Daily Tip: How to save your application data using appbackup [jailbreak]

How to back up application data is a question I get asked almost on a daily basis. This question seems to get asked even more frequently every time a new jailbreak is released. I never recommend restoring from a jailbroken backup, ever. It can bring all kinds of problems with it and cause crashes and freezes. I always recommend a new restore.

But what about all your game save data and other app data? If you don't restore from a backup, it's gone right? Not exactly. There's tons of reasons why you may need to completely restore your device. Whatever the reason is, appbackup is a huge aid that helps bring your application data with you.

Hit the jump for a walkthrough!

Cydia plays host to a wonderful little app called appbackup. It's free and will back up and save application data for any App Store apps you choose. As a side note, it will not save jailbroken data. There is another app lurking in the Cydia store that will aid you in doing that called aptbackup. We will look at that in a future tutorial.

What you'll need

  • A currently jailbroken iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch
  • appbackup
  • iPhone explorer or an SSH client of your choice on your Mac or PC. I recommend iPhone Explorer as it is dead simple to use and it's free.

Backing up App Store applications

  1. Download appback for free via Cydia.
  2. Launch appbackup. You'll be presented with a huge list of all App Store applications currently installed on your device.
  3. You have two options, you can save all application data or just choose certain application data to backup. I typically save only game data and data from apps that tend to be a pain when wiped clean. To save all, tap "All" in the bottom left hand corner. To selectively create backups, tap the name of the app you'd like to back up and click back up. Do this with all the apps you'd like to save your data from.
  4. You'll see the app save your data before displaying that it was successful. It's also worth noting you won't see a restore option until you have a backup saved for a specific application.

Obtaining your backups and transferring them to your Mac or PC

  1. Plug your device into your Mac or PC after you've created backups for all the apps you care to save.
  2. This is where you'll need to open either iPhone Explorer or SSH into your device. If you're not sure how to SSH, check out the guide referenced above. I still recommend iPhone Explorer, which is what I'm using in all screenshots.
  3. appbackup saves your backups in a specific file path. That path is as follows: /var/mobile/Library/Preferences/AppBackup
  4. You will need to navigate to the above file path. After you've found the folder, you'll need to make a copy of that folder on your Mac or PC. I typically keep them in a folder on my desktop called App Backups. However you choose to do it is fine as long as you save them in a location you'll remember. After you've found the folder, all you need to do in order to copy it to your computer is drag it to whatever save location you choose.
  5. You now have your backups saved in a secure location. Go ahead and restore your device as new and rejailbreak.

Restoring your application data to your device

  1. After restoring your device and rejailbreaking, go back into Cydia and re-install appbackup.
  2. Plug your device back into your computer and navigate back to /var/mobile/Library/Preferences/AppBackup
  3. This time you will want to replace the AppBackup folder with the one you saved earlier. If iPhone Explorer or your SSH client prompts you, choose to overwrite or replace the file. Just make sure you are copying it in the correct directory.
  4. Now launch appbackup on your device. In the bottom left hand corner, tap "All" and choose "Restore". It will restore all your application save data from your backup.
  5. You're done! You can now enjoy playing Angry Birds and all your other games exactly where you left off!

If you guys try this, let us know how it works for you! If you run into issues, make sure to check out our TiPb Jailbreak Forums for answers to many common questions.

Tips of the day will range from beginner-level 101 to advanced-level ninjary. If you already know this tip, keep the link handy as a quick way to help a friend. If you have a tip of your own you'd like to suggest, add them to the comments or send them in to news@tipb.com. (If it's especially awesome and previously unknown to us, we'll even give ya a reward...)

Allyson Kazmucha

Help and how to editor for iMore. I can take apart an iPhone in less than 6 minutes. I also like coffee and Harry Potter more than anyone really should.

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There are 36 comments. Add yours.

Derrick says:

Very useful. I wish I would of done this when I lost my shibuya save file. Was a sad day

iMacker says:

Great suggestion, I used the method in the link/URL below; by accessing the root directory and copying the Library>Documents Folder
http://surreystore.com/cms/articles/7-apple/32-how-to-back-up-data-befor...
Worked like a charm!

wcarlson40 says:

@iMacker - how do you restore using your method? There's not much on that website.

BC says:

I just installed it but it won't launch. Just crashes. I refreshed the springboard but still nothing. Is it 4.3.1 compatible?

Allyson Kazmucha says:

I actually wrote this before iOS 4.3.1 was jailbroken. I was on 4.2.1. Hopefully it will be updated.

sam greenhow says:

same, dosnt seem to work on 4.3 :(

Felipe Santana says:

Too bad. It doesn't work with 4.3.1, at least gave me an idea on what to do.

