Is it gone for good?
April 6, 2011 5:31 AM   Subscribe

My best friend got the new iPhone 4 in early August, but never synced it. When she finally synced her phone last week, she mistakenly told iTunes to Restore from back-up (the July back-up). Is there anyway to get her data back?

No idea why she waited so long to sync her phone to her Mac; the AT&T store people set up her phone initially for her. This was all just days before her son was born. She's been taking pictures and video of her new son everyday, but now it's all gone.

Her husband's convinced that if she jailbreaks the phone, she can get to the data. The Apple people told her that the pictures and video were gone for good. Google searches reveal companies that will get your data back for a cost. Will anything work?

I feel partly responsible for the loss because I urged her to upgrade her iOS, so i could do facetime with her on my new iPad. Please let there be some way to fix this!
posted by Kronur to Computers & Internet (12 answers total)
Did she ever sync with iPhoto, not iTunes? If she hooks the iPhone up, the first thing to pop up should be iPhoto. If not, have her launch it with the phone connected and see what it brings up.
posted by zombieflanders at 6:20 AM on April 6, 2011

I'm almost 50% sure that iTunes creates a backup of the phone in it's existing state before it does a restore operation. I would have your friend check iTunes on the machine they did the restore for a recent backup file (look under 'Devices' in 'Preferences').
posted by Capa at 6:23 AM on April 6, 2011

Damn that apostrophe.
posted by Capa at 6:25 AM on April 6, 2011

Best answer: I'm almost 50% sure that iTunes creates a backup of the phone in it's existing state before it does a restore operation.

I'm fairly certain it puts up an alert recommending you do that but it is a user choice. It may be the default choice (check: it is). Hopefully they just said ok to the defaults.

IIRC, the most recent backup may not be listed by date in the filename, but when you choose it from the list it should identify the precise date/time of backup in the 'last synced:' label underneath the drop down menu.
posted by mazola at 6:42 AM on April 6, 2011

Best answer: Also note, the actual backup files are located here:

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

See if there's a recent backup there and at least you'll know what you have to work with.
posted by mazola at 6:43 AM on April 6, 2011

Best answer: Yikes. Surprised to learn that photos are NOT included in the iTunes backup.

Looks like your best bet is to try image recovery software.

Here's one program (review), it has a demo you can run to see if there's anything it will recover.

Good luck!
posted by mazola at 7:46 AM on April 6, 2011

Best answer: Also, just to be perfectly clear, best bet now is:

- stop using the phone. Power it off so data is preserved (does not get overwritten from daily use).
- priority is to recover photos first. They may still exist on the phone. Try to use image recovery software to retrieve them
- once you've got any images and are ready to give up on recovery, see if you can attempt a restore from a previous back-up.

posted by mazola at 7:56 AM on April 6, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks for the suggestions; she is trying them now. I will let you know what happens!
posted by Kronur at 8:24 AM on April 6, 2011

Surprised to learn that photos are NOT included in the iTunes backup.

I'm pretty sure they are -- I recently had to replace my iPhone 4 with another iphone 4 and when I synced it for the first time, all of my photos and videos were put on the phone (to my surprise) (on Windows 7, at least).
posted by puritycontrol at 10:16 AM on April 6, 2011

Response by poster: My friend looked in the backup folder location that mazola suggested and found two wierdly named folders (strings of numbers & letters). One folder has 2,000+ files, the other has 3,800+. She's been going through the files and the photos are definitely in there. All the files have very weird names, so she's going to have to go through them all individually, but it's looking good. Baby Henry's first seven months aren't going to be lost after all!

(No word on the video yet, but with that many files we're very optimistic!)
posted by Kronur at 11:44 AM on April 6, 2011

Well that's good to hear. If those images are in the backup folder on the computer, then you should be able to restore them via iTunes.
posted by mazola at 12:48 PM on April 6, 2011

Best answer: I went looking and found a program called 'iPhone/iPod Touch Backup Extractor' at that works. It's someone's hobby program and donationware, and very bare bones. It should speed up going through the files. Some notes:

- After downloading and unzipping, click on 'Read Backups'. It will show a list of possible backups corresponding to the backup folders on the Mac, in the location mentioned above.
- Choose one, and the program will show a list of application names. They will either be normal or URL-like (like
- At the bottom of the list should be "iOS Files". Select that, and click on the "Extract" button.
- It will prompt for a folder location, then find/extract files, rename them, and store them in the folder location.
- Pictures and movies, should they exist, will be stored in a folder path like "Media/DCIM/100Apple". - I tried this with various backups I had, and backups from late last year and last week worked, good enough for your friend. I tried backups from earlier and they didn't work, but I don't know why.

Best of luck.
posted by ZeusHumms at 12:27 AM on April 7, 2011

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