iTunes won't sync iPhone anymore

(frederico) #82

Personally, after hearing what your wife was actually facing in terms of “restoring from scratch” (the depth of which was not entirely clear before now), I would’ve been testing all those backups available in Time Machine.

I would’ve dropped back 6-12 months, and if that worked, moved forward until it didn’t; dropping back as far as needed until I salvaged as much as possible as a starting point. Of course, not everyone has very old clones and deep TM archives, but if you’re facing that kind of data loss, you obviously should.

For those categories that were too incomplete to effectively rebuild from that point, turning to iCloud or Backup Extractor would’ve readily filled the gaps; e.g., Notes is something that could’ve been fully retrieved with the click of a button, quite probably even if the rest of the backup were corrupt (I can’t fully guarantee that claim since I don’t have your corrupt backup to test and Notes might well be something that is corrupted).

I can’t count the number of times we’ve had to drop back to clones that were many months old or older, in order to find an uncorrupted version of a particular file set. But we didn’t curse ourselves or Apple or Microsoft or the third party software vendor for corrupting said files in the first place; it happens. Period. It usually happens because of a disk damage or file system corruption on the source in need of repair. Disk/file corruption happens with any vendor.

Which brings us around to a critical part of any backup chain (which you’ve alluded to but not completely stressed as the bottom line here): your only valid backups are those you’ve fully tested.

IT managers get paid a lot of money because they design and build complex, testable backup strategies. In past lives managing this sort of thing, in mission critical deployments, we regularly restored working systems from the last backups, just to make sure they actually worked, and, if not, play the drop back game as described above; then do the deep dive to find the source of corruption. Validated backups are marked and preserved both on and offsite.

It’s horrifically time consuming, and nothing the average user, small or medium sized business is ever going to do.

I have mixed reactions to you and your wife cursing Apple for this event; your overall frustration is understandable, but if you really think this doesn’t and wouldn’t happen to you on Android, you’re dreaming. If anything, it’s far more likely to happen, given that most phone vendors have their own backup systems or simply rely on people using Google’s cloud services; and if your wife is so paranoid (whether or not that is justified by the degree of sensitivity of data or not) about using iCloud, good luck not using Google for many aspects of an Android experience.

Regardless, I’m truly sorry you had to go through all of this, and my empathy and sympathies to your wife in particular for having to suffer the horrible pain of rebuilding. It sounds like her phone is vastly more complex than the average user, and a higher level of mission critical care is on the agenda.

To that end, you imply, but don’t explicitly state that you will now be doing multiple backups to iTunes, preferably on different computers; but even creating a second user account on the same machine is better than not. iMazing is another option. Of course, if the iPhone is the source of corruption, all backups will (likely) be bad (from the point of corruption), but that’s when you fall back to TM and clone archives.

As an aside, as our iPhones and their respective backups get bigger, Apple is, at the same time, making Mac disk space smaller and vastly more expensive. Making multiple backups of iPhones and iPads as fat as 256GB and 512GB and more in the future gets more and more and more challenging, chewing up gobs of (hidden to the user) internal disk space.

Indeed, the average user has no idea how to map a User account to an external drive, let alone how to map just the iTunes Mobile Backups folder; for those new Mac owners opting for the smallest drive per their budget, they are shooting themselves in the foot by not considering their peripheral device backup needs. Even if they are content to buy a fat spinning external disk, they need a Mac guru to actually make it useable – and in many cases, still portable.

iCloud offers a ready solution to this problem, but the lack of encryption makes it a nonstarter for a LOT of people. With the current resistance from Apple, the FBI, NSA, et al, I don’t see encrypted iCloud backups happening any time soon. I’d love to be wrong.

(gastropod) #85

The post:

frederico wrote: another great post

“Validated backups are marked and preserved both on and offsite.”

And even those can fail, so multiple validated copies should be kept on different kinds of media and in different places. Gets expensive fast.

Cosmic rays were long blamed for bit-rot in jest, but in the '90s IBM did some experimenting and found that “computers typically experience about one cosmic-ray-induced error per 256 megabytes of RAM per month.” If that RAM gets written to disk, you’ve got permanent corruption of something, usually unimportant but not always. It’s much less common for cosmic rays to flip bits on magnetic tapes and disks, but over time it will happen, plus those have other degradation problems. I don’t know about SSD and flash, but they’re still generally too expensive to use for multiple long term backups.

My favorite backup explainer is still The Tao of Backup, which was written as an ad for a long defunct software product. But it’s as useful now as it was way back then–when you can get anyone to read it in the sound bite era.

"Making multiple backups of iPhones and iPads as fat as 256GB and 512GB and more in the future gets more and more and more challenging, chewing up gobs of (hidden to the user) internal disk space. "

This is one of the things I like about iMazing. You can put the backups anywhere you want. Since they’re incremental, you can keep a much longer history, and easily go back in time (barring corruption!) I have them going to a server disk that gets backed up daily with occasional offsite rotation. I also occasionally mark itunes backups as archival so they don’t get written over, but that does take lots of space.

“iCloud offers a ready solution to this problem, but the lack of encryption makes it a nonstarter for a LOT of people.”

Me. Anything in the cloud is a matter of when it leaks, not whether it will leak. Apple really needs to make end-to-end encryption an option. But I think the current situation is probably the right default; for most people the risk of data loss is more important than the risk of leaks. Unfortunately, that means we have the choice between secure cloud with no app syncing or insecure sync.

1 Like
(Simon) #86

You’re right, @frederico, that would have absolutely made sense. If only I had known. I probably didn’t make that part of the story quite clear.