NEO2126 says:

i don't understand why this app isn't available through apple, what part of this app is questionable other than that you can backup jailbroken apps...

Ben Gillam says:

in a word, its got access to data other than its own, ie out of the sandbox, so its dead in the water as far as apple approval goes.
Though i do agree that apple should provide more granular support for this kind of stuff, ie being able to wipe phone but only restore data for apps X Y Z.

BSUNesto says:

Will it back up my text messages in the SMS app?

parabel says:

I don't think so. Use Chronus or - even better - PkgBackup for that. PkgBackup also backs up all your installed Cydia packages.

mgorman85 says:

Thanks, Allyson! Can't wait to try this out before I upgrade to 4.3.1.

Andrew says:

This doesn't work on 4.3.1 - you should make that clear in the article

Scatabrain says:

Thats right it does NOT YET WORK in 4.3.1. I did the backup and am waiting for the fix to it to restore. Its a call to a shared lib PyObjC that is failing. Potentially other apps that use it are also broken. Kudos for the explanation in this article for explaining how to get the backups off the device before starting the restore. IMO all JB articles leave off big holes in what has to be done - like copying off the backup before the device gets wiped. Then we find out what is missing the hard way.

Rod says:

This program has helped me out in the past. (I'm still on 4.2.1) I used to swear by a program called Chronus it had a few more features like the ability to email your backup to you. But I really liked that you could go through and 'select' which apps you wanted to backup up and then hit the backup button. It is a great way to save time while backing up, choose only the programs you need and press the backup button and walk away for a few minutes and do something else. With appbackup it is back them all up at once or back them up one at a time. I hope they update it for 4.3.1 and add some new features, the program seems a little long in the tooth.

Kyle (iRandom) says:

TiPb should check out a jailbreak app called iBye. It's the best backup app I've seen :D

Allyson Kazmucha says:

I'll check it out! Thanks!
Is it iOS 4.3.1 compatible? If it is, that may be a better one to go with for now.

Felipe Santana says:

Fantastic!!! I've been looking for something like this for a long time, unbelivable I haven't found it before. I'll try it out!!

Dhenz says:

I think I will wait appbackup compatible with iOS 4.3.1 before I upgrade my iPhone.
And how to backup+restore SMS/text messages? There are a lot of important message on my message.app and I don't want to lose it after I upgrade to iOS 4.3.1.

Pete Wilson says:

Apple doesn't expect you to create a new phone if you want your old data. They expect you to restore your backup
In iTunes, just like I've done with every iPhone since the original, even though all of them have been jailbroken.

fastlane says:

I always restore from last jailbreak backup and never had any problems. Much easier.

Dave says:

It's possible to do this without appbackup or even jailbreaking (though a bit more complicated): http://www.howtogeek.com/howto/41631/how-to-backup-and-copy-data-between...

Felipe Santana says:

This is Awesome! Thank you!

sn0wman says:

I want to update to 4.3.1 and re-jailbreak so I have the faster safari and boot logo animations (I used monte for 4.2.1) but this app crashes as soon as I open it :/

arin.failing says:

@ Allyson, i'm running Mac OS X 10.6 on a brand new iMac and iOS 4.2.1 on an iPhone 4 (JB of course). I am not seeing the preferences folder inside of the root folder (using iPhone explorer). in fact, you've got a lot more folders inside your root folder than i do. is there something else that i should have done? i followed your tutorial step by step. please help!

arin.failing says:

UPDATE: ok i finally got to preferences, but appbackup is not showing up... just SystemConfiguration folder and a "PLIST"

Waseem Hammoud says:

What theme is that running? It looks great!

Tiffiny says:

hm , i thought it only works with Apps bought from the App Store. it worked on the jailbroken apps too. :} thanks heaps! you saved my music , haha.

Micktheant says:

Does AppBackup restore the apps or just the save files? After I restore and re-jailbreak, would I need to redownload Angry Birds, or will AppBackup automatically install it on my device?
Thanks!!!!

Dude says:

but its says to backup only the tarball folder
and thats what i did and now im stuck !$@$?%^@!$^&@^&@#*&
what to do ?? pls help me !

Polly says:

Uh. Yeah? Thanks whatever.

Alvrtsnchz says:

You didnt mention iTunes. Im asuming that we should back up with iTunes, then clean restore, then sync with iTunes (to get all your apps back) then do the AppBackup?? Thanks for posting tutorials but i think this one is incomplete.

Lottie Neufville says:

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Rasta says:

u be da reason i liv mun! tenks n' all!

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