Data rescure on an iphone when backup/restore doesn't work
November 14, 2011 7:09 AM   Subscribe

Please help me salvage data on my perfectly functional iphone. How can I copy and restore data if ituens sync doesn't work?

So, after upgrading to 5.0.1 from 4, when I went to restore from the backup, there was an error message that itunes was interrupted during the backup. I licked continue, itunes tried to complete the backup, and generated an error message (-54).

On the phone, all of the apps, SMS, contacts and mail are intact and work, but there is no music. In the itunes pane, there is the normal storage used for apps/contacts/etc, but there's 10gig of "other." Now both sync and backup fail when the phone is connected to itunes

I'm almost certain that something is corrupted in the file storage/directory on the phone so that there's music on the iphone that's not being recognized as such, but also taking up space and disrupting the backup/sync process.

Calling in to apple care just got me directed to try restoring a three more times, and then the answer that I'd just need to set it up as a new phone, losing all app/SMS data (even though it is currently intact on the phone). In person support at the Apple store came up with the same answer. (Unfortunately, this less-thank-helpful support had the side effect of overwriting all of the other recent backups with the same corrupt data.)

So I have a couple of questions on how best to handle this, because I really care about the data, and it seems crazy that there's no solution when all the data I care about is intact and functional on the phone.

1) is it useful to try to escalate this with apple? I only spoke to the first level rep on the phone, so it's possible I could get to speak to a specialist who knows more?
(I paid for applecare, so I'm a little pissed that a) they gave bad advice that overwrote other backups and b) they have no options than to run the user level process and observe that it doesn't work)

2) Is this something that a data recovery service could deal with? I'd be happy to pay $100 just to have it fixed.

3) Does anyone have experience with iphone programs such as phone to mac or iExplorer? If I go with a solution that requires jailbreaking, can I "unjailbreak" once I've gotten all the data back?

Thanks for any advice!

Tech Specs: iphone 4, IOS 5.0.1, itunes 10.5, technical proficiency - medium, programming proficiency - zero
posted by mercredi to Technology (9 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Couple of ways around this:

Question: What are you concerned about saving? Your sms data etc? Some of this can be accessed via iExplorer, there are a million faqs online where to find the stuff. Back up sms, notes, calendar or whatever, restore your phone to factory settings, copy databases back onto the phone.

How long ago did you last backup? iTunes stores these backups on your machine. Windows 7, and some Mac OSX systems, have a clever ability to restore to earlier versions of files and folders. So, find the backup folder and restore to previous version. Then restore from this backup

Lastly, I had this 'other' issue once. The way around it seemed to be to manually delete a few of the music files on the phone. Again, use iExplorer you can find the location of the itunes music. Delete a few songs at random. Then reboot your phone and try syncing again. This seems to rebuild the database or something.

There are other options here, but at the moment I'm having trouble figuring out why your don't just restore and then repeat the restore from backup process. if you follow my first piece of advice here, this should solve your problems.
posted by 0bvious at 7:20 AM on November 14, 2011

Response by poster: I've done the restore/ restore from backup a number of times (at the direction of apple tech support). Somehow both the copy on the phone and the copy on the computer are corrupted. I can look and see if the older backups are available on the mac, that could work.
posted by mercredi at 7:26 AM on November 14, 2011

Yeah, try the old backup process. I am a Windows user so not sure how it works, but if you can't just restore the folder containing backups then you might be able to restore your entire computer to a state before the faulty backup.

The other alternative, if iExplorer fails you, is to jailbreak your phone and recover the data.
posted by 0bvious at 7:34 AM on November 14, 2011

Response by poster: Yeah -- I just find the jailbreak process a littel daunting. If I do that and get the data, can I restore it to the restored phone and then go back to using the standard IOS? Even if I have to jailbreak after the restore to re-add the data? can you sync with itunes if you've jailbroken?
posted by mercredi at 7:55 AM on November 14, 2011

I've had good luck extracting and re-installing app data using a program called PhoneView on my Mac. It did not require jailbreaking. It is able to extract SMS data, contact and calendar data, and even save data from within apps, which I used to back up saved games before removing them from my iPhone. I would take a look and see if you can use it to extract your data, and then restore the iPhone and set up as a new device. Here's a link to the application.
posted by raygan at 8:33 AM on November 14, 2011

I have seen several ways to get the SMS data off the phone [1, 2, 3 ]; I've not seen any way to put it back on.

These methods to get the SMS data are going to extract it into some non-iTunes format. The backup file is a sqlite database, though, so maybe you can extract the SMS data from the current backup file, restore your phone, then use a sqlite database application to put them back into the new, empty sqlite backup file.

There is apparently a method to get it back on, assuming you've started from a jailbroken phone with this utility installed.

To jailbreak 5.0.1, though, you have to restore your phone, which will, of course, wipe out its contents.

Maybe the sqlite method would get them back into a working backup, at which point you could jailbreak, restore from the backup, then install PKGBackup to keep them backed up.

To answer your last jailbreak question: Yes, you can back up with iTunes once jailbroken. The only thing you shouldn't do with iTunes when jailbroken is update iOS. Aside from that there's no difference in your usual routine.
posted by chazlarson at 10:25 AM on November 14, 2011

I had a similar problem with the restore process when I upgraded to iOS 5. It had a very simple solution that left me feeling a little stupid. Perhaps it will solve your problem and we can feel a little stupid together.

When I was trying to restore my phone from the backup, it would get to a certain point and then my phone would look exactly as if the restore process was finished. If I then unlocked the phone and tried to do anything, the phone would have nothing on and the computer would give me an error about the backup process being corrupted.

But what was really happening was that the restore process wasn't even close to finished, but the phone was just deceiving me, by not saying "syncing," like we have come to expect. So I just had to try once more and make really really sure that the restore was actually finished, and not pay attention to what my phone was doing.

So I would suggest being eagle-eyed for any itunes status bars and swirly things and leave the phone be for longer than you expect to need to leave it (go take a shower after it starts or something), and then see if that helps at all.
posted by that girl at 11:55 AM on November 14, 2011

Response by poster: hey - that girl.

I think that I may have interrupted it at the step you're talking about, causing the initial problem. I have subsequently let it run all the way through, with no dice. thanks for the heads-up, though.
posted by mercredi at 12:11 PM on November 14, 2011

Response by poster: OK, after a subsequent bout with apple tech support and getting escalated, it got fixed. Here's the takeaway, I think. That restoring from backup is very different than restoring the phone to factory settings and then restoring from backup. So what I did (under the direction of the apple rep) was:

1) backup (again)
2) go into user -> me -> Libary -> application support -> mobile sync -> backup and copy (not move) a extra copy of the backup to another location, just in case.
3) Then when I get a message that restore from backup failed, chose delete backup.
4) restore the phone to the factory settings (accept when it says it will erase everything)
5) phone wakes up, has no apps, no data, etc
6) restore data from backup.

(I'm not sure if steps 2 and 3 were trying a different tactic or in preparation in step 4)

Anyway, thanks for all the advice. Glad this worked out, and hope this can be useful for someone else if the future.
posted by mercredi at 9:18 PM on November 14, 2011

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