Before you Update your iPhone to iOS 5!

Smithers, release the iOS 5!

Nearly a month ago (12th October 2011), Apple released iOS 5, a major update to the iPhone and iPad operating system. It seems to have some great new features that are well worth the update and, indeed, from the day it was released, there has been a mad rush by anyone owning an iDevice to install this update. This hastiness has ended up biting some owners on the behind, though.

Fools Rushing, Angels Fearing

I’m sure you’ve heard the expression “fools rush in where angels fear to tread”.  The problem is, major updates on any system are well known for having bugs in them – the coding for major updates takes a long time but the marketing department pushes the programmers to get it out in a short time-frame, so testing ends up leaving a lot to be desired.  Usually these bugs are pretty innocuous and rarely cause trouble, but sometimes they cause disasters.  For this reason, the prudent thing to do when there are major updates to software is to wait for some time to see if the major update actually turns out to be stable or if it ends up being a disaster story.

I can’t wait, I can’t wait

Now I’m no angel, so I didn’t fear any treading, but I certainly wasn’t going to do any rushing in either!  My phone and especially the data on it are important to me but I really wanted to try these cool new features. So I needed to make sure I wasn’t going to end up with a phone that isn’t very cool any more because it doesn’t even work as well as it used to. So what could I do to maintain my phones safety? Well, I just needed to have a way to restore my phone to how it was before if the update went pear-shaped. This seems simple enough, because whenever you plug your iPhone or iPad into your computer, by default it automatically backs it up. But there’s a problem with this backup system.

Whats your problem?

The backup process works relatively reliably on iTunes; you plug in your iPhone or iPad and by default, iTunes automatically backs it up before doing the synchronisation. When you plug in your iPhone or iPad next time, it repeats the process which overwrites your previous backup.  The overwrite seems fine; after all, if there had been a problem since the last backup, you wouldn’t be doing another backup would you? Instead you’d be trying to restore from the backup you already have.

But there are actually two scenarios where this is a problem.

Firstly, we may not realise there is a problem until we’ve already done a backup. This means that we now only have a backup that contains the problem because the previous error-free backup has been overwritten by the new erroneous backup. Now we have no clean backup to restore from

Secondly, as I have recently found out via frantic calls from clients, sometimes there is a glitch during the iOS 5 update process which causes your one and only backup to disappear at the same time as it wipes your data and all but the standard apps that came with your iPhone or iPad!  When this happens you now not only have nothing on the device, but you don’t even have a backup to restore from.

The Solution

The solution is simple; take charge of the backups and keep multiples from different dates. It’s relatively simple to do because you still get iTunes to do the actual iPhone/iPad backup. Then all you have to do is backup that backup. So, you need to know where iTunes stores that backup and then you can copy it somewhere else for safe keeping. Maybe you could have a folder for each month of the year so that you had 12 months of backups to be able to go back to. Or maybe you might be fine with 4 folders and you backup into 1 folder each week so that you always have 1 month’s worth of backups to be able to go back to. The number and frequency of backups is up to you.

Where’s the Data?

First you’ll need to find the data. So, where does iTunes store the backups? Well, it’s different for different versions of Windows and Macs store there somewhere else too. The details are as follows:

Windows 7 and Vista

C:\Users\USERNAME\AppData\Roaming\Apple Computer\MobileSync\Backup

Windows XP

C:\Documents and Settings\USERNAME\Application Data\Apple Computer\MobileSync\Backup


/Users/USERNAME/Library/Application Support/MobileSync/Backup


Automatic Peace of Mind

If you understand the importance of the backup and why it’s needed, you’re halfway to safety with your iPhone/iPad.  But if you keep forgetting to do the backup, when disaster strikes you’re going to kick yourself for knowing but not doing. So the best way to solve this problem is to set up  an automatic backup process.  I usually set up the iTunes backup to be automatically backed up for my clients along with the rest of their important data. There are plenty of free automatic backup programs out there, so get cracking (or should I say “backing”)!