iTunes backups silently failing, all data listed as "Other"
April 5, 2013 4:12 AM   Subscribe

I have an iPhone5 and an original iPad, which I back up to my PC (running iTunes on Windows XP). However, now when I plug in either device to the PC and start iTunes, all the data is listed as "Other" (in an orange bar across the bottom of the window). Further, when I click "Back Up Now" the sync begins, then stops after a second or two with no error message. Can I recover from this without losing my data?

More details: the iPhone, iPad and iTunes are all updated to the latest available versions of their respective software. The last reported backup for each device is 11th and 13th February respectively; this date doesn't change when I click "Back Up Now".

I've searched as best I can for a solution, but most of Apple's help with failing backups seems to assume that the user is getting an error message of some kind. I don't get any error message at all. When I click "Back Up Now" the display at the top of the iTunes window simply says "Starting sync" and shows the barber-pole progress bar (as expected), but these appear on screen for only a second or two.

I've also tried switching to backing up to iCloud instead of to the computer, but it's just the same: the sync fails after a couple of seconds with no error message.

The other, presumably related issue is that the bar at the bottom of the iTunes window (which normally shows the storage used broken down into "Music", "Apps", etc.) is showing a single orange bar labelled "Other". This is the case for both devices.

Is there any way to recover from this condition without losing the data I have on both devices? It's probably not a huge amount of data (some notes in Clear, some podcast subscriptions in iCatcher, etc.) but I'd prefer not to have to do an audit of every app I use to ensure that nothing gets permanently lost, if it can be avoided.

If the only solution is some kind of restore/reset process, is there any third-party software you'd recommend to backup the data safely before I try it?
posted by logopetria to Computers & Internet (8 answers total)
Are the devices jailbroken? Have you tried downloading and installing iTunes again (just in case)?

Does iTunes show what is on the device when it is connected? Does this help?

Purchased apps are associated with your iTunes account, not the device. The only ones which could be at risk of loss are those purchased on the device since February but not sync'd with iTunes (and even then, I doubt it).
posted by epo at 5:05 AM on April 5, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks for your help.

Neither device is jailbroken. I did a complete uninstall and reinstall of iTunes (following the instructions from here) a couple of days ago, but that didn't fix it.

iTunes claims to show what's on the devices. However, I just opened a PDF in Dropbox on the iPhone, had it open in iBooks, and then plugged in the iPhone to the PC. When I go to "On This iPhone" in iTunes, that PDF isn't showing up (although others that were on the phone before are). That might suggest that iTunes is displaying an outdated list of what it thinks is on the iPhone, not what's currently there.

I've just tried the diagnostic test described at the article you linked, and it claimed that "Sync tests completed successfully" for both devices.

While I could re-download the apps themselves (which would be no more than a minor inconvenience), I'm concerned that specific data they store might be lost. Perhaps some store this data in iCloud and so could recover it, but I'd prefer not to have to go through app-by-app and figure out in advance which will be safe, if I can avoid it.
posted by logopetria at 6:11 AM on April 5, 2013

Have you tried a hard reset of the devices in question? This will not lose any data.
posted by Rock Steady at 7:08 AM on April 5, 2013

Response by poster: Just tried that on both devices, but they're still in the same condition.
posted by logopetria at 7:53 AM on April 5, 2013

Not sure I can help you with this for Windows, but before you do any further experiments, *make a copy of the backup* that iTunes has been storing on your computer. On a Mac, the backup goes into ~/Library/Application Support/MobileSync/Backup/ - something similar for Windows, maybe.

As long as you have a safe copy of the files in that hierarchy, you'll always be able to get back to that state. Unfortunately, it appears that only the last backup is retained by iTunes - is yours already corrupted? Possibly you have older computer backups which include copies of earlier iTunes backups, though.

After that - I've had this happen once to an iPhone 4, and powering off and back on allowed it to get to a situation where I could do a restore from backup.
posted by RedOrGreen at 9:55 AM on April 5, 2013

Long shot: could it be a cable problem? Try syncing over wifi or another cable.
posted by epo at 11:53 AM on April 5, 2013

I got this a week or so ago - I had to restore the device from the last backup before it would go back to normal. The "other" data that shows up in iTunes for devices has been discussed a lot, but I haven't found a good way to eliminate it.
posted by bendy at 12:24 PM on April 5, 2013

Response by poster: RedOrGreen: thanks for that, I'll find the backups and move them somewhere safe before doing anything.

epo: The two devices use different cables already.
posted by logopetria at 12:08 AM on April 6, 2013

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