if all you have is the Install Now button, that means that iOS 7 has been downloaded and is ready to install.

If we were talking about a tiny update, like the move from iOS 7.0 to 7.0.2, which was a 21 MB download, that wouldn’t be a big deal. But iOS 7 itself is far larger. As you can see in the screenshot above, when you’re given the opportunity to download iOS 7.0.2, it claims to be 666 MB. (Really, Apple? The number of the beast?) But it could be larger — the iOS 7 golden master was a 1.2 GB download from Apple, iOS 7 says it needs at least 2.9 GB of space to install, and both Dave and my father report that the Other category in the iTunes space usage chart is 3 GB in size. Additional types of data live in that Other category — photos and videos attached to texts in Messages can cause it to balloon, in particular — but we’re pretty certain that the iOS 7 download makes up a good chunk of Other.

Regardless of the exact size, having Apple suddenly take over some significant amount of an iOS device for an update you don’t want isn’t a happy situation. Calls and Genius Bar conversations that Dave Laffitte has had with Apple indicate that it’s not intentional, nor is it happening to every iOS 6 device that could upgrade to iOS 7. Nonetheless, few Apple support representatives are aware of the problem, and only after calling AppleCare for a second time and asking for Customer Relations (as recommended by the Genius who was unable to help otherwise), did Dave get any useful information.

The Apple rep told Dave that the problem is related to using iTunes to back up and sync, at least on some devices, and indeed, on my son’s iPhone 4, which backs up to iCloud and almost never touches iTunes, iOS 7 was not automatically downloaded. (At first, it wouldn’t have been anyway, since he didn’t have enough free space for even a 666 MB download, but after we cleared some space, it still wouldn’t download automatically.) Other discussions indicate that there’s some combination of the device having Wi-Fi access and being charged that enables iOS updates to be downloaded; some people have prevented the problem by blocking at the router level, but that seems excessive. It’s also possible that having agreed to let iTunes download iOS updates silently could be related.

Regardless of why it’s happening, the workaround suggested to Dave by Apple was to back up to iCloud instead of iTunes, erase the device with Settings > General > Reset > Erase All Content and Settings, and then restore from the iCloud backup. Obviously, a sync with iTunes will be necessary to restore media, but hopefully that won’t bring the iOS 7 update file back as well, and will somehow prevent iOS 6 from downloading the iOS 7 update again too. According to the Apple rep, restoring from the iTunes backup would result in iOS 7 being downloaded yet again.

It remains to be seen if this workaround will be successful over time, but if iOS 7 has been downloaded to your iOS 6 device and you’re troubled by the loss of space, it’s worth a try. Please let us know in the comments what you experience!


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Comments about Unwanted iOS 7 Occupying Space on iOS 6 Devices
(Comments are closed.)

Steve Harmony  2013-10-14 15:39
There's a fourth possibility when you go to Software Update, "This update cannot be installed because it requires at least 3.1 GB of storage." I'm in that boat. I understand you can delete some of your usage (I've got 4.3 GB of music 2.2 GB of Gaia GPS maps), but once I install 7.0.2 will there be room for that deleted material?
darkdirk  2013-10-14 16:29
Yes. I only had 500 MB free space wheni decided to upgrade. I had to clear 3 GB to download and install iOS 7; but once it was installed I had about 3.7 GB free space. Which suggests that iOS 7 is a little smaller overall than iOS 6.
Steve Harmony  2013-10-15 08:31
Thanks, darkdirk, that's the information I was looking for! I'll probably still wait for 7.0.3 to clear up some of the other remaining issues.
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2013-10-15 10:14
Yes, that's absolutely correct (I chose not to mention it because it's something you have control over, unlike the other situations, which are thrust upon you).

