Q: I’ve recently lost everything on my hard drive which means I’ve lost iTunes. I’m scared to update my iPhone now because it might wipe everything from it. I don’t want to lose my apps and my messages let alone my pictures. Is there a way of updating my iPhone without losing all its contents? I have downloaded iTunes again but that’s as far as I have got. I dont want to lose the contents on my iPhone.
A: A fresh iTunes installation will not attempt to sync automatically with your iPhone, since iTunes will recognize that your iPhone has been synced to your old iTunes library. If you’re using iTunes 10, the iPhone will simply appear in your Devices list without performing a full sync. Don’t be alarmed if the iPhone briefly displays a “Sync in Progress” message when you first connect it, as iTunes does need to perform a quick check to identify the iPhone and read its sync settings, but it will not actually touch the content on your iPhone as it recognizes that it has been synced with a different library.
Once your iPhone is connected to your computer you can then transfer your purchased items such as your iOS apps directly back to your computer using iTunes and then use third-party tools to recover any other media content. See our article on Copying Content from your iPod to your Computer for more information on how to do this.
Once everything is back in your iTunes library you can re-enable the synchronization settings for your iPhone in your new iTunes library. Note that despite the “Erase and Sync” warnings that will appear when enabling these options, iTunes doesn’t actually erase your entire iPhone, but rather replaces any of the specified content types (ie, music, movies, apps, etc), with the content from your iTunes library. If you’ve recovered all of your content back into your new iTunes library, the result should be no change at all—iTunes will simply check the iPhone, discover that the same content is already there, and simply match it up during the first sync. Application data will also be preserved as long as the same apps are selected for synchronization—iTunes only removes application data when actually removing the app from your iPhone.