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.

We've helped over 10,000,000 people recover their lost iPhone data. Let us help you too.

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Comments (19)

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. 🙂

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.

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?

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.

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?

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.


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This is iPhone Backup Extractor, think of it as a "personal forensics" utility. It's pretty awesome.

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