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I am trying to extract some data from an old iPhone backup which I have on iCloud. I am looking for a good way to do this. I have two options in mind, neither of which will work well for me:

  1. I could restore the data to an iPhone and then manually extract it, but unfortunately I don't have a second iPhone to do this on. Doing this on my main iPhone would disrupt my workflow.

  2. I could use one of the myriad tools made for Mac or PC which have the purpose of extracting data from your iCloud backup. However, I am very wary of giving my Apple ID away to a third party (you usually need to log into iCloud through this app).

So, is there a way to do it which does not have these pitfalls? I'm thinking of a way to download the iCloud backup to my computer, using a third party to extract the local data (in this way I don't need to give my password away), and then obtaining the data. However, I do not know of a way to download an iCloud backup into anything other than when setting up an iPhone after it's been restored.

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If you don't want to use a third-party tool for an iCloud download, the only canonical Apple way is through a reset and restore.

As you say, it'd interrupt your workflow, but depending on the size of the backups involved you might be able to get it done in an hour. The greatest consequence of doing this is that you'd have to reauthenticate most apps on your device after restoring your backup.

Using iTunes backups as part of the switcheroo would make this as fast as possible, and you'd do something like this:

  1. Use iTunes to back up your iPhone. (An iTunes backup will be fastest. Make sure it's an encrypted backup, as the unencrypted ones don't include everything.)

  2. Back up your encrypted backup, or move it temporarily onto your desktop. It'll be in one of these folders.

  3. Erase your iPhone. Settings > General > Reset > Erase All Content and Settings.

  4. Restore the iCloud backup that you want to examine to it.

  5. Back up the newly restored phone with iTunes. (This will overwrite your earlier iTunes backup, as it's the same device. That's why it was important to back it up earlier.)

  6. Move out the restored phone's iTunes backup, and switch your original iTunes backup into the backup folder.

  7. Erase and restore your phone from the original iTunes backup so that you're back to where you started. Log back into your assorted apps on the phone.

Step 5 will have created an iTunes backup of the iCloud backup data you want to examine. You'll then be able to examine that with a bit of hacking around, or use of a third party tool. Good luck. As someone who built the first iPhone backup tool (and later, iCloud backup tool), I'd say it's important to choose the tool you use carefully!

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