I just upgraded my iPhone 3G from iOS 3.1.3 to 4.2.1.

  • Backed everything up (8 hours)
  • Downloaded the update (1 hour)
  • Installed the update, and restored everything (1 hour)

Everything looks like it worked… EXCEPT that now, all my email is gone.

I have three questions:

  1. How could it restore all my contacts, settings, apps, all email settings, all email boxes, everything… and only skip my email?

  2. Where did my email go?

  3. How do I get my email back?

migrated from superuser.com Feb 7 '11 at 21:35

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  • 2
    What sort of email accounts do you have? POP? IMAP? Exchange? Gmail? Are you syncing your phone with a Mac or a Windows PC? What (if any) mail program do you use? Apple Mail? Outlook? Thunderbird? Entourage? – CajunLuke Feb 7 '11 at 21:39

Email is not included in the backups according to this apple support page. This probably makes sense as you would normally have a copy on a server whereas with SMS, MMS etc you wouldn't necessarily have a copy on the server. So the answer to where is your email gone is it gets wiped by the backup process.

To get your email back you should be able to just go into your email accounts and click the circular arrow button to refresh or if you're setup for push mail then it should sync automatically. You can take a look in Settings > Mail, Contacts, Calendars for your mail accounts which should still be there. If they're not syncing try turning the mail off and back on in one of the account setting screens.


Unfortunately "back up" does not mean "back up everything". (You think it would... but it doesn't. Not sure why Apple thinks you want to lose 1000s of emails... but you will. Instantly and without any warning.)

Your only choices are based on 2 things that its already too late for you to change:

If you "kept email on server"... you can have it resent to your phone. (Unfortunately, you will also get 1000s of email you do NOT want. Ugh.)

If you didn't "keep email on server"... you lost everything.

Kind of odd that "backing up" CAUSES you to have a massive data-loss. But unfortunately, some non-thinking people at Apple do it that way.

Not sure why "back up my email" would have been so impossible for Apple to do. (Or at least give you the choice. I'm pretty sure nearly everyone would say "YES, KEEP MY EMAIL".)

Or, at least the back-up process should say in huge letters: "You are about to lose 100% of your email." Before you start. (No, you have to later read about it buried in the docs somewhere.)

I would imagine if enough people contacted Apple about this "feature" they might do something about it.

  • Always opt to "keep email on server". Why wouldn't you? – CajunLuke Feb 8 '11 at 18:02
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    Why would you want private info kept on the server for years? I want my email on my PC harddrive or iPhone only.... as soon as possible. NOT on some server that I have no control over. – user3450 Feb 8 '11 at 18:07

I had the same problem when i first upgraded from 3.1 to 4.0 -- my emails were gone.

In that case, it was a problem with the download of the .ipsw file from Apple. It seems that it is possible that the downloaded .ipsw file is corrupted (i'm not sure if there is anything that checks the integrity of the file, as happens with .zip for example).

Here's how i fixed it:

  1. Deleted the .ipsw file from my computer (i think it should be iPhone1,2_4.2.1_8C148_Restore.ipsw for the 3G, but it should certainly be something like that).
  2. Restored the phone to my last 3.1.3 backup
  3. Started the upgrade process again, with iTunes downloading a fresh copy of the .ipsw file

Some people recommend downloading the .ipsw file separately, and using that to upgrade, but i'd try the automatic iTunes route first.

After i upgraded a second time, everything was where i expected it.

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