I have been using Anki for studying. Somehow, all its files disappeared from my MacBook Pro (either that or Migration Assistant failed to copy them from the old machine). I can't find them in Time Machine, either!

But they are still on the iPad. The iPad app does its own backups periodically, but they do not include images and audio. Is there a way to get at them in the iPad backups?

  • I use iExplorer to access files on my iPad/iPhone I usually cannot get to by other means. There is a free trial I think. If it does work, consider purchasing the app for future use. Note: no financial or other connection to Macroplant LLC.
    – IconDaemon
    Oct 22, 2021 at 12:11
  • I used that at one time to recover audio files. Turned out nearly useless: either IOS or iExplorer changed all the filenames to four capital letters, no extension. Only way to really restore would be to listen to each one and hope you remember the name. Although some of them would have clues in the ID3v2 tags. I figured out how to retrieve tham from the backups, but it's a messy process. I'll write it up and post it soon.
    – WGroleau
    Oct 22, 2021 at 15:49

2 Answers 2


The following instructions work on macOS 11.6 and other recent versions (see warnings at end):

In Finder, with the iPad (or iPhone) attached, select the device.

Click "Manage Backups"

In the selected backup directory, open "Manifest.db" in sqlite3 or in a GUI SQLite browser you've installed from the App Store.

UPDATE: In Ventura, right-click on the backup and select "Show in Finder."  I can't answer for OS versions 11.7–13.1.  Unfortunately, Apple has changed the way it stores backup files so that neither the iPad filenames nor the backup filenames appear in that table.  Apparently, Apple decided to protect us from ourselves by obfuscating everything.  The Files.fileID contains strings of 41 hex digits and the backup contains filenames that are 41 hex digits, but the filenames are not the strings in the table.  Files.file contains strings of 800-900 hex digits.

select distinct domain from Files; and find the domain for the app you want to get files from.

Get a list of all that app’s files with

select fileID, relativePath 
from Files 
where "domain" is "AppDomain";

(substitute the domain you identified)

The first column, fileID, is the name of the backed up file in a subdirectory of the backup.  Its parent directory is named by the first two characters of the fileID.  The second column is the filename on the iPad or iPhone.

Edit the results into a script to get the files where you want them on your laptop.  Or if you only want a few files, use the results to navigate in Finder.


  • If you don't understand the above, you might not want to tamper with the mobile backup. I do understand it, and yet I still trashed mine and had to restore it from Time Machine.
  • Something similar should work in other versions of macOS.

I figured out a not-very-fun way to do it in Ventura (at least with some file types).

  1. In Finder, with the iPhone/iPad plugged in, select the device, General, and click "Manage Backups"
  2. Right-click, Show in Finder
  3. Make a COPY of the backup directory and cd into the copy
  4. file */* > tempfile
  5. Look in tempfile for files of the type you want.

From here, what to do depends on the file type. For example, I was looking for VoiceMemos, which are audio files …

  1. grep -i audio tempfile | awk '{print $1}' > tempfile-2
  2. perl -p -i -e 's^:^^g;' tempfile-2
  3. mkdir candidate_files
  4. mv $(cat temple-2) candidate_files
  5. cd candidate_files; exiftool -csv * > tempfile.csv

Open the CSV file and look for clues in the Metadata.  For example, I had some files where the Encoder was iTunes or VoiceMemos.  Some files had Titles, or Album, or Artist. All had Duration, Format, Dates & Times.  And so on.

REMINDER: Do all this in a COPY of your device backup!!

  • Where is tempfile.csv coming from?
    – nohillside
    Nov 17 at 14:58
  • From exiftool. Typo corrected.
    – WGroleau
    Nov 17 at 21:30

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