Fix a “iTunes Could Not Backup iPhone” Error Message

Jul 16, 2014 - 25 Comments

iTunes backup failed error If you regularly make backups of your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch to the computer with iTunes, you may rarely run into an error when iTunes reports it’s unable to backup the iOS device. This is usually accompanied by a very vague error message like “iTunes could not back up the iPhone “(name)” because the backup could not be saved on the computer”, or a “session failed” message, with a suggestion to disconnect and reconnect the device before trying again. Typically following the alert dialog instructions doesn’t resolve much, so if you do happen to run into an iTunes backup failure, try the following solution to successfully backup the device again.

This applies to iTunes backups with Mac OS X and/or Windows, made from any iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch. We’ll break this into an easy to follow set of troubleshooting steps:

  1. Update iTunes – the first thing you should do is get the latest version of iTunes, this alone may resolve the problem if the iOS version is newer than what is supported by the version of iTunes. You can update through iTunes itself, or by downloading the latest version from Apple’s iTunes page
  2. Rename the backup file* so it does not conflict with a new backup by appending something like “-OLDBACKUP” to the folder name – the iTunes & iOS backup files are located in the user folders depending on the desktop OS:
    • Mac OS X – ~/Library/ApplicationSupport/MobileSync/Backup/
    • Windows 8, 7, Vista – \Users\USERNAME\AppData\Roaming\Apple Computer\MobileSync\Backup\

    Rename iOS Backup File to fix the iTunes Backup Failure

  3. Start a manual backup with iTunes by selecting the iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch from the devices menu and choosing to “Start Backup”

Starting an iOS Device backup to iTunes

At this point the backup should complete to iTunes as expected. If it doesn’t, move along to the next few set of troubleshooting steps.

* Typically renaming the backup file is sufficient, but in some situations you may need to make a copy of the existing backup file and move it to another location on the computer, then delete the old (possibly corrupt) backup from iTunes through Preferences > Devices > Delete Backup.

Removing the backup from iTunes

Only do this if the above trick doesn’t work, and be sure you make a copy of the existing backup before removing the old one.

Dealing with an “iTunes could not backup because the iPhone disconnected” Error

A sometimes related error message is a backup failure due to the device disconnecting during a backup, with a message like “iTunes could not backup the iPhone (‘name’) because the iPhone disconnected“. This may simply be an issue with iTunes not detecting the device. From personal experience, getting the ‘disconnected’ error message is usually related to a USB power or connection error and can be resolved fairly simple by doing the following:

  • Using a different USB port on the computer
  • Using a different USB / Lightning cable to connect the iPhone / iPad / iPod to the computer

This is particularly true if you have a damaged or fraying iPhone to USB cable adapter that is barely hanging together with some electrical tape or otherwise has wires hanging out. Many of these adapters fail regularly and when they are damaged, they are more likely to experience connection issues with a computer.

If your adapter is physically damaged and barely hanging together, getting a new cable is often the solution to many issues pertaining to backups, power, charging, transfers, and much more.

Alternative Backup Solution: iCloud

Remember if all else fails you can backup the iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch to iCloud directly from a device. It only needs to be plugged into a power source and have an iCloud account setup and configured in iOS, then starting a backup to iCloud is just a matter of going to Settings > iCloud and starting a backup to Apple’s iCloud servers. It’s fast, efficient, and almost always works, particularly when iTunes is being finicky or just outright failing.

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Posted by: Paul Horowitz in iPad, iPhone, iTunes, Tips & Tricks, Troubleshooting


» Comments RSS Feed

  1. Ah. Zobair says:

    thanks bro
    Step 2 worked for me

  2. James says:

    Thanks buddy. I had the “iTunes could not backup because the iPhone disconnected” Error.. Turned out deleting the old backups cleared it up. I think the backups I had present were likely copied over from my machine’s previous setup and perhaps enough had changed in my iTunes settings to cause something to disconnect.. It might have been encryption related, like the old backups having a different password. I HAD tried to make new unencrypted backups, but if the old were encrypted, I can imagine how turning it off wouldn’t actually solve anything. Thanks again.

  3. Chris K says:

    Thank you for the free info. fixed my issue with the renaming of the backup file!

