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Curious iPad behavior (excess “Other” space being used)

February 28, 2011 5 Comments

My wife called me up to her office with a question earlier today. She was syncing her iPad (64GB) with her MacPro and noticed that iTunes listed 9.9GB of space on her iPad being taken up by “Other”, with no indication of what that “Other” was. She said she had checked on-line, found some similar complaints, but the solution each time was a clean wipe of the iPad and reinstallation of all apps, etc.

I poked around on-line a bit, found some other similar complaints, but found no clear solution or even explanation as to what was causing the problem. Since the iPad doesn’t expose its file system, I had no direct way (via Apple software) of examining it. So I went out and bought a 3rd-party application (the regular kind, not an iPad app) named Phone Disk, which — like several other similar apps — allows the iPad to be mounted as if it were an external hard drive. It worked as advertised, and some browsing via the Finder found that the iTunes Music folder held 40 GB of files — which was more or less the sum of the Music, Video, and Other segments as displayed in iTunes. None of the other folders on the iPad could account for that extra 10 GB, so it was pretty clear that the 10 GB of “Other” was hiding amongst the music and video files.

Next step was to unsync all music and video from her iPad. That done, the 9.9 GB of “Other” still showed up in the iTunes display. Checked the iPad directly with Phone Disk and, yes, there were still 10 GB of files in the iTunes/Music folder. I started opening the individual subfolders in Music and found a random assortment of audio and video files: songs, TV shows, movies (including at least one expired rental), even though the iPod and Video apps both claimed there was no music nor video on the iPad at all. There were never more than 3 or 4 files in a given subfolder, and many subfolders had no files as all.

I deleted all these files manually (via Phone Disk/Finder), then re-synced the iPad. Boom! (as Steve would say): that 9.9 GB of “Other” was now a tiny sliver measured in megabytes.

I’m not sure what was causing these file to be left behind, unrecognized by the iPad and Video apps; I did note that a large number (though not all) of the unrecognized files all had the same date (Nov 8, 2010). On the other hand, one of the “left behind” files was dated just this morning (a TV show episode that my wife had downloaded and synced); curiously, in the iTunes library on her MacPro, that TV show episode appeared twice. In any event, it’s clear that there are occasions in which media files are considered by the on-board iPod and Video apps to be wiped from the iPad but nevertheless remain on the iPad file system, taking up space.

Having looked at my wife’s iPad, I synced mine as well, and I see that I have nearly 2 GB of “Other” on mine. I plan to use Phone Disk (I bought a family license) and go through the same examination (and possible cleanup) of my iTunes files on the iPad. I’ll report back if I find anything interesting.  ..bruce..

About the Author:

Webster is Principal and Founder at at Bruce F. Webster & Associates, as well as an Adjunct Professor for the BYU Computer Science Department. He works with organizations to help them with troubled or failed information technology (IT) projects. He has also worked in several dozen legal cases as a consultant and as a testifying expert, both in the United States and Japan. He can be reached at 303.502.4141 or at

Comments (5)

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  1. Xannon says:

    I’m not easily impressed. . . but that’s ipermssing me! 🙂

  2. Dan C says:

    Your solution works! Thank you.

    I have an ipad 2 64gb that had 15gb free. After updating to iOS5 it had 5gb free, and 9.9gb of other.

    In iTunes I chose to stop syncing music, videos, photos, books and ringtones (all media essentially, i didn’t have any podcasts or movies or tv). I synced my iPad, then opened Phone Disk, and deleted all the folders within iTunes_Control/Music.

    Viola, only 1.5gigs of other remain.

    Strangely enough, when I chose to resync all my media, ‘other’ dropped to 0.5gb. I don’t know if there should be any ‘other’, or what other is, but 500megs is a number I can deal with.

    Have you thought of any reasons this could happen? Failed sync? iPad freezes corrupting data? Anything? I don’t really know much about this.

    Furthermore, should I expect a recurrence?

  3. Kev W says:

    Same here. After updating the operating system last week, my ‘other’ section has shot up to 13gb.
    I have exactly the same music and very similar apps on my iPod touch and the ‘other’ section on that is something like 0.3gb. I am reluctant to update the iPod now!!

  4. Tom says:

    I had the same problem 8GB straight after an IOS upgrade. I turned off the iPad power and turned it back on. That got rid of the excess yellow “other” (now 1.22GB). That worked for me.

  5. JLara says:

    How I fixed it…

    …I was syncing my videos with the ipad turned on and with “videos” program opened and during sync y clicked on itunes to sync another video and suddenly something went on, i tried to open a movie and it got stuck.

    Then I couldn’t open the movie and an extra 3 Gb went to “other”! Since the movie was 3 Gb and I was messing with “movie list” during syncing then it was easy to come to the conclusion that an error in syncing moved the corrupted movie to “other”. I uncheched the movie and synced then checked the movie and synced. There was still the 3Gb on “other”.! There was a total of 7.46 Gb on “other”!!!!

    How i solved it…

    – disconnected the ipad, turned in off and on.
    – removed the movies from itunes
    – unchecked the “sync movies” box
    – connected ipad and synced (only 0.85 Gb on “other” folder!!!!!!!!!!!)
    then added them again (drad and drop from movie folder to itunes)
    – connected the ipad without the “movies” program open, and with screen locked.
    – check the “sync movies” box
    – ckeck on the same 3 GB movie that got previously stuck.
    – synced

    I decreased from 7.46Gb to .85Gb !!

    Now I am noticing something else…
    …I am syncing one music playlist that is 3.72Gb and when I look at the Itunes music tab in the Ipad there is only 2.3Gb on the Ipad. So i came with the conclusion that since i download music from diff places maybe some songs are not recognized by Ipad and moved to the “Other”.
    My logical solution is to select all songs in the playlist and convert them to AAC? MP4? i dont remember the extension, but its the only option that appears. Im converting them now so i hope it reduces the “other” to nearly zero.

    If you notice some weird way of writing is because english is not my native language.

    Hope it helps

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