How to fix a corrupt iTunes backup and restore its data

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Recovering data from a corrupt iTunes backup is difficult but not impossible, and messages like "backup is corrupt or not compatible with your iPhone that is being restored" don't mean your data is "irreversibly lost". You've got a great chance of recovering corrupt backups automatically with iPhone Backup Extractor.

It's usually straightforward to recover data from an unencrypted corrupt iTunes backup. Encrypted corrupt backups are trickier, especially if the "manifest files" are missing, as these describe how data in the backup was encrypted, and are essential for the decryption process.

Backups can be corrupted to different extents. For example, running out of disk space in the middle of a backup, having a hard-drive fail (or Dropbox eating your files!), an iOS upgrade going wrong, or a power failure during the backup can each affect the backup in different ways.

There are a handful of errors you might get when a backup is corrupt. Let's look at the cause and solution to each.

iTunes restore errors that indicate corruption

iTunes could not restore the iPhone because the backup was corrupt or not compatible with the iPhone that is being restored

This first message is straightforward and tells you you're dealing with a corrupt backup. Every now and then, when iTunes is backing up your iOS, it may happen that this process fails without an error message. It can suck to find out that you have a corrupt backup only when trying to restore with iTunes. It's not too hard to get your data our: check out our guide on getting data out of a corrupt iPhone backup below,

iTunes' corrupt backup error message
iTunes' corrupt backup error message

iTunes could not restore [iPhone] because the backup session failed

This error is similar to the first, and also tells that you are dealing with a corrupt or unfinished iTunes backup. The cause is similar. See our tips on recovering data from corrupted backups below.

iTunes could not restore because iTunes doesn't recognise your device

This third message requires that you check you are using the latest version of iTunes, that your USB cable is connected properly (and not damaged), and you don't have any third-party software interfering with iTunes.

If the above doesn't work, this issue can usually be resolved by using recovery mode. Recovery mode will erase your device and restore it: if you previously synced with iTunes or iCloud you'll be able to restore from backup after recovery.

The worst case is that there's a fundamental problem with the iOS device you're connecting. If -- and you have a spare device -- try using it. Failing that, we can help you extract data from a corrupt iTunes backup. Read on!

The iPhone could not be restored. An unknown error occurred

This error is a catch-all for a range of different problems. Depending on the underlying cause, there are a number of solutions:

  • Using the latest version of iTunes (and not a beta!) is a good place to start -- upgrade, if you're not already on it
  • Windows users can find a reboot helps (if you follow the step above and upgrade iTunes, you'll need to reboot anyway)
  • Completely resetting the phone and running a restore in DFU mode
  • Apple publish a short document with further tips for this error

If you can't succeed here, check out our guide on recovering data from a corrupt iTunes backup below.

A software update is required to connect to iPhone

This message implies you need an update to connect to the iPhone, and it's not clear from the message whether it means it needs to update your PC or Mac, or the iPhone. It's the computer that it's referring to.

A software update is required to connect to iPhone
A software update is required to connect to iPhone

Users will often get this if they are running a beta version of iOS, but aren't running the equivalent iTunes beta. If that's the case, hitting the "Install" button won't work. It'll say it's downloading an update for a while before it fails, saying "Installation failed. Can't install the software because it is not currently available from the Software Update server." The solution is to install the latest beta of iTunes.

4 tricks to repair a corrupt iPhone backup and retrieve your data

iPhone Backup Extractor is designed to help you get your data when a backup can't be restored properly through iTunes. It opens iTunes and iCloud backups and extracts valuable data -- even if that backup has been corrupted.

1. Use iPhone Backup Extractor's built-in corruption handling

Even the free edition of iPhone Backup Extractor has a lot of cleverness built-in to it to handle corrupt backups, and it may be that it can extract your data normally.

Try the quick links for data extraction from "Overview", and see our conventional guides on recovering iTunes data.

Extracting data from corrupt backup with iPhone Backup Extractor
Extracting data from corrupt backup with iPhone Backup Extractor

If the overview doesn't generate what you need, there are two other approaches to try.

  1. Check the "Preview" tab to see if data is available for extraction. If data is there, you can click the app's name, select the messages you need, and extract them in the format you want. As below:

    Previewing messages
    Previewing messages

  2. Use the "Extract" menu to export available messages as HTML or as CSV, as shown in the screenshot below:

    Extracting messages with the "Extract" menu
    Extracting messages with the "Extract" menu

Data like contacts, messages and photos can still be retrieved from the corrupt backup, even if the steps above don't work. Don't give up hope -- let's go deeper...

