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How to restore iPhone app data from backup

Restoring your iPhone app data from backup is not as easy as you would expect. This handy how-to shows you how to perform this task easily and quickly.

The iTunes App Store has been around for eight months and now lists more than 25,000 apps. If you're like me, you've probably purchased a dozen or more of these apps and hopefully, you're backing up your computer regularly to protect your purchases.

But backups only work if you know how to use them to restore lost data. Frequently, the iPhone and iPod Touch require complicated restores and multiple layers of backup; this how-to will show you how to conquer the restore beast.

Step 1: Reinstall your apps in iTunes

A friend recently experienced a power failure that resulted in damage to his iTunes library file. iTunes automatically regenerated the file, but the iPhone and iPod Touch apps and their data were missing.

We restored the apps easily from his backups and so they ended up where we expected them: Mac ~/Music/iTunes/Mobile Applications or Windows C:\Documents and Settings\USERID\My Documents\My Music\iTunes\Mobile Applications. Reinstalling them into iTunes was easy enough--we simply dragged and dropped them into the iTunes window while we had Applications selected in the sidebar as shown below:

Afterward, the apps synced again with the iPhone.

Step 2: Restore missing settings and data

Unfortunately, iTunes did not restore any data or saved settings from the apps in question. The iTunes backup system is puzzling at times--we ended up needing to track back further to find the data we needed.

Here is how we restored the missing data. You'll need to follow these steps carefully, so make sure to read them all before starting. (As always, I recommend you use caution when replacing files or folders. If you're uncomfortable with what you are doing, first make a copy of the affected files or folders first.)

1) Disconnect any currently attached iPhone or iPod Touch.

2) If iTunes is not running, launch it.

3) Open Preferences in iTunes, locate Devices, and turn off "automatic syncing of devices."

4) Locate your backups from Time Machine, SuperDuper!, or your preferred backup application. (Time Machine would be the best source, as it keeps better historical data for a longer period of time.)

5) Restore your currently existing Mac:~/Library/Application Support/MobileSync/Backup/####### or Windows: C:\Documents and Settings\USERID\Application Data\Apple Computer\MobileSync\Backup\####### from backup by replacing the existing copy on your local hard drive. (The ####### represents a numeric key unique to your iPhone or iPod Touch, so it is important to select the correct key if you sync with more than one device--you may have to identify the correct key by the time/date stamps on the respective folders. Use the last time you synced your device as your guide.)

6) Reattach your iPhone or iPod Touch for syncing.

7) Perform a restore by locating your device in the iTunes sidebar, Control-Click on that device and select "Restore from Backup."

The restore will be performed on your device and, once completed, that device will restart automatically. Your restore should be complete, but don't forget to re-enable the automatic device syncing that you disabled in Step 3.

Updated: Added information for Windows file paths.