  4. Tim Reardon says:

    Heres another step if any of these work: check to see if you have the wifi backup checkmark on or off if youre trying to backup with the phone connected via usb… you can’t have both running same time uncheck wifi backup if you want to do the backup thru the usb or check the wifi on and UNPLUG the phone for wireless backup… Cheers :)

  5. hoovdaddy says:

    step 2 worked for me! thanks for your post!

  6. KM says:

    Thank you! After fighting with iTunes for 1.5 hours I found your article and renaming the old backup folder did the trick. A shame Apple doesn’t list that option in their trouble shooting guide for the issue: itunes could not back up iphone because an error occurred

  7. Jonathan says:

    Worked for me, thank you. My iPad was incorrectly deemed disconnected. I found the relevant back-up folder (in the path listed above on my Mac, but after “Macintosh HD/Users/Jonathan/Library …”) and renamed the folder, not the files in it.

  8. Alman says:

    thanks OSX daily
    i fixed it Finally!!!

    by deleting older backup in iTune preference

  9. Jonathan says:

    Just came back to see how to do it again!

  10. Michael says:

    I had nothing to lose.. my last backup was like a year ago.. but basically step 2 fixed the problem.

    Thanks , really appreciate this!!!!!!!!!!!!

  11. Ahmed Hammoud says:

    It worked with me by deleting old backup files .
    I’m using win 7 ultimate 64 bit

    C:\Users\(User Name)\AppData\Roaming\Apple Computer\MobileSync\Backup


  12. clafrinere says:

    I deleted the recommended files, but still got the same disconnect message. I ended up plugging into the usb plug on the back of the computer instead of the front and the backups were successful.

  13. Peter (FlyPSV) says:

    I had the same problem. Found your article but couldn’t resolve the problem with any of your tips. Then I remembered that I changed to “encrypted” backups a few months ago and that the problem likely occurred after starting these encrypted backups.
    I thus deactivated the “encrypted” backup and was finally able to run a complete “normal” or “standard non-encrypted backup”.
    Thanks for the help anyway.


  14. Bob H says:

    I’ve had this problem *forever* on my mac. The problem was that my ~/Library/ApplicationSupport/MobileSync/ folder was an alias that pointed to nothing. I have *no idea* how that happened.

    I deleted the “folder” and then I was able to backup no problem.

    I would never have tried this if it hadn’t been for your step #2.


  15. Ike says:

    Well, i wasted at least 8 hours trying to get a backup but it kept giving the the ‘dissconnect’ error, sure enough i had a cable with tape on it LOL !!!!

    Switched cable & BOOOOOOOOOOOOM! 1st backup good!

    Thanks man!!!!!!!!!!!! Where do I donate????

  16. Cindy says:

    I tried everything on this list, and continue to get an error message. It will make a new backup file folder (empty) in the backup folder, but that’s it. Won’t back up to cloud, either. Ran the itunes diagnostics, showed no problems. Any other ideas?

  17. Mike says:

    I’ve tried everything recommended here but the iCloud backup which required my buying the 200gb plan. So i’m running that backup now to see what happens. If that doesn’t work then I really don’t know what to do other than the final matter of erasing the iphone, which I clearly don’t want to do as my 128gb iphone 6 has about 110 gigs on it. This is very frustrating because I’ve never had this problem with any other iphone. I’m running the latest Yosemite and the latest iTunes version. My iphone has the latest iOS as well. I’ve tried different usb cords, usb ports and different computers but all to no avail. It backups step 1 and 2 but when it starts step 3, that’s when the popup message occurs: “iTunes could not back up the iPhone “***” because the iPhone disconnected” I know it’s not my computers, cords or usb ports as I’ve backed up my family’s iPhones with the same computers, cords and ports. The only thing I haven’t tried, other than erasing my iphone, is to try backing it up to iTunes running in the Widows environment on my macs. I’m exhausted from this. I thought I left all this crap behind me when I left Windows years ago.

  18. Jen says:

    OMG Step 2 worked! I tried just about everything except for restoring to factory settings….thank you so much!