2. Use expert mode to recover iPhone data from individual files

If the direct approach doesn't work for you, you can still use "Expert mode" and "App view" to recover your files from the backup. Data such as contacts, calendars, SMS messages, locations and notes are stored in specific files in your backup, and -- if you fish the files out -- iPhone Backup Extractor can convert them into readable formats for you.

Load your backup with iPhone Backup Extractor, and then navigate through "Expert mode" to pick out the files representing the data you need. We've got an article on where apps store their data in an iTunes backup which will be helpful when knowing where to look.

Manually extracting the WhatsApp database with iPhone Backup Extractor
Manually extracting the WhatsApp database with iPhone Backup Extractor

Once you have the necessary file, you can convert it into a readable format:

  1. Click the "File" menu in iPhone Backup Extractor

  2. Select "Convert Messages DB to CSV", "Convert contacts DB to vCards", or whichever option is most appropriate for your file

    Using the file menu to convert...
    Using the file menu to convert...

  3. The app will export your contacts and messages.

    Recovery successful!
    Recovery successful!

3. Sift unencrypted iPhone backup for photos and video

You may still find photos and videos in your iTunes backup even if the iTunes process was incomplete and led to a corrupt backup file. In order for this to work, the backup needs to have not been created with encryption.

Try this:

  1. Find the backup folder in question (you can right-click on the backup in iPhone Backup Extractor and choose "reveal enclosing folder")

  2. Make a copy of the entire folder -- we're going to heavily modify it...

  3. Sort the files inside by size and remove all files smaller than 300KB

  4. Download and install Bulk Rename Utility -- it's free and great for what we need here

  5. Open "Bulk Rename Utility" and navigate to the copy of the backup folder you made, then select it

  6. Add jpg (without dot) to Extension Section (11) or .jpg (with dot) using the Add > Suffix (7) menu

  7. Select all of the files in the top window (they’ll appear in green)

  8. Click the "Rename" button and all the selected files will then be renamed to jpg files

    Bulk Rename Utility in action
    Bulk Rename Utility in action

  9. In the folder where you saved them, select "Thumbnails view" in Windows Explorer or macOS Finder -- now you should be able to see which files are photos, as they'll be shown with previews

  10. Move the recovered photos to a safe new folder, then repeat the process from step #5 with other file extensions such as .mov and .heic until you've recovered them all

4. Rely on Reincubate's experts to do it for you

If none of the approaches above work, or if they get too technical, you can always reach out to us. We'd love to help. Our support team will probably ask that you share a copy of your "manifest files" with them, and we've got an info panel below with some more information on them.

About the author

Alexandra Petruș served as Reincubate's VP of Product for a number of years and remains a friend of the company. She's recognised as a Google Developer Expert for Product Strategy, and is a co-founder of Bucharest AI.

Reincubate's CEO at Buckingham Palace

Pictured above are members of Reincubate’s team meeting HM Queen Elizabeth Ⅱ at Buckingham Palace, after being awarded the UK’s highest business award for our work with Apple technology. Read our position on privacy, safety and security.

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Comments (30)

Dear reincubate professionals,

I desperately need your help because Apple does not. I summarized the situation below. Is there any possible way that I can try to recover my photos and videos:

On the date 7 September I saved a backup of my phone to my PC via iTunes. The next day (8 September) I wiped the phone and left to the service for battery change. After receiving I wiped the phone again and then I choose to restore from backup at the beginning. However iTunes asked me a password which I never entered for backup (I don't recall that I ever entered a password in iTunes). I tried the password of the phone and my Apple ID password but never worked. I searched online the case and someone suggested to enter Apple ID credentials on iTunes. At that stage iTunes sent an authentication code to my phone and I had to open my phone set as a new phone. Than clicked the button "change password" below the encrypt iPhone backup section. At the moment iTunes synchronized my phone because at default that option was set on iTunes. It appears to be the backup of my empty phone was overwritten on previous backup. I managed to restore from that backup but my whole photos, videos and contacts was gone.

