Protecting Your iDevice User Data and Settings - The Unauthorized Guide to iPhone, iPad, and iPod Repair (2013)

The Unauthorized Guide to iPhone, iPad, and iPod Repair (2013)

Chapter 3. Protecting Your iDevice User Data and Settings

Have you ever brought in an iDevice (or a computer, for that matter) to a repair center for service? It is a vulnerable feeling, isn’t it? After all, not everyone is as rigorous about backing up our data as you and I are. “What will happen to my stuff?” appears to be the most common fear of the customer.

As a Do-It-Yourself (DIY) iDevice technician you need to be ultra-mindful of the user’s environment on their iDevices. In general, human beings detest change, and most iOS device users don’t want anything to mess with their accustomed methods for getting from point A to point B on their devices.

This chapter describes the basic mechanics of iDevice backup and restoration. I cover only full-device restores in this chapter. Later in the book I explain how to selectively recover data from an iDevice. Let’s get started!

What Exactly Do You Need to Back Up?

According to the Apple Support article “About iOS Backups” (, backups created with iTunes or iCloud include the following data from iPod touches, iPhones, and iPads:

Image Purchased music

Image Purchased TV shows

Image Purchased iBooks books

Image Purchased apps

Image Photos and videos in the Camera Roll

Image Device settings (Phone Favorites, Wallpaper, and Mail, Contacts, Calendar accounts)

Image App data

Image Home screen and app organization

Image Messages (iMessage, SMS, and MMS)

Image Ringtones

The basic guideline for iDevice backups is “if you bought it from Apple, it’s backed up.” If you delete an app from your iDevice, for instance, you can always freely re-download it from the Apple Store.

That said, you need to consider the data that is not included in an iTunes or iCloud backup. This data falls into the following two categories:

Image eBooks that you sideloaded into iBooks

Image Media (audio, video, and documents) that you added to your iTunes library manually

Note: A Little Geekology

Sideloading refers to placing your own eBook content into iBooks or another eReader application. For instance, you can sideload eBooks formatted in the ePub or Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF) into the Apple iBooks app.

In order to protect your own iTunes library content on your iDevice, you must perform a synchronization (or sync) with iTunes, using either the USB cable or Wi-Fi.

Backing Up an iDevice by Using iTunes 11

In this book we assume that your iDevices run iOS 6 and that your PC or Mac runs iTunes 11. I understand that the 1st generation iPad can’t run iOS 6, but I want these instructions to apply as universally as possible.

As you know, you can synchronize the content of your iDevice with iTunes software in one of two ways:

Image Tethering with the USB cable

Image Wi-Fi sync

Technically, synchronization and a backup are two different operations. However, the first step of an iTunes content synchronization is a backup. Synchronization pertains to your media libraries, which embraces your music, videos, podcasts, ringtones, and photos.

To perform a manual backup of your iDevice, ensure that the device is plugged in via the USB cable and appears in the iTunes device list. Next, perform the following steps:

1. In iTunes 11, make sure that you are in Library view as opposed to the iTunes Store view.

2. Select your iDevice using the top navigation bar.

3. On the Summary page, click Back Up Now. This is shown in Figure 3.1.


FIGURE 3.1 Performing a manual iDevice backup in iTunes.

Tip: Syncing Wirelessly

If your PC or Mac is on the same network as your iDevice then you can enable Wi-Fi sync and ditch the USB cable.

To set up your iDevice for Wi-Fi sync and backup, plug in your iDevice to your host computer, fire up iTunes, and perform the following steps:

1. In iTunes 11, navigate to your device as we described in the previous procedure. I’ve shown you the new iDevice navigation structure in iTunes 11 in Figure 3.2.


FIGURE 3.2 The new device navigation structure in iTunes 11.

2. On the Summary page, select Sync with this <iDevice type> over Wi-Fi. You can see this option in Figure 3.1.

Thereafter, you can initiate a manual Wi-Fi sync by navigating to Settings, General, iTunes Wi-Fi Sync on your iDevice and tapping Sync Now.

Where Are the Backup Files Stored?

You can review your iTunes-based backups directly from within iTunes. Follow these steps:

1. In iTunes 11, click iTunes > Preferences (OS X) or Control menu > Preferences (Windows). Incidentally, the “Control menu” in Windows is in the upper-left corner of the iTunes application window; yes, I realize that it is very difficult to find the menu intuitively.

