How do I sync my iPhone 4 to my Mac without losing my saved game data?
September 21, 2010 8:14 AM   Subscribe

How do I sync my iPhone 4 to my Mac without losing my saved game data?

I sync "manually" when I do (rarely) plug my iPhone 4 into my computer. Sometimes doing this backs up my saved game data, and sometimes it deletes it -- which is particularly painful when you've spent days getting 3 stars in all of the levels in Angry Birds, for example.

I don't know what to do to ensure that the saved game data on my phone stays safe. (Assume I know very little about iTunes and iPhones; I rarely venture into anything more complicated than making a playlist.) Can you walk me through this? I've been avoiding syncing my phone because I don't want to have to restart my various games!
posted by chowflap to Technology (10 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Why do you need to sync your apps? Do you ever purchase them in iTunes and then move them to the iPhone or do you share your apps with another iPhone?

You can set it so it won't sync the apps and then just do backups in case you ever need to reinstall.
posted by elsietheeel at 8:18 AM on September 21, 2010

Yeah, just go to the apps tab in iTunes and have it not sync those.

It shouldn't be erasing the saved games at any rate. When you sync it, is it saying that this is a new pairing and all your data will be lost?
posted by Threeway Handshake at 8:28 AM on September 21, 2010

Response by poster: I always/only purchase apps while on my iPhone, and would like to back them up on my computer in case of iPhone loss or erasure. Last time, I just had it not sync my apps, but does that mean I will lose my apps if I need to restore my iPhone to factory settings? (Or is all of that information saved to my iTunes account, and it doesn't matter?)

It's not a "new pairing" issue, I don't think. It definitely erased data after I had introduced the new iPhone to the computer.
posted by chowflap at 8:43 AM on September 21, 2010

The iTunes store remembers what apps you've purchased. You can download them again from the same account and you won't be charged. It only tells you this after you've entered your password, though, so you need to tap the price as if you're going to purchase it for that amount. Once you've entered your password and it confirms you already own it, it tells you there'll be no charge for the download.
posted by alms at 8:46 AM on September 21, 2010

If that's all you want to do, then just plug your phone into your computer and then select File-->Transfer Purchases from iPhone in iTunes. That'll send all the apps to the library on your computer, and nothing will be synced, nothing will be erased.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 9:04 AM on September 21, 2010

Response by poster: Thank you all. So, can the saved-game data be saved/backed up on the computer? Or does that just Not Happen?
posted by chowflap at 9:11 AM on September 21, 2010

FWIW, I've bought apps through both my Mac and the iPhone directly, and I've never had this problem. Sync shouldn't be removing data from your phone.
posted by mkultra at 9:23 AM on September 21, 2010

mkultra, if the OP did not have iTunes configured to sync apps, the first time they go to sync apps it'll require that the apps on the phone first be erased. It sounds like you have iTunes configured to sync apps, so when you purchase apps on the phone or via iTunes, it doesn't matter.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 9:45 AM on September 21, 2010

My experience has been that you can do an explicit backup of everything on your iPhone into iTunes - data, apps, contacts, phone information - everything. However, it apparently can only be restored all at once. So therefore, saved game data is backed up.

But if you delete a single game, you can't get the game data back if you put the game back on your phone. So therefore, never delete a game if you care about the game state or history - it probably won't get restored. The same could be said for most individual apps.

Also, as an example of making whole backups, I had to replace my phone at the beginning of the summer under warranty, so I made a backup first, hit the Apple Store, erased my phone (procedure varies by model) and turned it in for a replacement that they did some stuff on. Then I took it home and restored the backup into the replacement. Seemed to go pretty well.
posted by ZeusHumms at 10:01 AM on September 21, 2010

I review iPhone games for a living and spend a lot of time in iTunes and on my phone, frequently purchasing apps and going back and forth between the two.

To repeat what others have said, syncing should not remove any information from your phone, including saved game data. Also, moving the app into a folder or whatever, should also not affect saved games. Should you remove a game from your phone, all game data will be removed, so don't remove an app if you think you want to come back and use it.

You can do a complete backup, as ZeusHumms describes, which should preserve your save files. Just be careful not to restore from a previous backup when you're trying to backup, and I don't think there's an easy way to automate this process. It's not hard to do manually (just right-click on your phone in iTunes), but it's enough of a pain that I wouldn't do it every time; of course, I'm also wrangling with hundreds of apps at once and don't have any save files I'm especially attached to, so your mileage may vary.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Some save files go kablooey/are unable to be read when you update the app itself, so if it's something you really care about, tread carefully. This can be especially obnoxious when updating to a new OS and the developer does not have all his/her/their/its ducks in a row.
posted by Diagonalize at 1:16 PM on September 21, 2010

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