When I look into backup folder I see a large amount of data which is approximately 45GB. And last change dates of the most files are 7 September which is my first backup date. I think my data is still kept in my computer but I cannot access them. I think when iTunes overwrite the empty backup it changed the manifest.db file and some other files then the old files are not recognized by iTunes. I installed the iPhone Backup Extractor but no photos are found. Then I tried to chance file extensions by bulk rename utility however no images are shown I suppose because of encryption.

Is there any possible way to restore my photos and videos from that backup folder. Or are they gone for good?

Thank you in advance.

Kind regards.

Hi unplugged, thanks for commenting. Yes, there are a number of things we could try here. We've reached out to you directly. In the meantime, make sure the remaining files are safe from modification, and that any Time Machine backups that you may have from the time won't get overridden.

Hi.. I recently sent my iPhone 7 to get the audio IC replaced. Before giving it to the technician I took a backup on itunes and wiped it clean. While the iphone 7 was with the technician, I restored the same back up to my old iphone 6S plus for use. This worked perfectly and im cureently typing from the same phone. But i had to manually delete a lot of photos and videos from my 6S as it was a 64GB. ( Roughly 5000 images + 100 videos deleted)

Now my iPhone 7 has returned after getting fixed. I tried restoring from the same back up via iTunes and it gives me the following error " iTunes cannot restore the iPhone "iPhone" because and error occurred".

So i tried all the usual stuff, updating of iTunes and the iPhone 7, restarting the devices, using different usb ports and different usb cables.

I even tried restoring the same backup to my Wife's new iphone Xs. The entire process went through for 1.5 hours and right when it was about to finish itunes gave me and error "itunes cannot restore iphone "iphone Dee" because the backup is corrupted"

I think i have tried all possible options but came up with no luck. I would really really love to have that entire backup as it was...Can you help?

Hi vardhan, thanks for commenting. I think we can probably help here: we're emailing you directly now. 👊

This month, I recently upgraded from a 4s to an iPhone 6s with Verizon-I was assured my back up would go well especially with the additional 50mb I bought on icloud; well after 7 days of back and forth at Verizon & their techs talking to Apple support techs...no one was able to explain why all of my photos were lost from my 4s to my 6s to include all of my photos that I thought were safe in my photo stream on my iCloud account. Can ANYONE please help me?

This Friday, 12/16/2016, I have to break it to my middle school students that their images for the town & school paper that were safe & sound on my iCloud account are now GONE. All that remains is a their ghost of images past....a screen shot of the back up where a grey box appears with the number 837...the mysterious location where the Verizon tech assured me that the images do live on are-in fact, somewhere'...

Can anyone help me to find out where they are & make them reappear?? It would surely be a Christmas miracle that would make about 90 middle schoolers very happy.

Happy Holidays.

Thank you so much.

Hi Lola, we're sorry to read this! Might you have an old iPhone backup on your PC or Mac? Failing that, we have a few tricks up our sleeve to recover photos from iCloud that aren't in the app. Drop us a note and we'll see what we can do. 👩‍💻

My itunes keep saying not enough free space on computer, can't restore my iphone. I'm trying to restore my old iphone with the same backup, just to take it back and update to iOS 9. And then trying to backup again and restore my new iPhone 6s Plus with it. But the main thing it's i got 270gb free on my Mac, so I don't know what else to do. Please help I don't want to loose all my photos and data. One more thing, when i tried to restore my new iPhone with that backup, said it's corrupt or not compatible. Help!!

Hi Francisco, things can get difficult when you've got a lot of data in a backup but little space on your PC or Mac. One solution might be to use an approach like this to move your iPhone backup into a folder on another drive (or a USB stick) and restore from there. Reach out to us if you need help!

I just got had to swap my phone due to issues on the phone when I try to restore from my backup it say corrupted or not compatible

Oh no! Have you followed the steps in the guide? If so, and you're still stuck, drop us a note or ping us on live chat. 🙂

Does this work in australia? I lost my iPhone 6, but luckily backed it up not long ago. Insurance have sent me another phone but when I plug it in it gives me the dreaded error saying that it is corrupt or uncompatible. I need all the files on the back up and your free version idenitifes all the files to be extracted. How much does it cost for you to put it onto my new IPhone. I am at a complete loss

Hey Ryan, it sure does. If things are getting fiddly, please drop us an email through our support page and we'll jump on a screen share with you to help sort things out. 🙂

I need a way to extract music and eBooks from a corrupt backup, any ideas?

