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iPhone and iPod touch: About backups
Posted by UCS IT Support 4 on 26 October 2009 12:19 PM

iPhone and iPod touch: About backups

  • Last Modified: October 22, 2009
  • Article: HT1766


    iTunes can create backups of settings and certain other information on iPhone and iPod touch. You can use a backup to restore this information to your iPhone or iPod touch after a software restore or update, or to transfer information to a different device. Backups can be deleted from iTunes using the steps below.

    For information about how to back up your media in your iTunes library to a CD or DVD, refer to How to back up your media in iTunes.

    Products Affected

    iTunes 7 for Mac, iTunes 7 for Windows, iPhone, iPod touch, iPhone 3G, iTunes 8 for Windows, iTunes 8 for Mac

    About Syncing and Backups

    You can use iTunes to sync content on your computer (such as music, applications, podcasts, videos, ringtones1, photos, notes, email account settings, contacts, calendars, and bookmarks) with your iPhone or iPod touch2. Syncing makes sure this content is the same on your iPhone or iPod touch and computer.

    iTunes creates a backup of your iPhone or iPod touch when you sync, which you can then use to restore from if you need to return to a previously backed up state. Except for some specific exceptions noted in parenthesis below, you can also use a backup to transfer this information to a different device.

    iTunes only keeps one backup created during the sync process for each device. If you restore the iPhone or iPod touch and choose to set up as a new device from the Set Up your iPhone / iPod touch screen, iTunes will automatically sync and create a new, empty backup that will replace your previous backup. If you change your mind and want to restore to your previous state, you will have to retrieve your previous device backup from Time Machine (on your Mac), or other backup solution you regularly use. If you have Mac OS X 10.5.5 or later and use Time Machine, you may use Time Machine to find a previous backup.

    iTunes will back up the following information:

    iPhone OS 1.1 and later

    • Safari bookmarks, cookies, history, and currently open pages
    • Map bookmarks, recent searches, and the current location displayed in Maps
    • Application settings, preferences, and data
    • Address Book and Address Book favorites
    • Calendar accounts
    • Wallpapers
    • Notes
    • Call history
    • Mail accounts
    • YouTube bookmarks
    • SMS messages
    • Saved suggestion corrections (these are saved automatically as you reject suggested corrections)
    • Camera roll (photos and screen shots taken by the iPhone)
    • Voicemail token (this is not the Voicemail password, but is used for validation when connecting. This is only restored to a phone with the same phone number on the SIM card.)
    • Web clips
    • Network settings (saved wifi spots, VPN settings, network preferences)
    • Paired Bluetooth devices (which can only be used if restored to the same phone that did the backup)
    • Keychain (this includes email account passwords, Wi-Fi passwords, and passwords you enter into websites and some other applications. The keychain can only be restored from backup to the same iPhone or iPod touch. If you are restoring to a new device, you will need to fill in these passwords again.)

    With iPhone 2.0 and later

    • Managed Configurations/Profiles
    • List of External Sync Sources (Mobile Me, Exchange ActiveSync)
    • Microsoft Exchange account configurations
    • Nike + iPod saved workouts and settings
    • App Store Application data (except the Application itself, its tmp and Caches folder).

    New with iPhone 3.0

    • Videos in camera roll
    • Per app preferences allowing use of location services
    • Offline web application cache/database
    • Voice memos
    • Autofill for web pages
    • Trusted hosts that have certificates that cannot be verified
    • Web sites approved to get the location of the device
    • In-app purchases


    New with iPhone 3.1

    • Videos in the camera roll that are 2 GB or larger are not backed up.


    In the iTunes Summary screen, select "Encrypt iPhone backup" if you want to encrypt the information stored on your computer when iTunes makes a backup. Encrypted backups are indicated by a padlock icon (as visible below in the Deleting a Backup section), and a password is required to restore the information to iPhone. You may want to write down the password for your backup and store it in a safe place. If you use a Mac, when you set a password you can select to store the password in the keychain.

