How To Restore iPhone From Older Backup

September 30, 2010 — by Simon Ng37



How To Restore iPhone From Older Backup

September 30, 2010 — by Simon Ng37

Recently, a friend of mine called me up and said he accidentally deleted several contacts on iPhone. Even worse, he has synced the iPhone with iTunes after the removal. The question is:

Is there any way to recover the lost contacts?

Update: This solution does not work for all iPhone users. Only those with Time Machine option enabled will get the backup copies.

Every time, you sync and backup your iPhone with iTunes on computer. iTunes actually creates a backup copy (Update: you need to have TimeMachine turned on). You may not aware of that. But if you go to “Preferences” and select the “Devices” tab, you should see a number of backups with different date (assume you have already backed up the iPhone several times before). The date shown is the actual date you performed the iPhone backup.

So, for my friend, he can restore his iPhone using the older backup copy to recover the contacts. It’s very straightforward for the restoration. Simply follow these procedures:

1. Simply right-click on the device in iTunes and select “Restore from backup…”.

2. You can then select the backup copy you want to restore. Once you select the correct backup copy, hit the “Restore” button and iTunes will restore your iPhone.

That’s it. In case you face similar situation as my friend, try to recover the lost data from older backup. As always, leave us comment if you have any questions.

Update: First, thanks for Sebastien’s comment. From my experience it’s trivial that iTunes automatically creates backup copies for each iPhone sync. But it turns out that’s not the case. I have done several tests on my iMac and found that the Time Machine option in System Preferences is enabled. I do not have Time Machine for my Mac. I do not know why the option is enabled. With Time Machine, iTunes will create a backup copy when the option is enabled. This is why I have multiple backup copies for each sync. So if you can only find one backup copy for your device, that’s normal. The above solution should only work for those with Time Machine.

Simon Ng

Founder, developer and chief blogger of simonblog.com

  • Are you sure about that Simon? In my iTunes, I get only 3 backups (1 for my iPad, 1 for my 3GS and 1 for my iPhone 4). I don’t get several backups for my iPhone 4 for example..

    • Really? On my iMac, every time I sync (with backup), iTunes creates a new copy.

      By the way, did you cancel the backup during the iTunes sync? Some of my friends used to cancel the backup process as it takes quite a long time. In that case, there will be no backup copy in iTunes.

      Anyway, let me try to test it on another computer.

      • Nope, I didn’t cancel the backup. Let me know what you find out.

        • I think it’s due to Time Machine. I do not have Time Machine but this option is enabled on Mac. Now I disable this option, every time I sync, iTunes will replace the previous backup.

          Thanks for your comment and pointing out the error!

    • Karen

      Yep same thing for me… I sync my phone EVER freaking day, yet this ONE time I want to RESTORE from back up… it is August 14 and the LAST backup I can “RESTORE” form is July 7???? OMG… iTUNES you absolutely SUCK! UGH….

  • Daniel

    Hi Simon,

    I have a 3GS with 4.0.1 and the latest iTunes.

    I too don’t see several backups (actually I only have 2 – one from early September and the latest one).

    From time to time a do a manual backup, but it always overruns the latest (the one created earlier this day, after I connected the iPhone to the PC).

    Same when I had 3.X.

    I did not cancel the backup during iTunes sync.

    • @Daniel,

      Thanks for your sharing. I’m now looking into the issue and will give further update once I figure out the cause.

  • Patrick Jacques

    The backup worked like a dream! I was sooo worried.

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  • Kris

    Hi Simon,

    I just updated my 3GS to 4.3.3 and am encountering some problems. After the update (which wiped my iPhone clean) I tried restoring from last night’s backup. None of my applications are showing up! Notes, calendars, contacts, and mail has synced fine, but everything related to iTunes is gone from my phone.

    What am I doing wrong? Any help is much appreciated!


  • xtine

    if im using pc, n i only see 1 backup, means all the older backups are all wiped out? really no way of retrieving the old backups?

  • Mar

    Hi, I have the same problem than “xtine”, cause I need some of my oldest backups

  • ccw

    Thank you so much for this information!!! I backed up both my husband’s iPhone and my iPhone on the same computer and for some reasons it replaced his contacts on his phone with mine. I thought I had lost them all but did the above backup and it worked! Thank you, Thank you!!

  • TimT

    Does this also restore an accidentally deleted app? I have easynote +to do and I accidentally deleted it. I am hoping that by going to an ealier backup, I can not only get my app back on my phone, but also an earlier version of the info I lost on it. Can you assist in this at all?


  • brian

    i dont see any “restore from back up” in the device options

    • Dina

      I have 3 backups on diferent dates but when i right click, nothing happens!!!! Why is that?

  • kris

    Hi, I try to restore my iphone thru itunes running mac os x lion, everything was updated but it failed. It says could not be restored for back up was corrupted or not compatible with device. But I just restored my iphone last January and it did the job, until I changed to lion. I’ve done everything I can to get my back ups but failed. So, I reinstalled my snow leopard again and updated..but when i plugged my iphone to itunes, my back ups were not there..what to do? I have time machine back ups from external HD..but with lion os on it..