Hey Robert. iTunes' music isn't stored in a backup, and won't be available there. However, eBooks are, and so is music from many third-party apps. Which apps are you using for the books and music?

How do you extract a voice memo from a corrupted backup?

Thanks!

The simplest way is just to click "Recordings" on the main iPhone Backup Extractor window when your backup is selected. Alternately, you can find them in iPhone Backup Extractor's "Expert mode" in the folder described here.

After doing the ios 8 update on my Iphone 5 it started acting up. On and off every two minutes. Only 180 pictures were backed up into icloud from 2000. i trie backing up the rest but phone turn off and on. Can some one help me recover my pictures. they are very important because they are from a loved one that passed away. please help!

Hi Patrick, I'd recommend backing up with iTunes, and then restoring that way. It's a lot quicker, and it's much easier to verify all of your data is there.

I used time machine to replace the corrupted file that wouldn't allow me to backup from the restore files, figured out which of my iTunes backup files to replace, then clicked on that folder with all the files in it ( I figured it out based on the date modified as I had several from various iPods and an iPad and clicked on get info of each of them to figure this out ) Go in to library/application support/mobilesync/backup

Is it possible to restore messages back on an iPhone

Hey Kevin, there sure is: check out this guide.

Got a new iPhone 6. Tried to restore it from iTunes. No backups were found in ITunes. Found the backup folder on my PC but three of the .plist files are missing. Status.plist is the only one I have and it looks incomplete. Need some help..

Uh-oh, missing files indeed. Drop us a note and we'll guide you through recreating those missing files.

My Iphone backup was corrupt. Please help me to restore data. I found physical stored data (10GB) on my lop top. I need help to backup this data on my iphone 5. There are very important files: app - gflash, and my contacts. Please help me to restore data. Thank you a lot.

Hi Andre, no problem. The guide above should help with accessing the backed up data, and this guide should help you restore is. Does that help?

After being able,to extract those data from corrupted files, can theses data able to import back to the phone for data like SMS, WhatApps, other App database?

Hi Chanco, yes, they can. We've got a guide on restoring that data here.

I am trying to recover some lost voicemails using iExplorer. There are 4 backups to my phone and all are damaged. Is there a way to fix that or get the voicemails back from the damaged backup file? Any help you could give me would be greatly appreciated. The voicemails are from my gramma who passed away. Thanks.

Yes, try iPhone Backup Extractor. If it won't automatically recover them for you, ping us on live chat and we'll help you get them back manually.

I backed up my iPhone 5s IOS 7 in preparation of receiving my iPhone 6. I tried to restore from my backup iOS 7 onto my new iPhone 6. It downloaded all of the music all of the apps but it is being hung up on the photographs. It just keep saying downloading. It has been doing it for two days. I have used your software in the past I'm wondering if it will be helpful again for this situation? Some of the pictures downloaded but only a fraction.

I didn't upgrade the 5s to IOS8 because I didn't have enough room on the 5S.

Hi Jeffrey, it's nice to hear from you. Two days of downloading sounds like a long time! I'd recommend turning off iCloud Photo Library, before turning it back on. That should sort this out. 🙂

Hi,

I'd extracted out all the files, but how can I restore inside my phone?

Hi Elsie, we've got a guide for that here.

Good day

I would be very grateful fr a workaround for the issue I face, please. I removed the cable, like an idiot, during a backup process, it was third party software (iBackupBot) and the progress indicator had been stuck at zero for several minutes, i panicked. Right now, I can't back up to or from my device, I am pretty sure it is a corrupted manifest file. Please could you direct me to workarounds for this error:

Invalid name size [E9B1] at [30E77]:
(null)
Prev Domain:C:\Users\........
/manifest.db
Prev Path:CameraRollDomain

I realise I have probably boxed this thing, is it even possible to restore a new iOS version?

Thank you in advance Morgan

Hi Morgan, that sounds nasty! We're not experts on iBackupBot, but we can certainly help with your phone. Have you tried a factory reset?

Hi, hope you can help me. I backed up my old iPhone 5 on iTunes in my laptop as the phone has a hardware defect and needs to be replaced with a new unit. I made sureall was backed up in itunes. I now got the new unit and attemptied to restore the data backed up from the old unit, however, the data restore in iTunes is greyed so I assume the data was lost. Is it still possible to recover all the lost data back up?

