iOS devices don't consistently backup during sync

sandman42

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Original poster
Oct 23, 2003
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Seattle
There must be threads on this already, but I didn't find any.

Ever since I installed iOS5, my devices (iPad and iPhone 4 previously, now 4S) don't automatically back up to iTunes when I do a sync (wireless or wired), unless I control-click them in "Devices" and select "Back Up". Prior to iOS 5 they would always backup during a sync. Is there a setting I'm missing? What changed?
 

DefBref

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Feb 26, 2011
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are you using icloud for backup? If you are that prevent automatic backup during sync.
 

sandman42

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Original poster
Oct 23, 2003
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Seattle
No, "Back up to this computer" is selected, not "Back up to iCloud", for all devices.
 

Kanunu

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Apr 18, 2009
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Hawaii
Is there a time stamp on it?

My iPad seems to fully back up only on the first sync of the day. Subsequent syncs are either skipped or very short. I think there is a time stamp and later syncs only back up significant changes. This system seems fine with me. Look for the backup file and see how the date changes during the period you monitor. You can find the date in Preferences>Devices.
 

sandman42

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Original poster
Oct 23, 2003
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Seattle
Yes there is a time stamp. When I select either device in iTunes, it will show "last backed up to this computer on xxxx", and the date can be days in the past, even right after a sync on any given day.
 

01jamcon

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Jul 24, 2006
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London
Yes there is a time stamp. When I select either device in iTunes, it will show "last backed up to this computer on xxxx", and the date can be days in the past, even right after a sync on any given day.
Hmm, I've noticed as well that it doesn't always do a back up, but I tend to see it doing a back up at least the first time it syncs each day. I think this was introduced because of the wireless sync feature so that it doesn't take forever each time to back up if you just go to charge it (via a dock for example), and just skips straight to syncing.
 

Kanunu

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Apr 18, 2009
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To Create a new backup

Yes there is a time stamp. When I select either device in iTunes, it will show "last backed up to this computer on xxxx", and the date can be days in the past, even right after a sync on any given day.
If you delete the backup you see in preferences then go to the sidebar, right click on the device and do a new backup. It will appear in iTunes>Preferences>Device. Remember this backup does not include your music, videos, or other data, just your settings. That's why I would not worry too much about it. You could probably reset everything the way you want in about 10 minutes anyway.

01Jamcon is probably right about the relationship to the wifi sync feature. The wifi backup takes a long time. If you forget to wire connect, you can just skip the backup by clicking the x circle to the right of the progress bar and skip ahead to the rest of the sync.
 
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sandman42

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Original poster
Oct 23, 2003
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Seattle
Remember this backup does not include your music, videos, or other data, just your settings.
It also includes text messages and the camera roll (though the photos should also be in Photostream now), and any content created within any app. It turns out that the thing that brought this to my attention in the first place was when I had to restore from a backup and I lost some important texts because my last backup was days old.

01Jamcon is probably right about the relationship to the wifi sync feature. The wifi backup takes a long time. If you forget to wire connect, you can just skip the backup by clicking the x circle to the right of the progress bar and skip ahead to the rest of the sync.
So, let me offer an example. This morning (1/7/12) I noticed that my iPhone's last backup was over a week ago, despite numerous syncs, on different days, in the meantime. I connected my phone to the computer (via USB, not wi-fi) and it sync-ed, but still did not back up. After the sync was complete the Backup panel in the summary tab in iTunes still said, "Last backed up to this computer: 12/27/11 xxxx pm", same as before the sync.
 

01jamcon

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Jul 24, 2006
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London
So, let me offer an example. This morning (1/7/12) I noticed that my iPhone's last backup was over a week ago, despite numerous syncs, on different days, in the meantime. I connected my phone to the computer (via USB, not wi-fi) and it sync-ed, but still did not back up. After the sync was complete the Backup panel in the summary tab in iTunes still said, "Last backed up to this computer: 12/27/11 xxxx pm", same as before the sync.
This does appear to be strange. Looking at the Apple support page, it seems that the Apple-sanctioned way of backing up to iTunes seems to be manual only; right click - back up.

