Unable to Sync, Backup, or Restore Older iPods, iPads, and iPhones

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Kelly Heffner Wilkerson

Categories: iPhone | View Comments

I've been very surprised to get a steady trickle of emails from people who are running into problems syncing, backing up, and restoring older iOS devices — especially iPods and iPads. Usually they get an error message like:

iTunes could not back up the iPad “Your iPad Name” because the backup session failed.


The iPod “Your iPod Name” could not be synced because the sync session failed to start.

Or you may get an error about a corrupt backup occasionally instead of the other messages.

We do make software for fixing corrupt backups, Decipher Backup Repair. If you're running a more recent version of iOS (4 or higher), and you're getting errors while you're restoring your backup, Decipher Backup Repair will likely help you. However, if you're running iOS3 (or earlier) on your iPod, iPad, or iPhone, the real culprit seems to not be a backup itself, but that Apple stopped support in iTunes 12 for the backup protocol used in iOS3. In other words, iTunes 12 stopped being able to "speak backup" with iOS3 devices.

How to check your iOS version:

  • Open the Settings app.
  • Click on the "General" section.
  • Click on the "About" section.
  • Scroll down to the "Version" section - that's your version number!

So what do you do if you have a device running iOS 3 and need to restore a backup? This is an excellent question, and the whole reason I'm writing this blog post. Currently, my research hasn't turned up many options. If you know of a third party tool for syncing, backing up, restoring older iOS devices, we'd love to hear it. Or, if you're facing this problem, let us know with a comment below. If we find that there's a large demographic of iOS 3 users and no tool to help them, maybe we'll make one!

Again, if you're having problems restoring a backup to a device running a newer version of iOS (iOS4 or higher), check out our Decipher Backup Repair software. This post is only about problems using iTunes with older devices running iOS 3.