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I have an old iPhone 3G I'd like to repurpose. I've got some apps on it which work fine, but the current versions in the App Store won't run on a device this old. How can I back up the phone and the apps on it in such a way that I can restore and continue using those apps?

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  • Did you sync your phone via iTunes to your computer before?
    – nohillside
    Sep 19, 2014 at 7:24
  • Not this computer. See my answer for a more detailed writeup, though.
    – archbishop
    Nov 16, 2014 at 7:41

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I eventually figured out a solution. iTunes has an option to back up apps from the phone, which is called "Transfer Purchases". It moves around in every version of iTunes, but it should be there. Because I was using an iTunes installation associated with a newer iPhone as well, I had newer, incompatible versions of apps already downloaded, so transferring would not overwrite them with an older version.

In order to transfer the apps, I created a new user account on my mac, authorized it with my apple id, and then I was able to transfer purchases off the iPhone 3G to this new account. To be safe, I then copied the files out of the iTunes Media folder, just to ensure that I won't accidentally do something in iTunes to destroy these files.

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