I installed iOS 5 on my wife's iPhone 3GS about 3 weeks ago. When the process was over, she was missing her apps. I reinstalled these from the App Store via the Purchased section. However, she was missing data from her apps. At the time, it didn't seem like a big deal, because her emails were still on the server. Over the past few weeks, however, it has become more of a pain, from the trivial (lost Angry Bird levels) to the more major (lost appointments).

So, if I was to connect the iPhone up to the computer from which iOS 5 was installed, I'm thinking I could restore the data. However, I'm afraid that if I did so it would erase any data accumulated over the past 3 weeks.

So I have two questions

a) If I restore data on the iPhone from a few weeks ago, will it indeed erase data that has been accumulated since then? Is there a way to merge data?

b) Is there a way to restore data for only particular apps?

The end goal is to somehow retrieve all the data from before the iOS 5 updateand the data since the update.

1 Answer 1


The sad and short answer is No.

  1. Restoring to an old backup will erase any data accumulated on the phone in the meantime. There is no way to merge backups or such.
  2. App-specific restores are possible for apps which offer some sort of cloud support. So if she is syncing her contacts with iCloud or Google they should still be here after the restore.

However, the long answer is maybe.

First, make a list of the programs where you do want to attempt to merge or replace her data. You will need to rename the current device so the backup is saved, then restore the device to get at the old data. At that point you can extract the "old" data to a computer. Then you would restore the "new" backup and merge the data back for each case where you could get it onto a computer.

You can see how this is tedious, prone to error, and requires you to learn the specifics of each app where you want to get your data. All great things to know, but you have to balance it against the time it would take you to simple re-create the data in the first place.

This also serves as the perfect use case for iCloud backup. In this case, you would never have not restored the backup since the cloud is so much more accessible than a computer and a USB cable.

  • Angry Birds used to store the game settings in a file that you can use a utility like PhoneView to read onto the computer.

I would say - once you have a list of the apps you want to "pick" - come back and ask that single question - how can I access the saved game levels for game X and people here will step up if it's an easy google search or they know how to get that one file off the device.

  • Ok, that's a very strong "maybe". Backup shouldn't be encrypted for this, correct?
    – nohillside
    Nov 4, 2011 at 19:28
  • 1
    The benefit of using PhoneView is it reads the files from the device - not the backup. If you have chosen to encrypt backups that also encrypts the data on the device. So PhoneView asks you for the password before it can read the device. I have used this to move Angry Birds scores for friends several times. Not all apps are as easy as that game to move settings so I hedged the bet with a "maybe" since many people don't want or care to get that deep into storage...
    – bmike
    Nov 6, 2011 at 2:19

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