I'm glad to hear that iOS 7 is actually a little smaller - every little bit helps on these space-constrained devices.
Universal Head  2013-10-14 16:29
A bit OT, but I keep trying to find an answer to this question and no one seems to cover it: can I have iOS 7 on my iPad and iOS 6 on my iPhone (a 3GS model)? Anyone have any idea if this will cause problems?
Dennis B. Swaney  2013-10-14 21:36
Why should it? They are synced separately so it should not make a difference.
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2013-10-15 10:15
There's no problem at all, although you may run into some issues with iOS 7-only features. So, for instance, you can do FaceTime Audio on your iPad, but not on your iPhone, which could be confusing for you or for others at times.
JohannesBB  2013-10-15 00:28
During my vacation in a foreign country I connected my iPad 3 (iOS6) to Internet by using the personal hotspot of my iPhone. After that I was shocked about the big amount of used data. Very expensive. Now I wonder if Apple is guilty of silently downloading upgrades.
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2013-10-15 10:16
It's possible, since we don't know yet what the variables are. It certainly wouldn't download over cellular, but since you were using the hotspot feature, the iPad couldn't have known it was really using cellular data via the iPhone.
Cathey  2013-10-15 00:26
There is a 4th possible Software Update message re the upgrade. My 32gb 4s doesn't have enough free storage for the ios7 upgrade, so my message button is Usage Settings, which I don't plan to change.
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2013-10-15 10:17
Yes, that's true, as the first commenter noted. But on the plus side, if there isn't enough room to install iOS 7, it certainly isn't wasting any space on your device.
While my iPad has 1.5G of free space, it claims it needs 3.3 more to install, so I have a few questions.

I generally back up to my local computer, the advice seems to be to back up to the cloud. Why? Are there actual functional differences?

As for syncing, I DO have it set to sync images, but there are a number of images ON my iPad that are NOT in my iPhoto library AND there are many images ON my iPad that are NOT able to be deleted.

Dire warning messages about wiping out media I DO have on my iPad led me to not sync music, movies, tv shows and books. So, I ended up manually adding the few that I wanted on my iPad.

Do I have it right that NO media that can be synced is part of any backup?

I KNOW I can get back apps that I delete by downloading them again, some is my best bet to delete apps to make up them free space, then re-download them?
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2013-10-15 10:21
In general, backups include mostly settings and on-device data, like photos, but not apps or media that are synced from iTunes or downloaded from the cloud. This warning is really confusing - Ted Landau sheds some light on it here:
Thanks Adam, but that was not what I saw... had nothing to do with anything "purchased."

Gets weirder, I still have the same 1.5G free, now it says it wants 4G of free space.
Michael J Willman  2013-10-15 08:50
Thank you very much for the excellent article. I was victimized by the involuntary intrusion of the ios 7 download. After talking to Apple customer service they instructed me on how to remove, unfortunately they recommended backup to iTunes and after erasing the phone the update began re-downloading. Your article instructions worked as well as could be expected given Apple pushing (forcing) ios 7 on everyone. I regained all my space the download was taking up and now the update reads download and install.