    Warning: If you encrypt an iPhone backup in iTunes and then forget your password, you will not be able to restore from backup and your data will be unrecoverable. If you forget the password you can continue to do backups and use the device, however you will not be able to restore the encrypted backup to any device without the password. You do not need to enter the password for your backup each time you back up or sync.

    If you cannot remember the password and want to start again, you will have to do a full software restore and when prompted by iTunes to select the backup to restore from, choose "Set up as a new device".


    Where Backups are stored

    The folder where your backup data is stored changes depending on the computer's operating system. Since iTunes only keeps one backup per device, you should ensure the backup folder is included in your periodic data backup routine.

    iTunes places the backup files in the following places:

    On a Mac: ~/Library/Application Support/MobileSync/Backup/

    On Windows XP: \Documents and Settings\(username)\Application Data\Apple Computer\MobileSync\Backup\

    On Windows Vista: \Users\(username)\AppData\Roaming\Apple Computer\MobileSync\Backup\


    Creating a Backup

    Backups can be created in the following ways:

    • If you have configured your iPhone or iPod touch to automatically sync with iTunes on a specific computer, iTunes will back up the iPhone or iPod touch after you connect it to that computer and sync with iTunes. iTunes will not automatically back up an iPhone or iPod touch that is not configured to sync with that computer. iTunes only makes one backup each time you connect, even if you sync multiple times before disconnecting.
    • If you protect your iPhone or iPod touch with a passcode, you will be prompted to enter the passcode when you connect to iTunes. Once you successfully enter the passcode, iTunes will recognize that device as authorized and you will not require your passcode to back up or sync.
    • If you do not have your iPhone or iPod touch sync automatically when connected, iTunes will create a backup when you choose to sync.
    • Right-click (or Control-click) the iPhone or iPod touch in iTunes under Devices and choose Back Up.
    • If you choose to update the software, iTunes will back up the iPhone and iPod touch automatically.
    • If you choose to restore the software to factory settings, iTunes will ask you if you want to back up the iPhone and iPod touch.
    • After restoring your iPhone or iPod touch software to factory settings iTunes will provide a Set Up Your iPhone / iPod touch screen. If you choose to "Restore from the back up of" iTunes makes a copy of the backup you chose to restore from and that copy is marked in the syncing preferences of iTunes with the data and time when the backup was created.


    Restoring from a Backup

    To restore information from a backup use one of the following methods after connecting your iPhone or iPod touch to the computer you normally sync with:

    • In iTunes, select the device, then select the Summary tab and click Restore (this deletes all data on iPhone and restores to factory settings). When prompted by iTunes, select the option to restore your settings.


    • Right-click (or Control-click) the device, and choose Restore from Backup.



    • If you choose to set up as a new iPhone or iPod, first back up any important backups of that device you want to retain from the backup folders listed above. iTunes only retains one sync-generated backup per device, and the first sync after setting up as new will replace your previous backup. If you change your mind and want to restore to your previous state, you will have to do so from a backup that you have retained through your periodic backup routine. If you have Mac OS 10.5.5 or later and use Time Machine, Time Machine may back up your backup. Copies of a backup marked with a date and time stamp created by selecting to "Restore from the back up of" are retained by iTunes and not overwritten. For an example of a backup with the date and time stamp in the device name, see the pictures below in the Deleting a Backup section.

    Deleting a Backup

    If you want to delete a backup created by iTunes, follow these steps in iTunes 7.5 or later:

    1. Open iTunes Preferences:
      Windows: Choose Edit > Preferences.
      Mac: Choose iTunes > Preferences.
    2. Click Devices (iPhone or iPod touch does not need to be connected).
    3. iTunes 8.1 or later will show the phone number, IMEI, and serial number of the backed up iPhone when you position your mouse pointer over a backup (serial number only for iPod touch). Use this to locate the backup for the iPhone you want to delete. Select the backup you want to remove and click Delete Backup.
    4. Confirm you wish to remove the selected backup by clicking Delete Backup.
    5. Click OK to close the iTunes Preferences Window.


    1. iPhone only
    2. Some of these features on iPod touch require iPhone 2.0 software or later (or 1.1.4 with January Software Update)
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