My wife’s syncing apparently stopped back in October. She had her iPhone set up to do backups and syncing over wifi. That usually happened when we went to bed and she plugged her iPhone in to charge. When that type of syncing/backup fails there is (at least in her case) zero immediate feedback on either the iPhone or in iTunes that it failed. In my experience, iTunes will show when it last completed successfully. But you’ll only see if you go looking for it. It won’t throw a dialog saying, ‘hey I haven’t synced in 10 days and there’s a problem’. My wife for the longest time didn’t realize that there was no syncing or backing up over wifi and when she finally did, she just restarted iTunes on the Mac (I think she actually just rebooted the Mac), rebooted her iPhone, and thought that would take care of it. By the time she noticed it had still not started syncing again and she told me about it, we were in Dec (not long before I started this thread).

The problem with all of this is that from Oct to Mar she did a ton of stuff on her iPhone (lots of it for her work) that never synced back to her Mac. So even if you go back to using old TM backups that would probably still work, you’d be either throwing away all those changes she made or at least in the same position as we now were that you’d first have to find alternative methods to transfer data to some other safe haven (not via sync or backup), then do the backup, and finally restore back lost information from that safe haven.

I guess bottom line is that if I had known immediately when syncing stopped, we could have done exactly what you propose and we would have been fine. But three months later and that ship had sailed.

And again, just to be entirely clear: multiple backups possibly involving multiple clients and/or different conduits (iTunes, iCloud) does NOT help in this situation. The corruption is most likely in the iOS install. Every backup then becomes tainted. The only way to get around it is to nuke the corrupted iOS install (assuming the average user does not have file-level diagnostics and control). The fact that this corruption happened (assuming it’s not cosmic rays [just google to see how many SE owners faced this issue post iOS 12] or some other more exotic theory) most likely does lie with an iOS bug (as indicated by two Apple reps — in fact they claim they are working on a fix).

That is what I personally fault them for. I agree with you 100% though @frederico that Android is neither more secure (privacy) or bug free and I know switching away from iOS would not render a better situation. But my wife’s POV is that Apple took her money and then left her stuck losing data with nothing on her side she could have done to prevent it. I think routinely checking up to see your syncing still works—although it should be unnecessary—does still fall into that camp. Her POV is that Apple is a company that prides itself on making stable stuff that works and doesn’t require that level of hands-on diagnosing and caressing. If even with Apple gear she still needs to get that involved, she might as well hand her money to somebody else next time, because bottom line, this ordeal happened to her on iOS.

I know ultimately she’s not switching, because she’s smart and she knows she’d get into easily as much trouble with Android, but I 100% get her frustration with iOS after what she just went through.

(frederico) #87

For the most part, I think we are saying almost exactly the same thing; I’m very much still out of it, so if it’s me beating the horse, my apologies.

— I still would rather start from October (or whatever is the last useable backup) rather than scratch based on the sheer volume of work you describe.

— I would seek other tools at a reasonable cost (cf. Backup Extractor, assorted duplicate resolving tools) to facilitate filling in the gaps, rather than abuse my brain and blood pressure for what you describe as literally days of effort.

— You’re right, Apple should flag and alert on backup gaps, just like they do with Time Machine.

— Sadly, the iTunes team is probably the worst division inside Apple; and if it hasn’t happened in over a decade of iOS backups, it’s not likely to ever happen.

— Apple frequently leaves holes for third parties to fill; whether this is good or bad is irrelevant; it is a fact we have to assess and respond to.

— I took a quick look at the backup info.plist and status.plist; it would be fairly simple to script a daily monitor and alert system for gaps; I can build one or hand you a starter script, as you wish.

— iMazing offers automatic incremental backups for up to one year; I can’t tell if it alerts on gaps or not, but the vendor is very responsive to feature requests.

— nothing listed above will directly address a corrupted source; only a validated backup preserved in some manner will fully protect you to that date only. (Perhaps iMazing’s incremental backup system is immune to this.)

— even the best technology fails; syncing is a particularly difficult animal to tame, and I suspect this happens far more frequently on all platforms more than we could even imagine, but the level of loss and the volume of fury is limited to Twitter and Facebook (one they wipe and restore their device from scratch).



(Simon) #88

Thanks,@frederico. Really appreciate the insight and experience you brought to this thread. :slight_smile:

(Seth Anderson) #89

yes, thanks for this discussion, I learned a lot from it, even though my syncing issues (knock on wood) have disappeared since I bought an iPhone X. I know I filed 20 or more bug reports in the various iOS betas (iOS 9-10-11, not iOS 12) with issues with syncing, who knows if it helped or not.

I should also have a copy of iMazing around just in case.

(Phil Seymour) #90

I haven’t encountered any of the problems with my 6SE iPhone files from backing up or transferring files to and from apps using my MacBook Pro or iMac. This is because I stopped updating to the latest iOS and MacOS. They are poorly coded and tend to leave out features that I use on a daily basis, (like backing up my iPhone). I haven’t read about any new features that I would ever use that would compel me to risk losing the functionality
of my Apple equipment. That is my solution to the shoddy coding in the updates.

(Dennis Swaney) #91

Simon, have you received the “iTunes Device Support Update” that came out this week?I wonder if it will help you.

(Simon) #92

Haven’t installed it yet on my wife’s MBP. I did install it on my MBP and there I can still sync. But then again, I never had those issues. It was her old SE that could no longer sync with her MBP. In the meantime she’s on a new SE with a brand new setup so I’m not sure about testing her old iPhone with her iTunes after the Device Update.