How to remove expired rental movies from your iPhone or iPad

Something that’s been annoying me over the last few weeks is that a couple of movies I had rented from the iTunes Store were not deleting from my iPad’s storage space. They were not showing up within the iPad’s ‘Sync Movies’ panel in iTunes, which is where you can transfer films from computer to iPad or vice versa. They were still showing up within the iPad’s Videos app, though. Attempting to play them produced an error, as you’d expect – but attempting to delete them via the usual method (hold down for a few seconds then tap the black cross, as works for apps) caused the Videos app to crash with the movies still there.

The crash may have something to do with running a developer beta of iOS 5, but that’s not really important. What matters is that I had a whole load of unplayable content taking up space that could have been used for some more apps, photography or videos.

Googling around for a solution proved harder than it should be. I have found out how to rectify the problem, so thought I’d post about it here in the hope that others who end up in a similar situation stumble across the solution faster than I did.

In essence, it’s a very, very simple fix that works the same way for iPhones and iPads.

  1. In iTunes with your iOS device connected, click on the device in the source list.
  2. On the summary page, scroll down to the Options panel, and make sure that the option “Manually manage music and videos” is ticked. Click Apply to make the change if it wasn’t ticked before.
  3. In the source list, click the disclosure triangle next to the device. A set of subfolders representing your device’s storage space will show up.
  4. Navigate to Rentals. The movies will appear in the main part of the window.
  5. Select the movie(s) you want to delete, then select Edit > Delete (or use either the Backspace keyboard shortcut, or right-click for the contextual menu). The movies will be deleted – take care that you don’t delete a rental movie that hasn’t yet expired.
  6. Once they’ve been deleted, go back to the device’s information summary page, and untick “Manually manage music and videos” if necessary. Double check that in doing so, iTunes doesn’t try and add new content you don’t currently sync – for me, it decided it wanted to start syncing up music tracks, which I don’t currently sync to my iPad.

And that’s it. Simple once you realise how to do it, but took me an age of head-scratching to figure out.

Published by

Scott Matthewman

Formerly Online Editor and Digital Project Manager for The Stage, creator of the award-winning The Gay Vote politics blog, now a full-time software developer specialising in Ruby, Objective-C and Swift, as well as a part-time critic for Musical Theatre Review, The Reviews Hub and others.

7 thoughts on “How to remove expired rental movies from your iPhone or iPad”

  1. When I check Manually manage videos i click the arrow next to the device and it doesn’t say rentals in there. But it still shows up on my Iphone and its taking up a lot of space.

  2. Oh, bless you. I was sick of four mystery items not syncing to my iPad, checking iTunes and seeing no trace of the error though that was the message on my iPad said to do. I happened to notice that there were four expired movie rentals — this method did the trick to finally remove them. Thank you thank you thank you.

  3. Thank you! I have been searching for an answer and nothing worked for me until I came across your page. Silly iTunes people really ought to figure out a better method…like perhaps actually ensure the movie is automatically removed once the rights to watch it have expired. Novel idea, huh? Thank you again!!!!

    1. Hi Laurie – I’ve found that in most cases, the rental movie expires & gets deleted automatically. It’s just that there are some occasions where it doesn’t – which suggests it’s a bug to me. This is a workaround to a bug which one would hope will be fixed in future iOS updates.

  4. Thank yoU so much!
    I’ve had the same problem for months and haven’t been able to figure it out. It’s been incredibly frustrating and your solution worked.