  19. Immo Huneke says:

    I tried all the above, without success. Looking in my console log I came across this:
    12/09/2015 21:40:39.547 AppleMobileBackup[78644]: ERROR: Backup message response: 101 Unable to open domain directory: No such file or directory (2) at path “/var/mobile/Containers/Shared/AppGroup/5377EF9A-8A42-405A-A12D-513F93A73C83” (MBErrorDomain/101)

    Indeed, the entire folder /var/mobile was gone! I have looked in my Time Machine all the way back and it looks as if it was never there in the first place.

  20. Immo Huneke says:

    It may be due to some app that I installed in the past two weeks since the last successful backup. Can anyone interpret this from the log?

    12/09/2015 22:15:53.385 AppleMobileBackup[80371]: WARNING: Backing up 4cfa9d96693ebb3912fc4ab02cc84c0ed1039179

    12/09/2015 22:15:53.000 kernel[0]: SepNdcStream_inspectData: ndc_buffer_submit failed (-34)SepNdcStream_inspectData: ndc_buffer_submit failed (-60)Vulnerability Protection encountered an error (-60).

    12/09/2015 22:15:58.022 CoreServicesUIAgent[405]: unexpected message <OS_xpc_error: { count = 1, contents =
    “XPCErrorDescription” => { length = 18, contents = “Connection invalid” }

    12/09/2015 22:15:58.043 CoreServicesUIAgent[405]: unexpected message <OS_xpc_error: { count = 1, contents =
    “XPCErrorDescription” => { length = 18, contents = “Connection invalid” }

    12/09/2015 22:16:01.121 AppleMobileBackup[80371]: ERROR: Backup message response: 101 Unable to open domain directory: No such file or directory (2) at path “/var/mobile/Containers/Shared/AppGroup/5377EF9A-8A42-405A-A12D-513F93A73C83” (MBErrorDomain/101)

    12/09/2015 22:16:01.122 AppleMobileBackup[80371]: WARNING: No MobileSync error code defined for error code: 101

    12/09/2015 22:16:01.122 AppleMobileBackup[80371]: ERROR: Backup error: -1

    12/09/2015 22:16:01.000 kernel[0]: SepNdcStream_inspectData: ndc_buffer_submit failed (-34)SepNdcStream_inspectData: ndc_buffer_submit failed (-60)Vulnerability Protection encountered an error (-60).

    12/09/2015 22:16:01.548 MDCrashReportTool[80381]: 80381:43008000|CrashReportCopierAFC.m:-[CrashReportCopierAFC copyRemotePath:toLocalDirectory:preserveDirectoryStructure:localPathOut:usingConnection:]| ERROR: AFCFileRefOpen on ./OTAUpdate-2015-04-05-08-39-16.ips failed

  21. Immo Huneke says:

    Problem resolved. In Settings -> General -> Usage -> Manage Storage, there was one null app that kept popping back up like a bad penny, however much I deleted it. The clue was that it had version number 5.0.1, even though there wasn’t an icon or a name. This allowed me to identify the app through the Xcode log file. I tried installing a fresh download. Although this didn’t succeed, I hard-reset the phone and the null app was gone. Backups now succeed again, finally. Whew.

  22. Mike Al-Nassir says:

    I managed to do a backup after deleting the old backup, changing to an origial Apple cable and using the right hand USD port on my MacBook Pro. When I tried to do the bckupda again 30 minutes later, it failed again with the old “…disconnected” message :-(

  23. Joyll says:

    Let me tell you guys what FINALLY worked for me after nearly 14 hours of trying:

    Closed ITunes then disconnected iPhone & deleted old backup in finder. Then deleted ALL contents in lockdown folder but NOT the folder itself (this is VERY important), then rebooted BOTH my MBA & my iPhone 6 Plus & THEN re-connected my iPhone & then (and this is KEY RIGHT HERE I canNOT stress this enough) PUT IPHONE IN AIRPLANE MODE. Then & ONLY then was I FINALLY able to perform a backup (twice now after after just over 14 hours of not once) with NO errors!! The issue seems to be in the network settings interfering with the iPhones’ ability to stay connected to iTunes via your USB port.

    I hope this works for those like myself whom had been BEYOND frustrated with this issue but still loves our iPhones as much as we do!

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