Prevent your app's files from being included in iCloud Backup

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Prevent your app's files from being included in iCloud Backup

In this blog post, you will learn which files of your app are automatically included in a Backup (iTunes or iCloud) and how to exclude specific files.


This is important to know if you want to prevent sensitive data from being backed up by Apple's iCloud service. Also, you want to reduce the space and time that backups take to create.

Golden rule: any file that can be re-created or downloaded should be excluded from the backup. This is particularly important for large media files.

Which directories are included in a Backup?

An iOS app can create and save files in various directories of its app data container.

There are four major directories.

DirectoryType of Files to be storedPart of iCloud Backup Data
DocumentsUser-visible filesYes
/LibraryTop-level directory for any files that are not user data filesYes with the exception of the Caches subdirectory
/Library/Application SupportApp-created support filesYes
/Library/CachesPurgeable or transient content needed longer than temporary data, but not as long as a support fileNo
/tmpTemporary dataNo

The iOS system will create all those directories except for Library/Application Support and therefore you would need to create the directory if you need it.

let appSupportDir = URL.applicationSupportDirectory
if !FileManager.default.fileExists(atPath: appSupportDir.path()) {
    try? FileManager.default.createDirectory(at: appSupportDir, withIntermediateDirectories: true)

iOS 16 provides convenient APIs to get URL s' for such directories but if you have to support lower iOS versions then check out this dependency-free Swift package that provides a backport of those APIs.

Back to the topic.

API to exclude resources from Backup

You can exclude directories & files from the backup by setting isExcludedFromBackup resource value.

var newFile = URL.documentsDirectory.appending(path: "News.txt")

try "Hello, World!".write(to: newFile, atomically: true, encoding: .utf8)

var resource = URLResourceValues()
resource.isExcludedFromBackup = true
try newFile.setResourceValues(resource)

Important facts to know about this API

  1. Limited applicability

This property is only useful for excluding cache and other application support files which are not needed in a backup. Some operations commonly made to user documents will cause this property to be reset to false and so this property should not be used on user documents.

  1. Not a guaranteed behavior

The isExcludedFromBackup resource value exists only to provide guidance to the system about which files and directories it can exclude; it’s not a mechanism to guarantee those items never appear in a backup or on a restored device.

  1. You have to call it on every save

Because certain file operations can reset resource values, make sure you set an excluded file’s resource values each time you save it.

  1. API works only on existing files

Note that I called setResourceValues after the file got created. You cannot call setResourceValues before the actual file exists on the file system. Otherwise, an error gets thrown.

Further Tips

You can create an extension on URL for convenience.

extension URL {
    mutating func excludeFromBackup() throws {
        var resource = URLResourceValues()
        resource.isExcludedFromBackup = true
        try self.setResourceValues(resource)

The code usage becomes much simpler:

var newFile = URL.documentsDirectory.appending(path: "News.txt")

try? "Hello, World!".write(to: newFile, atomically: true, encoding: .utf8)



  • To indicate the system can exclude a group of related files from iCloud Backup, move those files into a directory and update the directory’s isExcludedFromBackup resource value.

  • If you create an excludable directory inside the app container’s Library then consider naming the directory with the app’s bundle identifier to avoid potential conflicts with directories the system may create in the future.

If you want to deepen your knowledge about iOS Storage and best practices then I recommend the following Apple Tech Talk:

Additionally, I recommend reading Apple's article Optimizing Your App’s Data for iCloud Backup.

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