This week I had a visit from a client, who was desperate to recover some very important Notes that were inadvertently deleted from her iPhone.
She had visited the Genius Bar at the Apple Store, but was told that there was not really any way of recovering the information that she had lost.
So she came to see me to find out if there was any possibility of retrieving these lost Notes, especially given that she had regularly backed up her iPhone to iTunes on her Macbook as well as backing up to iCloud.
The answer is ... maybe!
While the iCloud backup is unlikely to be of any help in retrieving the lost Notes, it is possible that the lost data is still available in the iTunes backups that are saved to her Macbook. So what's the difference between these two types of backup.
The below is taken from a article that talks about i-Device backups. (Read more here if you are interested.)
... iTunes backups are different than iCloud backups. When you back up via iTunes, you’ll get a complete copy of all the data on your device so you can restore your device to the same exact state later. With iCloud, only “the most important data” on your device will be backed up to your iCloud account. For example, iCloud backups don’t include a complete copy of the music and videos on your device — but iTunes backups will. This allows you to save limited iCloud space and avoid having to upload and download huge amounts of data.
What this highlights is just how important it is to, if possible, regularly back up your iPhone and iPad to iTunes on a computer - so that you have a complete backup of your device should you ever need it - rather than just a partial iCloud backup.
Where are iTunes Backups stored on your computer
iTunes backups are saved away to an hidden area on your Mac or Windows computer. In the case of this client's Mac, we could see all her iTunes backups in the folder
You can get to this hidden folder by opening Finder, then choosing Go from the menu bar and clicking on Go to Folder, and typing in the above path. (Refer later for where to find the backup folders on Windows.)
In that Backup folder, you will see a list of backup folders, which contains a heap of strangely named files that are actually the contents of the backup. The Date Created for each of the folders in Backup provides you with the backup's date.
(If you don't see Date Created in the columns provided, right-click on the column heading area and 'tick' the Date Created option from the list that drops down. This will add the column to your Finder view.)
Below is a sample of my own iTunes backup folders. I have clicked on the Date Created heading to sort the list of folders in descending Date Created order, so that the newest is at the top.
When we looked at my client's backup folders on her Macbook in the same way, we were able to see that she had a backup from just before and after the date that she thinks she deleted the Notes. So hope was restored.
But how can you then find what you need in the iTunes Backup
The question is then, how can she view the contents of her backup in a way that allows her to locate her missing Notes - given that there is nothing that would indicate which of the files in the relevant backup folder contains her deleted Notes.
Double-clicking on a few files at random shows that these backup files are sometimes photos, sometimes text with gobbledy-gook - but finding a couple of Notes amongst thousands of files would be like finding a needle in a haystack. (If you don't have much in your backup, this solution might be workable for finding a particular file.)
The easiest way to extract the information contained in this set of folders is to download a product that allows you to view the contents of the backup.
The particular product that I use for cases like this is Aiseesoft Mac Fonelab. This app is not available from the Mac App Store, so must be downloaded from the Aiseesoft website.
Below is an image of the Fonelab screen. In this image, the app is in the process of scanning my nominated iTunes backup to identify all the Photos, Contacts, Messages, Notes, etc. Once it has finished this scanning, I will be able to look through what it found.
The below images shows the list of the Notes that Fonelab found in my backup - I can view the content of each note and, if I choose, can 'recover' these notes to a specified Output folder.
While this product is not cheap (right now, it is US$48.96), it can be a real lifesaver for those times that you lose something really important.
Some other options (which I have not tried myself, so cannot provide any recommendation) are:
So there is hope for my clients lost Notes, if she wants to invest in a product such as those described above.
Location of iTunes Backups on a Windows Computer (Windows Vista, 7 and 8)
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