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How to repair a corrupt iPhone backup and retrieve your data

Livia Stroie

by Livia Stroie

Every now and then, iTunes backups turn out to be corrupt, and sometimes it's not clear until you try to restore or access them.

So as long as your data has been backed up or stored in the iCloud, you've got a good chance of recovering it with iPhone Backup Extractor. And failing that, we'll do our utmost to help you recover it.

Recovering data from a corrupt iTunes backup is difficult but not impossible, and our users have been delighted time and time again to find that "corrupt" or "incompatible" messages do not mean "irreversibly lost" at all. Recovering precious data like messages, photos, videos, contacts, WhatsApp is what we do! ❤️

Corrupted iTunes backup? You can recover your data...
Corrupted iTunes backup? You can recover your data...

Can I repair a corrupt iPhone backup?

It's usually easy to recover data from a corrupt iTunes backup, and unencrypted backups are straightforward to edit or extract data from. Corrupted encrypted backups are trickier, especially if the "manifests" are missing, as these files indicate how the encrypted backups are protected, and are used in the decryption process.

Backups can be corrupted to different extents, and the cause of the corruption tends to influences this. 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.

How to tell if your iTunes backup is corrupt

Let's assume you've read our guide on troubleshooting problems restoring iPhone backups, or you're not looking to directly restore the backup. How you can tell the backup has a problem?

The easiest way is to install the free version of iPhone Backup Extractor, and load your backup in it. It'll show your backup's status: if it says "Complete and encrypted" or "Complete and unencrypted" that's a good sign. If iPhone Backup Extractor doesn't recognise the backup, labels it incomplete, shows no available data, or suggest the backup was created a very long time ago -- like 01/10/1981! -- then it's likely there's a problem with the backup.

Trying -- and failing -- to restore the backup using iTunes is another indicator.

4 tricks to recover data from a corrupt iTunes backup

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.

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

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.

Extract data from corrupt backup
Extract data from corrupt backup

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 file menu
    Extracting messages with the file 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 encrypted and corrupt backups

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 (these are usually . We've got a an article on where apps store their data in an iTunes backup which will be helpful when knowing where to look.

Manually extracting the Kik database with iPhone Backup Extractor
Manually extracting the Kik 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 the 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. Using Reincubate's expert support

If none of the approaches above work, or if they get to technical, you can always just 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.

Livia Stroie

by Livia Stroie on , last updated

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


Comments (3)

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?

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; only if you have a backup made prior to iOS 5 can you get the restrictions passcode. It doesn't exist in a readable un-keychained form in the iTunes backup created when an iPhone has iOS 5 or more. This is because Apple decided to make it more secure; read our article on the restriction passcode for more information.

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 the iPBE application 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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