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How to Fix a Corrupted Backup in iTunes

Kelly Wilkerson | | categories: iphone | View Comments

iTunes could not restore the iPhone because the backup was corrupt or not compatible with the iPhone that is being restored.

iTunes reports many iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch backup-related errors in the same two ways:

  • "iTunes could not back up the device type and name because the backup was corrupt or not compatible with the device."
  • "iTunes could not restore the device type and name because the backup was corrupt or not compatible with the device that is being restored."

It's a bit generic, and it doesn't really tell you if there is anything you can do to resolve the problem. Let's go through your options — we're going to split up the problem into two different sections: whether you're seeing the corrupt backup while trying to restore from a backup, or whether you're seeing the corrupt backup while trying to make a backup.

Corrupt or Not Compatible Error During a Restore

If you are getting the corrupt backup error during a restore in iTunes, we have a program to help you! Decipher Backup Repair will automatically review your corrupt or damaged iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch backup for errors and fix the problems in the backup so you can restore in iTunes. You can download the free trial from our website to see what it can find in your backup.

Corrupt or Not Compatible Error During a Sync or Backup

This is an annoying one, because we're trying to make the backup! But the reason you see this error is that there is a problem with the previous backup of the iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch, and iTunes typically just updates the backups instead of making an entirely new backup. This is usually nice, since a full backup takes quite a long time. The solution is to remove your existing backup so that iTunes is forced to create the backup from scratch:

First, we can try to delete the backup via the iTunes interface (this works 90% of the time.)

  • Open the Preferences window.

    On Windows, press the Alt key if you do not see a menu bar in iTunes. From the Edit menu, select Preferences.

    On Mac, choose Preferences from the iTunes menu option at the top of the screen.

  • Select the Devices section of the Preferences window.

  • Find your device in the backup listing and select to delete the backup.

If you don't see your backup in the iTunes devices list, then we'll need to delete the backup manually.

  • Find your iTunes backup folder.

    On a Windows PC, the fastest way to get to your backup folders is:

    (Windows 7 and below) Start -> Run -> type %appdata% (with the percents) and press return.

    (Windows 8) Search -> type %appdata% (with the percents) and press return.

    From Application Data, navigate to Apple Computer, Inc. -> MobileSync -> Backup.

    On a Mac, the fastest way to get to your backup folders is:

    Open Finder, (hold the option key on OSX Lion or higher), and select Library from the Go menu. This will open the Application Support folder.

    From Application Support, navigate to MobileSync -> Backup.

  • In the backup folder, there will be one or more folders named by your devices' unique identifiers.

  • In iTunes, click on the Serial Number in the Info tab for your device, and the Serial Number field will switch to your device identifier. Match the identifier you see there to a folder name in the MobileSync -> Backup folder.

  • Delete that folder! Or, if you're uneasy about deleting the backup, just rename the folder to any other name.

Update October 2016: iTunes 12 seems to no longer support the backup protocol used for iOS 4 and lower. So if you're trying to backup or restore an older iPod or iPhone, the latest iTunes may be causing your problems. If you have access to an older computer running iTunes 11 or lower, give that a try (without updating iTunes if asked!) Be sure to leave a comment to let us know if that worked for you!