Hey Avenshen, I'd guess that's because the newer device is on an older version of iOS than your newer one. If that's the case, an update will resolve the issue. If not, drop us a note and we'll get you sorted out.

hi! The files of my ipad get deleted. I already try the backup in itunes, but I dont have any backup there. All files are very important to me. Please help me. THANKS!

Hi Carlo, that doesn't sound good. Have you manually checked your iTunes backup folder? There's guidance on how to find them, here. Failing that, do you have a a backup of your computer in Time Machine, or another backup service?

I have just upgraded my Iphone 4 to IOS7 and I lost my pictures and contacts after it got frozen showing the I tunes and USB picture. I was able to restore it, but nomore contacts and pictures in it. I did not back up any of my contacts and pictures. Can I still recoever them?

Hi Noel, that sounds nasty! When you say you were able to restore the phone, I presume you mean from a backup? If so, it's worth looking through that backup with iPhone Backup Extractor to see if there are any traces of your images or contacts. You might get lucky.

good morning, my backup(11 G0) is incomplete and encrypted, i have the password. Do your soft can extract any data?

It certainly can. Try the free version linked to the side of this page, and reach out if you need help.

my ipod does not work as it says my ipod back-up has been corrupted and i am unable to sync with itunes

Reach out to us directly on live chat and we'll guide you through it with a screen-share. 🙂

What if I only can find status.plist? The info.plist, manifest.plist and the manifest.mbdb is missing. Is there any way to recreate them?

Hi Johan: yes. Move your backup out safely to another folder, and then create a new backup. If the device contents are similar enough, you may be able to reuse those files. Good luck!

Hi,

I have updated my iphone to ios7 beta release and later on downgraded back to ios 6.1.3. But restore backup is not compatiable. Tried after changing Product version and Build Version in Info.plist. But now it says data is corrupt or not compatiable.

Please help me to restore my backup data

Right, this is a problem for a number of users. We can help you patch your messages etc. back into your older database if you drop us a message directly.

Hi, some how my iphone backup got corrupted. And so I tried to restore it with another back up, but it was my ipod backup and when i tried restoring it back it said "itunes could not restore the phone because the phone refused the request" and this is frustrating because it wont let me send any messages and all my contacts and stuff are gone.

Hey Devin, drop us a note and we'll give you a hand with your backup. There'll be a way!

i want to simply reset my iphone pin to purchase apps for the phone.

i dont require resetting my ios and i dont want to affect the ios, but can iphone extractor reveal the pin if i run it?

Dominic: see our article on resetting the restrictions passcode for a solution to this.

My iPad had begun to have more and more apps crashed so I took it to the apple store. The genius read the incident report and said I had corrupt files so I needed to plug it into my MacBook and backup it up then reset the device. He said since the file would also be corrupted on the backup that I would need to start new instead of restore the backup.

I did so and now I have a few apps that I have lost data from. I have since been informed that one app can't corrupt the whole iPad because of sandbox. So who do I believe and how do I proceed? I did try restoring the iPad's backup and the problem was still there so I reset and made new and that's where I'm at now.

Oh no! That's frustrating. Drop us a note directly and we'll help you recover that data. It shouldn't be possible for any of your iOS apps to corrupt your backup.

Hi,

My last backup of my iPhone 5 somehow got corrupted after a failed iOS 6.0.2 upgrade.

I can see all the files in the backup folder but it is missing all the manifest files.

I use iPhone Backup Extractor to review the Backup file and it doesn't recognize the last backup taken before the upgrade.

I would like to know is there a way to recover the last backup?

Thanks Nighto

Nighto, this is because the previous backup can sometimes get overwritten after the upgrade (Yes, I did say after! And yes, this does happen ever now and then). Without the manifests it can cause issues reading files, but iPhone Backup Extractor can certain find data without the manifests by using the File menu. However if data does exist in the backup, we are experts at extracting, so please contact our help desk for more information.

hey, i am having some problems with understanding how to re-establish all my backed up data back onto my iphone, i was wondering if there is any further help or personal assistance i could receive?

thank you

Hi Haider, of course! Drop us a note on [email protected] and we'd be happy to set up a screens-share to guide you through it.


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