However, I have honestly noticed that my iPhone does make a backup roughly once a day when wifi syncing. Having only connected via cable or forced a wireless sync, it did not attempt a backup even though its a new day.

Seems like Apple's changed the automatic backup procedure with the introduction of iCloud and wifi syncing. The only surefire way of backing up via cable is to select it manually.
 

sandman42

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Original poster
Oct 23, 2003
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Seattle
...it seems that the Apple-sanctioned way of backing up to iTunes seems to be manual only; right click - back up.
That does seem to be the way it is. I guess the simple way of stating my problem is that my devices never seem to back up automatically, only when I do it manually.

I'm really disappointed in this change. I liked that previously all I had to do was sync once a day or so and if something happened to my phone/iPad I could restore back to the last time I sync-ed. Now I can restore back to the last time I took the trouble to manually back up, which I have to remember to do frequently if I want it to be effective.

I wonder why they would make this change. The only reason I can think of is that they want to encourage people to use iCloud for backups. Maybe I should. I use it for everything else anyway, but I would like to have the option (and have it work the way it used to).
 

Daveoc64

macrumors 601
Jan 16, 2008
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Bristol, UK
I've also noticed this and I'm disappointed too.

Changing the functionality of something like this without telling the user is pretty serious IMO.
 

DefBref

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Feb 26, 2011
421
6
Whats described in this thread isn't what I experience.

I get:

with icloud sync on: can only backup manually in itunes (as expected)

with icloud sync off: automatic backup happens when I plug the iphone in to the USB.
 

Kanunu

macrumors 6502
Apr 18, 2009
259
2
Hawaii
Sure thing backup steps.

It also includes text messages and the camera roll (though the photos should also be in Photostream now), and any content created within any app. It turns out that the thing that brought this to my attention in the first place was when I had to restore from a backup and I lost some important texts because my last backup was days old.
I forgot about those things because I do not have an iPhone, only iPad so no texts. I am familiar with Camera Roll from helping my ex out with her phone, but from what I can see it is not on the iPad. When there are new photos, the system knows and opens iPhoto so your backup is in effect whatever you download. I opened an app I have rather cumbersomely named "iMacsoft iPad to Mac Transfer.app." It shows a folder named just Camera on my iPad. Maybe this folder is part of the backup but I am not sure of that.

That does seem to be the way it is. I guess the simple way of stating my problem is that my devices never seem to back up automatically, only when I do it manually.

I'm really disappointed in this change. I liked that previously all I had to do was sync once a day or so and if something happened to my phone/iPad I could restore back to the last time I sync-ed. Now I can restore back to the last time I took the trouble to manually back up, which I have to remember to do frequently if I want it to be effective.

I wonder why they would make this change. The only reason I can think of is that they want to encourage people to use iCloud for backups. Maybe I should. I use it for everything else anyway, but I would like to have the option (and have it work the way it used to).
As I said before I am not too concerned about daily backups, but I might be if I had a phone with texts and camera roll. From reading here and experimenting a little I have come to a list of steps that insure a good clean daily backup (assuming MAC version of iTunes):

1) Plug device to your computer using USB cable. You don't want to do this WiFi.

2) Open iTunes if it is not set to open automatically.

3) Open Preferences>Devices. You will see a box with backups listed. If you have more than one device I assume they must differ by name (I have only one device).

4) Highlight the backup for the device and click the delete button. Move out by clicking OK

5) Return to iTunes window and right click on the device (sorry fanboys but I use a standard mouse :)) Click on Backup.

6) Don't pour yourself a coffee, make a new pot. This is going to take a while.

7) When backup is finished you can return to Preferences>Devices to check the backup date.

This all seems rather cumbersome but it will give you a sure thing daily backup if you need one. If you don't want to wait around for it to happen you could do it before you sleep. If you do you probably should set Preferences>Energy saver time to sleep for at least 1/2 hour.

Sandman may be right about Apple trying to push us to use the iCloud. Personally, even though I have nothing to hide, I am still squeamish about the concept of anyone holding my info on their server. Google is bad enough.