2. In the Devices Preferences dialog box, navigate to Devices.

3. You can review all iDevice backups here. Hover your mouse over an entry to view metadata about your iDevice. The metadata includes your phone number, the IMEI, the MEID, and device serial number. This dialog box is shown in Figure 3.3.


FIGURE 3.3 Metadata about your iDevice.

If you are brave, you can also locate the compressed, encrypted iTunes backup archives on our host’s computer’s file system. The default backup location depends upon your operating system:

Note: Viewing Hidden Files

In both OS X and Windows, you need to configure the computer to show hidden files in order to view iTunes backup sets from within the OS X Finder or Windows Explorer, respectively.

Image In OS X 10.7 Mountain Lion, iTunes backups are stored in ~/Library/Application Support/MobileSync/Backup. (Incidentally, the tilde [~] represents the currently logged-on user’s home directory.)

Image In Microsoft Windows 7 and Windows 8, iTunes backups are stored in \Users\username\AppData\Roaming\Apple Computer\MobileSync\Backup.

Figure 3.4 shows the contents of an iTunes backup directory on an OS X host computer.


FIGURE 3.4 Contents of the iTunes backup folder on a Mac.

Observe that the raw backup files are named in an intentionally cryptic manner. Moreover, you can’t simply delve into the backup archives from the host operating system and make much of any sense of their contents. For all intents and purposes, iTunes is your only practical method for leveraging these backup archives.

The good news is that you can back up these archives, move them to another host computer, and restore the data to your iDevice on that second computer. I cover that procedure in Chapter 18, “Recovering Data from Your Broken iDevice,” which examines emergency data recovery.

Backing Up an iDevice by Using iCloud

iCloud is Apple’s wonderful cloud-based storage and computing service. With iCloud you can transparently store your iDevice data on one of Apple’s servers and almost completely break your connection to iTunes. (You still need iTunes to manage your media libraries, however).

To configure your iDevice to back up to iCloud, perform the following actions:

1. Using Figure 3.5 as your guide, simply select iCloud instead of This Computer for the Automatically Back Up option.


FIGURE 3.5 Getting iDevice usage data from iTunes 11.

2. To initiate a manual backup, click Back Up Now.

Note: How Much Space Is Left?

iTunes 11 gives you a nice interactive graphic at the bottom of the iDevice Summary page that shows you how space is being consumed in your iDevice. Hover your mouse over a color-coded block to get the details. I show you this interface element in Figure 3.5.

When you’re set up with iCloud, your iDevice performs an automatic backup every 24 hours so long as your iDevice meets the following conditions:

Image It’s connected to Internet over Wi-Fi

Image It’s connected to a power source

Image Its screen is locked

You can perform a manual iCloud backup of your iDevice by navigating to Settings, iCloud, Storage & Backup and tapping Back Up Now.

Backing Up an iDevice Manually

Historically, Apple has allowed an iDevice to synchronize with one and only one computer. If you, for instance, attempt to sync an iDevice with a second computer then you receive the scary message box shown in Figure 3.6.


FIGURE 3.6 iTunes warning seen when you try to sync your iDevice with a second host computer.

If you proceed then the iDevice’s content is wiped clean. This isn’t desirable if, for example, you want to back up a customer’s iDevice content (with their permission, of course) before undertaking repair work.

You can turn to third-party utilities that enable you to circumvent the one-computer limitation; I cover those tools in more detail in Chapter 18. At that time I also show you the mechanics of manual iDevice backup and restore.

In summary, if you have any choice in the matter, using iCloud or iTunes is by far the preferred way to back up your iDevice’s data.

Restoring an iDevice by Using iTunes 11

The main problem with performing a full iDevice restore is the requirement that you be either within USB cable range or on the same Wi-Fi network as the PC or Mac with which you’ve synced the libraries.

Given that significant limitation, however, follow these steps to restore your iDevice by using iTunes:

1. In iTunes, navigate to the Summary page for your target iDevice.

2. In the Backups area, click Restore Backup.

3. In the Restore Backup dialog box, select your desired backup set from the drop-down list and click Restore. This dialog box is shown in Figure 3.7.


FIGURE 3.7 Restoring an iDevice by using iTunes.

