Help and support restoring iPhone backups
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- What does the iPhone Backup Extractor do?
- Information about iTunes iPhone &, iPad and iPod Touch backups
- How to run the iPhone Backup Extractor
- Registering the iPhone Backup Extractor
- What can be done with encrypted backups?
- How can I recover text messages, notes or contacts which were deleted prior to the backup being taken?
- Restoring extracted files to my iPhone
- Can I use the iPhone Backup Extractor on a computer without iTunes?
- How can I work with Apple's database files directly?
- What is the iPhone Backup Extractor for?
- Are data recovered with the iPhone Backup Extractor forensically sound?
- I'd like to suggest a new feature. How can I do that?
- Further reading
- Volume pricing
- Contact us
- Can I support the iPhone Backup Extractor project?
- Why we charge VAT
What does the iPhone Backup Extractor do?
The iPhone Backup Extractor can extract files from iTunes' backups of your iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch data. It works with OSes 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6.
About iTunes iPhone, iPad & iPod Touch backups
- support.apple.com: “iPhone and iPod touch: About backups”
- support.apple.com: “Backing Up, updating, and restoring your iPhone and iPod touch software”
Running the iPhone Backup Extractor
The iPhone Backup Extractor on Windows
Running the iPhone Backup Extractor on Windows is as simple as double-clicking on the icon. However, users experiencing problems with the extractor on Windows should email us at the address below. Some of our users have kindly created tutorial videos on YouTube.
The iPhone Backup Extractor on OS X
Once Mono is installed, users should open a Terminal window and navigate to the directory with the unzipped backup extractor (
cd ~/Desktop), then run
This will run the extractor using Mono.
Some OS X users may find the extractor reports an error when run, complaining about X11 libraries. If this error appears users are advised to create a symlink from
/usr/X11R6. This can be done by running the following command in the console:
sudo ln -s /usr/X11 /usr/X11R6
If you are using Mono 1.2.4 you may encounter an error stating Mono.Data.SQLite.dll cannot be found or similar. This would seem to be a bug in Mono 1.2.4 which can be worked around by copying the file /Library/Frameworks/Mono.framework/Versions/2.6.4/lib/mono/gac/Mono.Data.Sqlite/184.108.40.206__0738eb9f132ed756/Mono.Data.Sqlite.dll into the folder where you unzipped the iPhone Backup Extractor.
Please do send us feedback on using the extractor under OS X.
The iPhone Backup Extractor on Linux
Running the software under Linux is straightforward, particularly for Ubuntu users. So long as the Mono framework is installed, including the libmono-winforms2.0-cil package,
the iPhone Backup Extractor will just run. The quickest way to get Mono installed, if it isn't already, is to run
sudo apt-get install libmono-winforms2.0-cil and choose to install all dependancies.
Users can bring up a terminal window and run
mono iPhoneBackupExtractor.exe as they would with any other binary file, and browse for remote or local backups as appropriate.
Registering the iPhone Backup Extractor
The registration window is brought up by clicking "register" (circled in green), and your unique identifier will be shown in the field we've circled in red below.
If you accidentally sent us the wrong identifier when you registered, the key we send you will likely not work. Use our new self-service key generator to create a new registration key. You'll need to have your original purchase details to hand.
Having trouble registering the iPhone Backup Extractor?
If you have purchased a key for the iPhone Backup Extractor but the "Register" button is not highlighting when your details are entered, there's one of three things that can be wrong:
- You haven't entered your details correctly. In order to register, your name, company and key need to be entered exactly as they are in the registration email. We recommend you copy and paste these into the window.
- Your unique ID is wrong or has changed. Double-check it, and if it has, use our self-service key generator to create a new registration key. If that doesn't work then forward us your registration confirmation email along with your new unique identifier.
- You're using an older version of the iPhone Backup Extractor. You can see which version you're using by looking in the lower left-hand corner of the main window. Download the latest version and try again.
What can be done with encrypted backups?
The pro edition of the iPhone Backup Extractor includes full encrypted backup support. The free and home editions limit users to extracting only four files.