Many thanks, mike
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2013-10-15 10:19
Thanks for the confirmation that this worked, Mike, and let us know if your device somehow gets the automatic download again in the future.
Jodee Rushton  2013-10-15 12:25
Great article! Really appreciated the info.
I have an iPhone 5 running iOS 6.0.1.
I followed the instucts to see if iOS 7 had been auto-DL'ed to my iPhone 5. Yes, it had -- I found Install Now.
Whenever I have been prompted by Apple, I have declined the upgrade.
I have zero/nada music on my iPhone and I do not use iTunes at all.
I do not permit any app -- much less iTunes -- to auto-download updates.
When I do update an app, I specifically choose to do so and monitor the process the entire time.
I don't use iTunes to back up and sync and I don't backup to iCloud.
The only thing my iPhone links to is my WiFi.
When I travel, I do link to my Personal HotSpot.
So the involuntary iOS 7 update occurred in spite of most of the hypothetical reasons listed in the article. Apple seems to have managed an endrun around most of the blocks I thought I had.
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2013-10-15 12:56
Ach, sorry to hear about this - sounds like it might be worth calling AppleCare and asking to speak to Customer Relations, as Dave Laffitte did, since you're not fitting the profile of others who have had this happen. I wonder if it might be related to the fact that you're running iOS 6.0.1, rather than the latest 6.1.3, but that's just a guess.
Kd Luz  2013-10-15 12:53
A little off the subject but my comment: I made a big mistake loading IOS7 on my IPad. Being hue blind and wearing trifocal glasses, the new colors make it very difficult to view many standard applications like calendar. Not having the ability to adjust colors or fonts and by not being able to go back to IOS6 is just wrong. I have heard the comment this is Apples version of Vista...pretty accurate statement. hopefully they will add options to make viewing/using the IPad enjoyable again.
Thanks to this forum I was able to rid the unwanted download by repeatedly powering down and up the iPhone. After the 4 or 5th such cycle iTunes reported that the storage size of "Other" dropped after the download was removed during the restarts.
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2013-10-16 06:29
Fascinating - we'll see if we can test this here too. It's certainly easier than doing a full erase and restore. Here's a better version of the link explaining how:
Berend Hasselman  2013-10-16 07:32
I used the "power down several times" method.
I got rid of about 3GB space in Others.
It does really seem to work.
I do still have a red badge on System settings.
(For the record: I backup and sync with iTunes 10.7)

Software-updates now reports "Download and install" for IOS 7.0.2 (translated from Dutch).

We'll have to see what happens when I charge the iPod touch from the wall with WiFi enabled.
Dave Kristol  2013-10-16 14:25
Being behind the curve, I have iOS *5* on my iPod Touch and iPad. Apple saw fit to download iOS 6.1.3 to the iPod and 7.0.2 to the iPad (a 2-version jump!).
Can the upgrade download in chunks or does it need to download in one go? I ask as my ADSL connection went very slow for a few days, recovering since to its normal speed. I discovered today my 4S with iOS 6.1.3 offers me an Install Now button and I wondered if the silent, whole, possibly repeated download caused the apparent line speed reduction as the iPhone moved in and out of the wifi signal range. I appreciate there are a multitude of other factors that may cause the same symptom.

So far the power cycling trick hasn't removed the update for me.
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2013-10-16 15:20
Unknown as to whether it downloads in chunks, but I wouldn't be surprised if it retries if it fails, which could account for what you saw.
tom619  2013-10-17 00:03
I have an iPhone 4S running iOS 5.1.1. Version 7.0.2 has clandestinely downloaded to my phone, where it will remain dormant (but consume precious space) for the foreseeable future.
Ed Cutler  2013-10-17 12:23
It appears the update has been automatically downloaded to my iPhone 4S and I have never synced it to my computer or iTunes, everything through the cloud so I doubt if this "solution" will work. I didn't even look for this until I saw your article.
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2013-10-17 13:18
Phooey! Try the repeated power-down trick and see if that helps...
There appears to be a fly in the Kool-Aid.
Matt Neuburg  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2013-10-19 12:54
In San Diego, someone has sued Tim Cook in small claims court over this issue. (
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2013-10-20 10:29
Sigh... I really don't think this problem is intentional, nor do I get any sense that this sort of problem wouldn't have happened under Jobs - there were plenty of bugs and customer-unfriendly events back then too.

But hopefully the suit will add to the urgency of getting this fixed.
David Laffitte  2013-10-28 10:04
Apple downloaded the iOS 7.0.2 installer without my concurrence. It increased "Other" space to 3 GB. It stayed that way for about a week, then iOS 7.0.3 came out.

