Backing up Apps

Q: I have yet to read anywhere about a program that will backup music, videos, photos AND apps. Is there such a program? Having to remember all the apps you’ve acquired is a pain especially when the iTunes Store only shows the most recent purchases and you have to do a search for the ones not currently displayed. I would prefer a program that allows for the backup to be stored on a selected hard drive so that formatting my hard drive or restoring the iPod would be quick and painless, just like backing up your e-mail contacts. Any such program?

– Anonymous

A: There’s actually not really any magic to backing up your applications from iTunes, and unlike music and other media content, the iTunes library database doesn’t store any extra metadata for apps. Unless you’re using an iTunes-specific backup application that deliberately excludes apps, these should get backed up automatically along with everything else in your library.

All of your apps should be located in one of two places depending on whether you are using the new iTunes 9 “Media organization” or have upgraded from an older version of iTunes and not yet converted to the new storage layout. The key folder is “Mobile Applications” and will be located either directly under your “iTunes” folder or within your “iTunes Media” folder, as set under your iTunes Advanced Preferences.

This folder contains all of your apps that are stored by iTunes, as a series of files with .IPA extensions, one app to a file. Backing up everything in this folder is all you need to do in order to backup your apps, and any normal backup utility should be able to do this for you on a scheduled basis as easily as backing up your word processing and spreadsheet files.

Note that if you’re already backing up your entire “iTunes” and “iTunes Media” folders on your computer then you will pick up all of your apps as part of this process without any further effort on your part. This is the easiest way to backup your information from iTunes, as this will include the iTunes library database and other media content, and restoring is simply a matter of putting everything back into those folders on your main hard drive.

Note that if you are backing up your apps separately and need to restore them to a new iTunes library, or perhaps copy or move them to a second iTunes library, this is simply a matter of adding the IPA files back in by either dragging-and-dropping them into the iTunes window or using the Add to Library option on the iTunes File menu.

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