Fix a “iTunes Could Not Backup iPhone” Error Message
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:
- 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
- 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\
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.
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.