Identifying iOS Device Backups
Ask iLounge offers readers the opportunity to get answers to their iPod-, iPhone-, iPad-, iTunes-, or Apple TV-related questions from a member of the iLounge editorial team. We'll answer several questions here each week, and of course, you can always get help with more immediate concerns from the iLounge Discussion Forums. Submit your questions for consideration using our Ask iLounge Submit Form. We reserve the right to edit questions for grammar, spelling, and length.
Q: My first generation iPad, a third-generation iPod touch and my husband’s iPod shuffle are all backed up in the MobileSync folder. How do I tell which is which if I want to save a copy of one of the backups to another location?
A: The MobileSync folder will actually only contain backups of your iPad and iPod touch in this case; iTunes only backs up iOS devices, not traditional iPod models such as the iPod shuffle, iPod nano or iPod classic.
If you are seeing more than two sub-folders in the MobileSync folder, it is possible that the others are for previous iOS devices that you may have used. Backups are stored based on a unique hardware identifier, so each device gets its own backup folder; even if you restore a backup from a previous device onto a replacement model, the new iOS device will create a new backup folder, leaving the prior one in place. iTunes will also sometimes create additional backups prior to performing major iOS updates, depending on the particular update and iOS model.
You can see a list of all of the backups being stored by iTunes by going into your iTunes Preferences and selecting the Devices section. Unfortunately, this screen does not provide any indication as to where the actual backup folders are, but it can be helpful for cleaning out older device backups that you no longer require. That said, if you only have one or two backups, you can compare the dates shown on this screen to the date stamp on the actual backup folders to give you an idea of which one is which.
You can select any backup from here and click the Delete Backup button to remove it; note that backups are not actually removed until you subsequently click the OK button, so if you make a mistake here you can back out by clicking Cancel, instead. You can identify specific backups by hovering over them with the mouse pointer, which will show a tooltip overlay with the serial number of the device that the backup is from—a useful feature if you have two or more backups with the same name and similar time stamps and are uncertain which one to delete. Backups from cellular capable devices will also display IMEI information here, and iPhone backups will show the cellular phone number.
You can identify the actual backups in the MobileSync folder in a couple of different ways. Backup folders are named based on the unique device identifier (UDID) of each device. The easiest way to get your device’s UDID is simply to go into the Summary screen for your device in iTunes and click on the “Serial Number” field—it will change to show the UDID instead, which should match the name of the appropriate backup folder.
The same technique works on the Software Version field to show the Build Version, and for on the Phone Number field to show the IMEI and ICCID for an iPhone. On a cellular-equipped iPad model, you can also click on the “Serial Number” field again to toggle through the Cellular Data number, IMEI and ICCID before returning to the serial number. The clipboard “Copy” function also works on this screen for copying the Serial Number of UDID to the clipboard, according to whichever is displayed.
Alternatively, if you do not have your iOS device handy, or can’t start iTunes for whatever reason, you can dig into the backups folder and look inside the Info.plist file, which will display all of the relevant information for that particular backup, including the device’s name and serial number, as well as phone number and IMEI/ICCID information for cellular iOS devices.
Keep in mind, however, that if you have additional backup folders stored within your MobileSync folder, you may want to double-check serial numbers and backup dates in the Info.plist to ensure that you’re copying over the correct backup folder. Deleting unnecessary backups from within your iTunes preferences, as described above, can also help in this regard by cleaning out any folders that are no longer necessary. However, the UDID method is the more reliable way to ensure that you’re matching the correct backup to the correct device.
Lastly, also keep in mind that if you’re backing up via iCloud, you will no longer have backups made automatically by iTunes. In this case, unless you’ve performed a backup manually, anything stored on your computer will actually be out of date compared to what is stored in iCloud. Even with iCloud backups enabled, however, you can still make a backup manually within iTunes simply by right-clicking on your device in the iTunes Devices list and choosing the “Back Up” option.
- Will removing a credit card from Safari also remove it from Apple Pay?
- Can I mute Handoff calls coming into my Mac from my iPhone?
- How do I keep my iPhone calls from ringing on my Mac?
- Why doesn’t Traffic show up on my Today Notifications Screen?
- Why doesn’t my iPhone reconnect to Wi-Fi after I turn it on?
- Why can’t I see the iPad-style landscape view on my iPhone 6 Plus?
- Automatic releases new Automatic Lite version of car monitoring accessory
- Apple releases fourth tvOS 10.0.1 beta
- iOS dev finds unimplemented one-handed keyboard in iOS code
- Apple sends out press invites for ‘Hello Again’ Oct. 27 Mac event
- Apple releases fifth beta of iOS 10.1 to developers
- Apple patners with builders to include HomeKit-enabled devices in new homes
- Report about Apple Pay in Japan hints at Oct. 25 release for iOS 10.1
- Apple Pay adds 20+ new U.S. banks and credit unions, MBNA Canada coming ‘mid-2017’
- Misfit launches Phase smartwatch
- ecobee releases ecobee3 lite HomeKit-enabled Smart Thermostat
- Incase Icon, Pop, and Textured Snap for iPhone 7/7 Plus
- Philips Hue Motion Sensor
- Bowers & Wilkins P9 Signature Headphones
- Tech Armor FlexProtect and Shock Flex for iPhone 7/7 Plus
- SwitchEasy Flash and Fleur for iPhone 7/7 Plus
- Blue Microphones Raspberry Mobile Microphone
- Incipio Haven for iPhone 7 and Reprieve Sport for iPhone 7 Plus
- Mophie Hold Force Magnetic Case System for iPhone 7
- Speck Presidio and Tech21 Evo Tactical for iPhone 7
- Belkin Lightning Audio + Charge Rockstar
- Instant Expert: Secrets & Features of watchOS 3
- Instant Expert: Secrets & Features of tvOS 10
- Instant Expert: Secrets & Features of iOS 10
- Inside the betas: iOS 10 Photos gets Advanced Computer Vision
- Inside the betas: iOS 10 Music app delivers ‘clarity and simplicity’
- Inside the betas: iOS 10 Maps gets a major redesign
- Inside the betas: iOS 10 shakes up the user experience
- Inside the betas: watchOS 3 promises a real speed boost
- Inside the betas: A sneak peek at what’s new in tvOS 10
- Filling the Gap: A look at third-party HomeKit apps