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iTunes won't restore your iPhone backup? Here's how to fix it...

Alexandra Malureanu

by Alexandra Malureanu

Have you replaced your iPhone and ran into problems copying over your older iPhone's contents? When you try to restore from backup, does iTunes fail saying "backup is corrupt or not compatible with your iPhone that is being restored"?

All is not lost: you can still recover your iPhone data. There are handful of errors you might see, and we're going to look at the cause and solution for each.

iTunes restore errors in detail

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

"iTunes could not restore the iPhone": let's fix it!
"iTunes could not restore the iPhone": let's fix it!

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.

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 guide on recovering data from corrupted iTunes backups.

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.

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.

A software update is required to connect to iPhone

A software update is required to connect to iPhone
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.

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.

If in doubt, please reach out to our support team, and we'll do our best to help. We helping people with iPhone data recovery, day in and day out!

Alexandra Malureanu

by Alexandra Malureanu on , last updated

We've helped over 3,000,000 people recover their lost iPhone data. Let us help you too.

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