How can I recover text messages, notes or contacts which were deleted prior to the backup being taken?
The iPhone Backup Extractor extracts data from iPhone backups. As such, so long as the last backup was taken before the data was deleted, it will recover your information automatically. However, if the data was deleted before your backup was taken, it makes sense that the backup won't contain your data. Fortunately, Apple don't purge deleted data from their database files, so it is often possible to recover some deleted SMS, note and contact data. By extracting the SQLite databases from your backup in Expert mode, and opening them in Notepad, you should see fragments of any data that has been deleted. This isn't the easiest way to recover data, and reassembling contact information isn't easy, but it's better than losing the data altogether! Registered users who need to do this can send us their SQLite databases and we can extract the textual information for them, although we cannot guarantee its legibility or use.
Restoring extracted files to my iPhone
Importing contacts from VCard or VCF
Importing your contacts into Outlook, Google Mail, or other modern email systems is easy. Our blog describes how to import your iPhone or iPad VCard contacts into Google Mail.
Importing contacts from CSV
There are instructions on how to import your contacts from CSV to Gmail and Outlook. Almost all contact management software will support import from CSV. Our blog describes in more detail how to import your iPhone or iPad CSV contacts into Outlook.
The contacts CSV files are generated with the following fields: Title, FirstName, MiddleName, LastName, Suffix, Nickname, Company, Department, JobTitle, Note, Birthday, WorkPhone, WorkFax, MobilePhone, HomePhone, OtherPhone, SpousePhone, MainPhone, Pager, Url, Tag, Email, Street, City, State, Zip, Country, CountryCode.
Importing contacts directly onto your iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad?
If you don't synchronise your iPhone with an email or contacts client, it is possible to restore contacts to an iPhone by simply emailing a VCard file to the phone. Once the phone has received the email, open the VCard attachment and an option to import the data will be shown.
Restoring other files
Restoring other types files to your iPhone can be tricky without technical know-how. Depending on the type of file, we've listed below the tricks we'd try to get data back onto a new phone. We cannot endorse or guarantee any of these methods, and they may break your phone:
- Load it into Outlook, webmail, iTunes, MobileMe etc. and sync with your iPhone
- Save your old iTunes backup somewhere, get iTunes to take a new backup of your upgraded phone, then patch the new backup with files from the old backup and restore the new backup onto the phone. See “restore SMS history from one phone to another”
- Jailbreak the iPhone, SSH in and manually update the databases with SQLite once in
- Jailbreak the iPhone and manually replace the files with SCP
- Install a third-party piece of sync software like Syphone (Mac only)
- Install a Wifi "shared drive" app (AirShare, DataCase, etc.) on the iPhone and try to replace the files directly
Can I use the iPhone Backup Extractor on a computer without iTunes?
The iPhone Backup Extractor will automatically search in the default iTunes backup location for your backups. However, the software doesn't require that iTunes is installed on the computer on which you use it. You can copy your backups to another machine and use the iPhone Backup Extractor there. It is possible to extract on Windows from a backup made under OS X, and vice-versa.
Where does iTunes store its backups?
Under OS X, iTunes will store backups in
Under Windows XP, iTunes will store backups in
\Documents and Settings\USERNAME\Application Data\Apple Computer\MobileSync\Backup.
Under Windows Vista and Windows 7, iTunes will store backups in
Why are the filenames garbled?
iTunes stores the backup files with hex-encoded SHA1 hashes. These names are constant between all backups. We've summarised the filenames of some of the more important backup files, in case you need to get manual access to them. Access through the iPhone Backup Extractor interface should be simpler in all cases.
|Contents||OS||Real filename||Backup filename||Type|
|SMS / Text messages||1-6||sms.db||SQLite 3|
|Contacts / address book||1||AddressBook.sqlitedb||SQLite 3|
|Contacts / address book||2-6||AddressBook.sqlitedb||SQLite 3|
|Call history||1||call_history.db||SQLite 3|
|Call history||2-3||call_history.db||SQLite 3|
|Call history||4-6||call_history.db||SQLite 3|
Working with Apple's database files directly
Users of the registered version of the iPhone Backup Extractor are able to use its function to automatically export their data to CSV for easy access.
