Several of our readers report that iTunes is unable to finish the backup or restore process for their iDevices. They see these types of error messages: iTunes could not backup the iPhone (or iPad) because the backup was corrupt or not compatible with the iPhone (or iPad). OR the error message indicates that the restore was corrupt or not compatible. Other similar error messages include things like the backup session, or the restore failed.
We often see these types of errors right after an iOS update or when trying to backup or restore your iDevice with a backup from a previous or different iOS version. In these cases, the backup is incompatible with your current iDevice.
- Some of our readers report success by this simple tip: turn off your Mac and the iDevice while they are connected via the lightning USB cable. Then turn them back on again. Try this more than once if at first, it fails. A few readers report after 2-3 attempts, this worked, and then it backed up their iPhones or other iDevices.
- Also, try swapping out the USB Lightning cable. If you’re using a USB hub, try connecting your iDevice directly to your computer. And I hate to break it to you, but keyboards with USB ports count as hubs! Finally, a few people have success when they use their original Apple certified USB cable that came with their iDevice.
Luckily, this one is pretty easy to mend, as long as you have other backups available. All you need to do is erase your existing corrupt or incompatible backup from iTunes and then restore your iDevice after creating a new backup with iTunes. Sounds straightforward enough, we hope.
To fix this problem, simply delete your corrupt backup files by opening iTunes Preferences. For Windows, Choose Edit > Preferences. For Macs, Choose iTunes > Preferences. Then select the Devices tab, then choose your latest backup and delete it, then try the backup again.
Help Locating your iTunes BackUps
Unfortunately, for some iFolks, this is not as easy as 1-2-3. You go to iTunes >Preferences >Devices > Backups but discover there is no backup for your particular iPhone or iDevice in the list. And now you are stuck wondering how the heck you locate that corrupt backup so you can indeed delete and backup this iDevice?
If you experience trouble finding your iTunes backups, there is a manual solution. And we have an article all about it, that deletes step by step how to locate iTunes backups on both Windows and Macs.
Quick Tip to Locate BackUps
The quick version is that your backups for the iPhones, iDevices, and iPads are in Your User Library> ApplicationSupport> MobileSync> Backup. For Windows users, this is located here C:\Users\username\AppData\Roaming\Apple Computers\MobileSync\backup. Inside this Backup folder is a folder for each device that iTunes backs up. These folders are named with the UDID (unique identifier number) of each device.
This Unique Device Identifier is a 40-character alphanumeric that uniquely identifies your iDevice from others.
Locate Your iDevice UDID
- Connect your iDevice to your computer
- Open iTunes
- Click on your device’s icon
- Select the Summary tab if not already there
- Click on the Serial number, and there’s your UDID
- Click on the serial number multiple times to see your ECID and model identifier as well
- Press Ctrl+C to copy the UDID number
Once you determine the UDID for the iDevice in question, trash its corresponding folder, and then try and back up that iDevice with iTunes. Alternatively, move the backup folder to your desktop or other safe location. And then restart iTunes and see if you can now backup. If so, trash that backup folder you moved.
If you don’t find any backups listed in your Preferences > Devices. For Macs, go to:
Check if there is an alias to ‘Backups’ there instead of an actual backup folder. For Windows users, this shortcut called backup is often located in:
If you recently relocated your iTunes library to an external hard drive or a new location, this might occur. What occurs is that old alias now points to nothing. Since you moved the iTunes library location, the alias points to a nonexistent directory. It no longer exists in that old location. Consequently, what you see is the above error message.
But it’s simple to fix. Go ahead and delete any alias. Then attempted a fresh backup again with iTunes. Hopefully, your backup succeeds with any error messages this time.
A Corrupt App?
It could be a corrupted third-party app that’s causing your problems. You’ll need to put in some time and practice patience on this method. Go through all your third-party apps on your iDevice and try to figure out which app is causing a problem. First, if you installed any apps not available via the App Store–delete these. Then look at any recently installed apps–they might be your culprits. Take a look at the dates of your previous backups, and then start removing apps downloaded since that day as they might be the problem.
Hopefully, you’ll find the troublesome app and kick it to the corner (by deleting it!) Once removed, try again and see if things are back to normal.
Turn Off Malware
A couple of our Windows readers ran into this issue. When making iDevice backups, Windows Defender detected a file from one of the apps as malware. They could not get their backups to work until they fully disabled their antivirus and malware detection programs when performing any iDevice backup or restore.
Try An App or Two
There’s almost always an app for this or that. And a corrupt backup is no exception. Visit the Mac app store and look for Backup repair tools like Decipher Backup Repair or Decipher Tools, iPhone Back Up Extractor, Corrupt Backup Recovery, and others. Many users report success with these third-party tools. We don’t have a particular recommendation, as we have fortunately not needed to use them. But they are available. If nothing else works and you don’t have other backups, or they’re not current, consider giving one of these tools a try.
A Final Method
Try Resetting you iDevice by going to Settings > General > Reset > Reset Settings. This option does not erase any of your apps or delete any data like music or photos. But it does erase all of your preference settings, such as WiFi passwords, manually-configured network configurations, etc.