  • Joe

    This may be a dumb question….but is it possible to restore from more than one backup? I want all the info from my 2 previous iPhones onto my current one. They are all backed up and I can see the backups if I click on “restore from backup”, I’m just not sure if it’s possible to get all the info from those backups + my current one onto my phone. Any assistance would be appreciated!

    • Carrie

      Did you ever get an answer to this? I’m trying to do the same thing….merge two past iphones into my latest one.

  • RPB

    iphone backup help needed. I synced my iphone on one day (lets say Jan 1). While syncing, itunes created a backup. All I wanted was to add some songs to my iphone. After the sync, the songs were added, but my apps were all screwed up. The next day (lets say Jan 2) I reconnected to itunes and reloaded my apps. Itunes again created a backup for this date. I started one of my apps (lets say angry birds), but I lost the data for my app (instead of level 100, I am back to level 1), all that hard work is gone. So I thought I can restore from the backup that was created on Jan 1, however, it only shows restore from back up from Jan 2 and one from a couple months ago. I checked the preferences, and it doesn’t even show the backup that was created on Jan 1. I looked in my C: drive and there were a bunch of files with the Jan 1 date in the backup folder. How do I get itunes to read the Jan 1 backup files and restore my iphone apps to that date? Thanks for any feedback.

  • May


    I have followed everything and I cant see several back up dates on the ‘Preferences’ tab. Its Monday today and last time I did back up was an hour ago, However, I need last fridays back up but I only have 1 date option (todays date). Please please help.


  • Guy

    I have the same problem as May, please help! I have lost my calendar from outlook and my phone! Need to get my back up from 10am this morning but it only shows the backup of 3pm today 🙁

  • Jusie

    I’ve faces the same problem tonight when after trying to sync my contact I’ve lost them all to few e-mil addresses from gmail.
    Firs I was confused as in preferences I’ve seen previous backups but pressing the right key I couldn’t do anything with them.
    It turned out that in preferences I only check the existing backups, then I go back to iTunes and simply right-click on the device in iTunes and select “Restore from backup…”. – on the device that is listed on the left side bar in iTunes. This is the only thing that was confusing to me.

    Thank you Simon! I’ve saved my 1300 contacts 🙂

  • Gus

    Hi I updated my friend’s phone with my apple ID , all my contacts were on his iPhone ; he deleted them all .
    After hours I was checking my contacts and they all disappeared !
    How can I restore them ? Please help!

  • NJ

    hey there
    I have a concern, hope u can help
    i updated my i phone last night but when i restored the items, only thing i got back is the apps but i lost all my contact and pics,, so i disconnect the phone and reconnect again , at that time , i did another back up when i tried to restore again ,,, all i restored the apps… how can i get the old back up back … i need my contacts and pic

    ur help is highly appreciated

    • AJ

      Do what Simon said at the top, right click your device in iTunes and click restore from back up. Then you should be able to restore from an older backup

  • AJ

    Thank you so much! I had so many important things on my ipad! I was trying to jail brake my ipad and then I set it up as a new ipad, then backed up the new one. I really am grateful!

  • AJ

    Thank you so much! I had so many important things on my ipad! I was trying to jail brake my ipad and then I set it up as a new ipad, then backed up the new one. I really am grateful!!

  • NIsllwlly

    I used Vibosoft iPhone backup extractor app to restore my iPhone form old backup, that’s very easy to use, save my time! http://www.vibosoft.com/ios/extract-iphone-backup-from-itunes-mac-windows.html

  • Ban

    I purchased Vibosoft iPhone backup extractor a few days ago, I have to say: it really worh a recommendation, it can restore iPhone from very old backup file without loss.

  • nerylerhome

    Assuming you have older backups, go onto iTunes, right click on your device on the left-hand side bar, and their should be an option ‘Restore From Backup’, or something similar, click that and it’ll restore your iPhone to a previous backup.
    Here’s a Myjad iTunes Backup Extractor that describes how to do it:

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  • MuzikJunkie

    In order to restore iPhoen from bacukp, run through the following 4 easy steps:
    STEP 1:Make sure iTunes doesn’t automatically sync with iPhone when connected.
    STEP 2:Connect your iPhone to iTunes and Back up by selecting Preferences > Backup from iTunes, or right-click on your iPhone and choose back up.
    STEP 3:Restore your iPhone by selecting Restore under Preferences.
    Note that restoring the iPhone will restore the previous iPhone firmware. Your iPhone will be completely erased after the new firmware is installed. So make sure your back up is good!

  • Tank Mansser

    In my opinion , as long as your data has been stored the backup files , you can access backup data ,maybe you just don’t know how to get data from backup , don’t worry , you can read this article about how to access data from backup ,