Fix hanging iPad, iPhone backups

Some users have been experiencing issues when attempting to backup their iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch, especially when installing iOS updates like 4.3.1.

Joe Aimonetti MacFixIt Editor
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Joe Aimonetti
3 min read

Some users have been experiencing issues when attempting to back up their iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch, especially when installing iOS updates like 4.3.1. Mac OS X Hints user renaultssoftware describes the issue:

"It was giving me 2 errors: 'Couldn't retrieve profile from Sync Services--unplug and replug iPhone' and 'Couldn't backup iPhone.' Having restarted, and unplugged/replugged the iPhone, it still wouldn't back up, or even update to iOS 4.3.1. The situation was very vexing."

Be sure to leave a little space for iOS device backups. Apple

Users on Apple's Support Discussions forums are finding other backup issues with their iOS device. User wifefail received a new iPhone unit via AppleCare that was running iOS 4.2. Their last backup was from an iOS 4.3 device and would not install on the new iPhone. "Every time I plug the phone in it just prompts me to restore from back up or set up new iPhone."

User at_01 had an issue of not being able to backup after installing the iOS 4.3.1 update:

"It says (forgive the rough translation): iTunes cannot backup the iphone "iphone 4G" as the backup session has failed. I have looked up the folder (user)/library/application support/mobilesync/backup and I find three old backups, one is from the day of the update. Only after I delete all those old updates is a new string with around 40 digits being created - but iTunes stops the backup process and leaves the folder empty."

Solution to issue one.
If your iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch is not updating and cannot connect to Sync Services, check to see that you have enough "scratch" disk space available on your iOS device. Try deleting some of your photos, videos, or music that you aren't actually using. You can also get rid of any Apps that may be taking up space without getting use. Games tend to take a large chunk of disk space, so start there.

Mac OS X Hints user Frederico talked to an Apple Genius about the issue:

"An Apple Genius told me they'd gotten a lot of complaints about the same thing, and that they were instructed to tell people that it was necessary to restrict the space further than prior iterations needs for memory swap and cache files to allow for video capture; that more people were upset that they could not capture video when they wanted and they could not easily free up space on the fly by deleting music or other easily replaced items."

Solution to issue two.
If you have to replace your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch and your replacement unit has an earlier iOS version than your backup, follow these steps, provided by ASD user jm-010:

"Choose to set it up as new. Try to skip through all the setup windows as quickly as possible, because they won't be of any use to you. When you get back to the normal iTunes window, select the phone in the sidebar, then click on the 'Restore' button. This will restore your phone to iOS 4.3. After the restore process has finished, it will ask you again whether you would like to use your backup or a clean install."

Solution to issue three.
There seems to be a running bug when users have the latest version of iOS installed on their iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch as well as XCode installed on their Mac. Luckily, Apple recognizes the issue and has provided a detailed knowledge base article to help you solve the problem.

Have you had an iOS device backup issue? Got a solution? Let me know in the comments!

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