Non-registered users cannot, and will find that they need to manipulate Apple's
Both of these files are SQLite 3 databases. Users wishing to extract data from these files will need a SQLite database client.
How can I work with SQLite databases?
Users might want to try either of these two free applications:
How can I query out the data from my iTunes SQLite backup?
As an example, to manually extract contact data, users should restore "Libray/AddressBook/AddressBook.sqllitedb", and then open the restored file with the SQLite Browser. Choosing the "Execute SQL" tab, paste this into the "SQL string" field:
SELECT ABPerson.first, ABPerson.last, ABMultiValue.value FROM ABPerson, ABMultiValue WHERE ABMultiValue.record_id = ABPerson.ROWID
Pressing the "Execute Query" button should return the full contact list shown in the "Data returned" field.
To extract SMS data, users should restore the file "Libray/SMS/SMS.db", open the restored file with the SQLite Browser browser, choose the "Browse data" tab, and then select "message" from the "Table" drop-down. On clicking the magnifying glass button, users should their full SMS history shown in the "Data returned" field.
The date and time fields just come back as numbers, how can I interpret them?
You may struggle to intrepret a number of the fields in the databases, and the registered version of the iPhone Backup Extractor can extract the data automatically for you. However, if you're going it alone, you should find the
dates are represented as either the number of seconds since 1/1/2001, or 1/1/1970, depending on the position of the date field. In Excel, you could use a formula such as
=1/1/2001 + A1/60/60/24 where A1 is your time data.
You may also need to adjust the value to account for your local timezone.
What is the iPhone Backup Extractor for?
There are a number of uses for the iPhone Backup Extractor. The following are amongst the most popular uses:
- If you've accidentally deleted one or two files, or find your contacts have been erased during synchronization. Restoring the entire phone through iTunes is a hassle, takes a while, and will cause you to lose the latest version of all of your other data.
- If you lose or break your phone and need to get the data back. iTunes won't let you extract specific files, or restore without a phone to restore to.
- You may find the upgrade process from iPhone 2.2 to 3.0 can delete all of your data. iTunes will not restore 2.2 data to a 3.0 phone.
- If you upgrade from one type of iPhone or iTouch to another, and need to extract the files from your old phone to move them over. iTunes will not do this.
- If you need to pull out application specific data: voice notes from AppStore voice applications, game hi-scores, etc. iTunes will not do this and there is no other way without jail-breaking the phone.
Are data recovered with the iPhone Backup Extractor forensically sound?
Yes, they are. The files are not manipulated in any way in the backup or reading process.
As well as a number of private forensics and recovery agencies, we have police and state forensics labs using our software around the world, from US Congress-funded law enforcement training programmes to the UK South Yorkshire Police, the German Polizei Hamburg Forensische and the Danish National High Tech Crime Center.
I'd like to suggest a new feature. How can I do that?
If you're struggling to do something particularly complicated with your iTunes backup, the following resources might help:
- How to decrypt encrypted backups (open question)
- iPhone Forensics: Recovering Evidence, Personal Data, and Corporate Assets (book)
- Macintosh OS X, iPod, and iPhone Forensic Analysis DVD Toolkit (book)
- Hampton Road Geek community on “Stupid iPhone Tricks”
- Recover data from an iPhone backup
- Guide: Change iPhone Calendar Colors Manually
- Apple iPhone Support Home
- Apple iPhone Support Forum
Contact us for more information on volume pricing discounts.
The iPhone Backup Extractor is produced by Reincubate, a small company based in London, England. We've been helping people recover lost information from their iPhones since 2008.
You can email us .
Can I support the iPhone Backup Extractor project?
Yes. We'd love it if you blogged about us.
Why we charge VAT
We are required to charge VAT at a rate of 20% to all our customers who live in the European Union. We send all customers a VAT invoice which our business customers who are registered for VAT in their particular EU state can use to reclaim the VAT.