Retrieving deleted data from an old iCloud backup
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Q: I accidentally deleted an important note on my iPhone 5 last week. Not realizing that I’ve backed up on iCloud at least twice this week. How can I retrieve my important note from last week?
A: Unless you’re synchronizing your notes with iCloud or another e-mail account, or syncing them to iTunes, you may be out of luck. Whether or not you will be able to retrieve this note from a backup depends entirely on how many iCloud backups you have made since the note was deleted.
iCloud retains the three most recent backups of your device, so as long as you actually haven’t made more than two backups since deleting the note, you can restore the older iCloud backup to your device and get it off this way.
The catch, however, is that there’s no easy way to extract data directly from an iCloud backup, so you’re going to need to restore that backup in its entirety in order to retrieve the missing information. This will replace everything that is currently on your device, however you can easily restore back to your most recent backup once you’ve retrieved the missing note.
If you don’t have a recent enough iCloud backup of your iPhone you’ll probably want to avoid making another iCloud backup since that would potentially push out the older iCloud backup that might contain your note. In this case, you can connect your iPhone to your computer and perform a manual backup using iTunes, which you can then restore to your device once you are ready to return to your current configuration.
Note that if you’ve previously backed up your iPhone 5 to your computer using iTunes, it may be worth looking into that backup. While iTunes only stores the most current backup, if you don’t backup to iTunes regularly, you may have an older backup lying around on your computer that does contain the note you’re looking for. Further, if you backup your computer regularly using a PC or Mac based backup tool, you may have older iTunes backups stored as part of your normal computer backups.
In addition, there are a number of third-party utilities such as iBackupBot that actually can read information directly from an iOS backup stored on your computer, which would allow you to search for and retrieve the missing note rather than having to restore the entire backup onto your iPhone.
For more information on the iCloud and iTunes backup and restore process, be sure to check out our Guide to Transferring your Content to a new iPhone, iPad or iPod touch.
Note that iCloud and most other IMAP-based e-mail accounts allow you to synchronize items from your iPhone Notes app to your e-mail account, where they can be viewed in the “Notes” app in OS X Lion or Mountain Lion or simply by looking for a “Notes” folder in your e-mail client. This is not only useful for backing up your notes separately to avoid having to rely on iPhone backups, but also provides you with an easy way to access your notes from a Mac, PC or web browser.
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