Fix a “iTunes Could Not Backup iPhone” Error Message

Jul 16, 2014 - 15 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.


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