Restoring an iDevice by Using iCloud

Speaking candidly (and have you known me to speak in any other way thus far in this book?), Apple has some work to do in terms of making iCloud-based restores more user friendly.

As it is, the only way to do an iCloud restore is to set up your iDevice as a brand-new device. Well, that works fine if you just purchased a new iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch. However, what if you need to reset your current device to its state as of its last iCloud backup? Here’s the procedure:

1. On your iDevice, navigate to Settings, General, Reset, and tap Reset All Settings.

2. When the iDevice reboots, step through the configuration wizard. When you reach the Setup page, shown in Figure 3.8, be sure to specify Restore from iCloud Backup.


FIGURE 3.8 Restoring an iDevice from an iCloud backup.

Jailbreaking and Unlocking iDevices

To wrap up this chapter I’m briefly covering two popular iDevice hacks: jailbreaking and unlocking. Some newbies to Apple mobile devices confuse these two terms. They represent fundamentally different approaches to iDevice modification, although both of them enable you to customize an iDevice to meet your individual needs more closely.

What Is Jailbreaking?

In order to ensure a consistent user experience and minimize the possibility of a customer lousing up her iDevice, Apple configures its iOS operating system software in such a way that the customer never has full (root) access to the device.

Thus, jailbreaking refers to the application of code exploits that enable the user to circumvent Apple’s built in firmware protections and gain root access to the iDevice’s file system.

When iDevice enthusiasts released the first jailbreak exploits, Apple used legal means to fight back, citing intellectual property theft. However—and this is important—jailbreaking was upheld by a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) exception ruling in 2010. Therefore, it is within your legal right to jailbreak your iDevice.

However—and this is equally important—Apple countered the DMCA ruling by stating that jailbreaking invalidates your Apple Hardware Warranty and AppleCare plan.

Here’s the money quote from Apple Support Document HT3743 (; the emphasis in the following extract is mine):

Apple strongly cautions against installing any software that hacks the iOS. It is also important to note that unauthorized modification of the iOS is a violation of the iPhone end-user license agreement and because of this, Apple may deny service for an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch that has installed any unauthorized software.

The Apple Hardware Warranty has the following to say on the subject:

This Warranty does not apply to an Apple Product that has been modified to alter functionality or capability without the written permission of Apple.

For completeness, the following extract is from the AppleCare+ Terms and Conditions contract:

The Plan does not apply to an iPhone with a serial number that has been altered, defaced or removed, or has been modified to alter its functionality or capability without the written permission of the manufacturer.

Pros of Jailbreaking

All of this background information on jailbreaking is academic, however. The main advantages that jailbreaking your iOS device offers you are as follows:

Image You can install non-Apple Store apps: As you may know, iOS apps must be submitted to Apple for approval before they are allowed to be listed and sold in the Apple Store. Thus, Apple has the final say whether such-and-so app becomes publicly available. By contrast, jailbroken iDevices can use Cydia, an alternative app storefront, to download and purchase apps that greatly expand the functionality of your iDevices (see Figure 3.9).


FIGURE 3.9 The Cydia alternative app store for jailbroken iDevices.

Image You can deeply personalize your iDevice: Go to your local shopping mall and spend some time people-watching. You’ll observe that it appears almost everyone using a smartphone is holding an iPhone—the devices are that popular. Without jailbreaking, the only way to personalize your iDevice is to purchase a custom case or cover. Jailbreaking completely unlocks the firmware of your device such that you can dramatically change the device’s look and feel. A good example of this customization lies in what is called theming, an example of which is shown inFigure 3.10.


FIGURE 3.10 A heavily themed jailbroken iPhone.

Image The risk of bricking your iDevice is low: Perhaps the biggest fear people have of jailbreaking their iDevices is the idea that the process is irreversible (it is not), or that if something goes wrong their iDevices will be rendered permanently inoperable. I’ve been involved in jailbreaking since the iPhone 3GS, and I have never encountered a single case of a bricked iDevice. In a worst-case scenario, you have to perform a firmware and user data restore. I already covered the importance of regularly backing up your iDevice, so this fear is largely unfounded.

“But what if I have to bring my jailbroken iDevice to the Apple Store for warranty service?” you might ask. “Will the tech at the Genius Bar be able to tell I’ve jailbroken the device?”