Apple then downloaded 7.0.3 installer to my iPhone and it announced itself as others have noted. I went to iTunes to check how big it was. "Other" was ONLY 1.2 GB. I thought that was great but strange!
Two days later I checked "Other" again. Alas, it's now 3.3 GB and bigger than before. (This seems to support an earlier post that Apple sneaks this into your phone over several days). It is hard to believe that this isn't intentional. I remain very disappointed with Apple's trespass of my system.

However, the important thing to realize is that Apple has demonstrated that they could take one installer off and put another one on. That means they could just take one off, right? Their Customer group and Applecare both said they couldn't do this.

Credibility sinking through many holes in this Cooked Apple.
My iPhone 4 automatically downloaded both the iOS 6 and iOS 7 updates when they launched. I have spent a frustrating amount of time dealing with this issue. So very disappointed. I performed the erase all data and settings operation, instead of doing a restore, and that seems to have deleted the update file. Hopefully it stays away. Argh. I have read about battery drain and other performance issues with iOS 7 on older devices and do not want to chance the upgrade.
Apple downloaded the IOI7 installer to my IOS6 iPhone5 withut any action on my part to permit it. I have NOT installed IOS7.

I do NOT want to erase and restore my iPhone5, and am not sure when I restored from my iTunes backup I wouldn't get the unwanted installer back anyway.

The "trick" of shutting the iPhone5 all the way off and then restarting several times (6) did nothing to remove the unwanted installer.

I suggest we start a massive campaign to let Apple know we do not want them downloading things to our devices without our permission.

Can you provide your Tidbits readers with an email address and/or a phone number with which we could bombard Apple with complaints and requests to have the space returned to us? Maybe if enough of us made our displeasure known, it might influence them to quit doing this! Thanks.
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2013-11-02 09:32
The main way to provide feedback to Apple is:

As to whether that will make a difference, I don't know.

What you can also do is complain to the Geniuses at Apple Stores, and call 1-800-MY-APPLE and ask to speak to customer relations.
Thanks. I will certainly do that.

Hopefully many other Tidbit readers will do likewise.
When I complained to Apple Feedback about this issue a Senior Advisor provided this information:

1) After IOS 5.0.1 Apple WILL download an update installer if the following 3 conditions are met:
a. There is sufficient space available.
b. You are connected to WiFi
c. You are connected to a power source.

Apple says the only way to remove the unwanted update is to erase all content and settings and set the iPhone up over again!

However, if you do that the very next time you meet all three criteria above, Apple will download the unwanted installer again (in interest of keeping us all up to date with the latest and greatest in IOS I was told).

My Senior Advisor suggested I provide feedback to Apple concerning the irreversibility of IOS7 upgrade and the unwanted download to:

saying "Apple does listen to users about issues like this."

I suggest we all join together in giving them some!
David Laffitte  2013-11-13 15:23
Does anyone know the url(s) of the sites that Apple uses to do this? I know that I can set my ASUS router to completely block a given domain.
Any ideas?
It happened to me on my new iPad, when I connected to iTUnes on my PC. I definitely declined the offer but next thing I knew I only had 9GB of space left. I erased all data & will not be connecting to iTunes again. Attitude of APple chat line adviser was, you'll have to install & anyway why wouldn't you want ios7. Excuse me? I bought an iPad with ios6 because that's what I chose to buy. Like, you go to a restaurant & order a crab salad because that's what you fancy, but you're just enjoying the first mouthful when the waiter comes along & whisks it away, telling you you've got to have beef Wellington instead? It's not on, is it?

Am completely new to Apple. I was falling in love with my iPad but now I'm always going to be worrying what's going to happen next whenever I connect to the Internet. Somehow the fun's gone out of it.

Thanks to everyone for the suggestions. Incidentally I tried powering on & off and managed to clear about 1GB? I have sent/am sending a couple of feedbacks.

Daniel Zhang (張道博)  2013-12-03 20:15
I chose to block the update in my router using the MAC address of my iPad and it works great! I'm able to backup and restore using iTunes which is faster and more convenient to me. I summarized my experience at