Today my mother was going to upgrade from the iPhone 4 to the iPhone 4S, so, naturally, I backed up her iPhone so that she could restore from it when we came back with her new one. As I know that backing up through syncing can be problematic, I backed up by right-clicked on the iPhone and clicking "back up". I did this multiple times (to both the computer and to iCloud) and each finished successfully without error, as it said "Last restored: 12:05" for both.

So when I was setting up the new iPhone (on the phone itself), I signed into her Apple ID account (which was successful) and chose "Restore from iCloud" and it said "No backups available".

I thought that was odd, so I selected "Restore from iTunes" and went onto iTunes. There are NO backups available for her iPhone ("Jackie's iPhone"). NONE. Not even the older ones which were there the other day! All of mine are there ("Ben's iPhone") for the past year or so and NOTHING ELSE. In this situation everyone always says that iTunes has simply lost track of the backups and that they're still in the filing system. Next, I went to "%UserProfile%\AppData\Roaming\Apple Computer\MobileSync\Backup" and they aren't there either.. So, I enabled hidden folders, hidden protected Operating System files and checked my Recycle Bin (which hasn't been emptied for days) and there is NO trace that they were ever there. The amount of folders in MobileSync\Backup perfectly match the amount of Restore options in iTunes..

How has this happened? I've restored her iPhone from her backups before without issue. How could they have disappeared?

I set up the iPhone as a new phone, signed in to iCloud and reviewed the settings and it seems that iCloud backup was never enabled and no iCloud space has been used. I don't know whether this is only disabled because it's a newly setup phone and it's a per-device setting or what, but it could potentially explain the lack of iCloud backups. Also, when I went to sign into iCloud in Settings (after a complete restore to factory settings and basic configuration) my personal email address, not hers, was already in the login field, despite me never having entered it in the setup process at all. Something weird's going on here..

iPhone: 4
iOS: 5.0.1
Jailbroken State: Never
Operating System: Windows 7 Ultimate, x64

  • We had a question earlier today where iCloud held iOS 5.0.1 backups that were invisible on an iPhone with only iOS 5.0. It wouldn't explain the lack of backups on your PC, but have you updated the new phone to the latest iOS and looked to restore again? iCloud backup from old 4s to new 4s
    – bmike
    Mar 4, 2012 at 0:30
  • It was on iOS 5 and is now on iOS 5.0.1 (the latest). Could restoring a phone to factory settings somehow tell iTunes to wipe all traces of it? :S And I've restored twice already. No joy. Mar 4, 2012 at 1:44
  • No - this is highly unusual. You should be able to get phone or web support from Apple on the iCloud backups. Assuming the "new" phone is new, then all setup assistance is free - call them or head to a store might be your best bet. Did you toggle the "backup to iCloud / backup to computer" switch in iTunes when you were backing up?
    – bmike
    Mar 4, 2012 at 1:47

4 Answers 4


I don't have a great answer - but this is fairly serious so I'm going to start an answer and hope someone else edits or answers if they can spot something I haven't.

On the computer, the only "red flag" would be if you wiped the phone of all content and settings, named it exactly the same name as it was before (which could be iPhone) and then backed up again and overwrote the backup with the actual data. iTunes tries hard to prevent this and spawn off a date-protected backup when it detects this, but I've seen this check fail and people lose backups from time to time. The remedy here is to restore the PC from a backup that has whatever MobileSync folder is the most recent.

On iCloud - you also shouldn't be able to overwrite a "full" backup with an empty one. Also, iCloud explicitly keeps several versions of the backups going back in roughly day intervals. It also normally stores backups for different devices without collisions or overwriting another backup.

The good news on iCloud is you can always get help from Apple at http://www.apple.com/support/icloud/ and from retail stores. New devices or ones covered by Apple Care also have phone or web support in most countries. All new Apple products have a 90 day window of set up help. Hopefully one of these can step in and assist. Not only does Apple get a data point where their tools let you down (and exactly what circumstances this happened) - they also see many people in this situation and will hopefully waste a minimum of your time getting this sorted.

  • Upon further inspection of Settings, it seems that iCloud Backup was never enabled on the phone. But this is why I backed up to both the computer and iCloud (and yes, I did toggle the radio buttons). But I'm still baffled about the computer backup.. Mar 4, 2012 at 9:23
  • Also, I named it "iPhone" the second time around. Mar 4, 2012 at 9:32

I have the same problem I have ios 5.1 I went to the apple store to get a new phone cause mine was defective hit restore and nothing was there. However if I set it up new I see the backup there I called apple they said they don't know what's going on so they will investigate I paid to get extra storage I lost all my babies pics I'm upset hope apple fixes it.


Ok guys I figured it out. If anyone has the problem where u get a new phone you wanna restore from ICloud backup and it says no backups available. Then you call apple senior rep and he can't help. Setup your iPhone as new iPhone or whatever you have. Then go to iCloud in settings if you see your old backup that you were trying to get to from the restore screen do this backup your new iPhone it should replace the existing backup. Once you back that up go to reset in settings erase all settings then try it again restore from ICloud backup and you should see it there I was here all day trying to figure this out hope it helps someone.


The backups were unrecoverable. Fortunately I had manually copied her entire Camera Roll into a folder for an anniversary project a few months earlier and all of her contacts were in iCloud (not included in the backup).

There was no fix. Question closed.

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