The answer to this question is simple: Your warranty repair should proceed just fine as long as you can restore the firmware of your iDevice prior to submitting the device to the Apple Store. The only problem you might encounter is if you show up at an Apple Store with a still-jailbroken device. In this case, you are almost guaranteed to be denied service.

Cons of Jailbreaking

The chief arguments against jailbreaking are relatively minor in impact, actually. Let’s review them one at a time:

Image You will generally be required to lag behind in iOS version: When Apple releases a new version of the iOS, it obviously takes the jailbreaking community a while to figure out a new way to exploit the operating system kernel code and render a safe and reliable jailbreak. In practice this means that most of the time you need to be content with running a slightly earlier version of the iOS that has a jailbreak developed for it.

Image Apple makes iOS downgrading very difficult: Let’s say you want to jailbreak your iPhone 4S that currently runs iOS 6. However, because an iOS 6 jailbreak isn’t yet available, you decide to downgrade your firmware to iOS 5.1. Will this succeed? Yes, but only if you saved your Signature Hash (SHSH) blob from the previous iOS version. An SHSH blob is essentially an authorization ticket for a particular iOS version. Unless you use a third party app like Tiny Umbrella ( or Cydia ( to save your blobs, you won’t be able to downgrade to an earlier iOS version; it’s as simple and unfortunate as that. To further complicate things, Apple invalidates older SHSH blobs at an alarming rate, so in some cases even having a backed-up blob won’t enable you to downgrade. Apple exerts tight control over its software as well as its hardware—has that fact been made abundantly clear to you yet?

Image You might be required to do tethered booting: The two main types of iOS jailbreaks are tethered and non-tethered. Tethered jailbreaks require that you connect your iDevice to your host computer via USB cable in order to start up or reboot the device. This means that if you need to reboot your iDevice while you are on the road then you are out of luck. Naturally, the preferred jailbreak method is untethered, which means you can shut down and start up your iDevice any old time and retain the device’s jailbroken status. In my experience, initial jailbreaks for a new iOS version are almost always tethered, which ties in to the aforementioned disadvantage of having to run an earlier iOS version to gain your freedom.

Unfortunately, we do not have the white space in this book to cover iOS jailbreaking in more detail. Instead, I recommend that you read the article series on the subject I put together for Que Publishing:

Image “iOS Jailbreaking 101 Part 1: Understanding Jailbreaking” (

Image “iOS Jailbreaking 101 Part 2: Ensuring Your Device’s (and Your Data’s)” Safety (

Image “iOS Jailbreaking 101 Part 3: Jailbreaking Your iOS Device” (

Image “iOS Jailbreaking 101 Part 4: Making the Most of Your Jailbroken iOS Device” (

What Is Unlocking?

By default, iPhones are bound to a particular wireless carrier. You can visit the Apple website ( to obtain a comprehensive list of authorized cellular carriers. In the United States, AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint are the three main players in the mobile carrier service arena.

What this proprietary locking means for us, the customers, is that we cannot (again, by default) register an AT&T iPhone that is attached to the Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) cellular network to another GSM provider such as T-Mobile. The same rule applies for Verizon or Sprint iPhones that employ the Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) carrier network.

The good news is that both AT&T as well as Verizon offer authorized iPhone unlocking.

Note: Authorized Carriers

Please see Apple’s list of authorized wireless carriers ( to see if your mobile carrier offers authorized unlocking.

The following is the basic procedure for performing an authorized unlock:

1. Ensure that your current wireless contract has expired (or you’ve paid your early termination fee).

2. Back up your iPhone.

3. Erase the contents of your iPhone.

4. Swap the old SIM card with the one for the new carrier.

5. Complete the iPhone Setup Assistant and restore your backup from iTunes or iCloud.

Incidentally, the Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) card lies at the heart of carrier unlocking. The SIM is a tiny integrated circuit (IC) module that (a) is tied to a particular wireless carrier and (b) contains your subscriber information and possibly your cell phone contacts list.

Specifically, this “subscriber information” consists of the following data elements:

Image International Mobile Subscriber Identity (IMSI)

Image Security authentication and ciphering data

Image Carrier services to which the user has access

Image Personal identification number (PIN)

Image Contacts

You can see the AT&T SIM card from my iPhone 4S in Figure 3.11.


FIGURE 3.11 iPhone 4S SIM card and tray.