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Recovering iCloud contacts, calendars, and bookmarks from an iTunes backup of an iOS device

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These instructions may help you recover iCloud contacts, calendars, or bookmarks that are no longer available on your computer, iOS device, or iCloud.com, but might be available in an iTunes backup of your iOS device. Follow these instructions only if you're using OS X Lion v10.7.4 through any version of OS X Mountain Lion v10.8.

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Should you try to recover iCloud data from an iTunes backup?

The instructions in this article apply only if you're using iTunes 11 or later and OS X Lion v10.7.4 through any version of OS X Mountain Lion v10.8. You must also have backed up your device in iTunes while you were using iCloud to keep your contacts, calendars, or bookmarks up to date.

Recovering iCloud contacts, calendars, or bookmarks data from an iTunes backup of your iOS device takes more time than the usual process of restoring from an iTunes backup. Before you begin, consider whether you can import the missing data from another location instead:

  • Is your data available in another iCloud account? You can export data from iCloud.com to your computer.
  • Is your data available on any of your other devices?
  • Is your data available in a Time Machine backup or other backup location, such as a hard disk, CD/DVD, flash drive, or online backup?

If your data is available from any of those locations, you should be able to import that data into your contacts app, calendar app, or web browser. But first make a copy of your existing iCloud data.

How to recover iCloud data from an iTunes backup

These steps require that you backed up your device in iTunes while you were using iCloud to keep your contacts, calendars, or bookmarks up to date. Don't follow these steps if you're using OS X Mavericks v10.9 or later or have been using only iCloud Backup instead of iTunes to back up your device.

You won't be able to connect to your iCloud account while completing most of these steps.

  1. Make a copy of your iTunes backup folder, then create a new backup of your iOS device

    Complete these steps on the computer that you used to back up your device in iTunes:

    1. Make sure that your computer is using iTunes 11 or later.
    2. Make a copy of your iTunes backup folder. See “Backup your backup” in iOS: Troubleshooting backup issues in iTunes.
    3. Back up your device in iTunes, transferring any data that you want to keep, such as photos, apps, and purchases that you don't want to download again. It's important to complete this step, because your device will be erased in later steps.

  2. Change your Apple ID password

    Change the password of the Apple ID that you use for your iCloud account, but don't update the password on any of your iOS devices. You may get alert messages when your devices try to connect to Apple services that use Apple ID, but that's expected. This step makes sure that data in your iTunes backup isn't replaced by data in iCloud.

  3. Restore from an earlier backup of your iOS device

    Complete these steps on the computer that you used to back up your device in iTunes:

    1. Restore your iOS device from a backup created before—not after—the data was lost. You can choose an earlier backup, but the backup dated just before your data loss should have the most current information.
    2. After the restore process completes, disconnect your device from the computer.
  4. Check for the missing data on your iOS device
    1. Open Calendar and check for your missing calendars or events. If you don't see the missing data within a few seconds, tap Calendars, then check again.
    2. Open Contacts and check for your missing contacts. If you don't see the missing data within a few seconds, tap Groups in the upper-left corner and make sure that you're viewing the All Contacts group.
    3. Open Safari, wait a few seconds, and check for your missing bookmarks.

    If you can see your missing data, continue to the next section, because there are more steps to complete before your data is fully recovered. If you can't see your missing data, and you're sure that you were using iCloud to keep data up to date when you made your backup, return to the previous section and try restoring from a different backup.

  5. Delete your iCloud account from your iOS device

    Delete your iCloud account from your iOS device so that after you fully recover your missing data, the data can update correctly to iCloud:

    1. Go to Settings > iCloud.
    2. Scroll down and tap Delete Account.
    3. Tap “Keep on My iPhone” (or iPad or iPod touch) when you're asked what to do with your contacts, calendars, and bookmarks.
    4. After the delete process completes, use the Calendar app to confirm that iCloud data was kept on your device:
      1. Open the Calendar app, then tap Calendars.
      2. Confirm that your calendars are in the “All on My iPhone” (or iPad or iPod touch) section.
  6. Log in to a new or guest user account on your computer

    Follow these steps only if you've been using iCloud to keep contacts, calendars, or bookmarks data up to date on your computer. If you haven't been using iCloud on your computer, skip to the next section.

    1. Create a new OS user account on your Mac or PC, or use a guest user account.
    2. If you're using a Windows PC, open the iCloud Control Panel and sign out of your iCloud account.
    3. Sign out of your primary OS user account, then sign in to the new or guest user account.
  7. Sync your iOS device with your computer, then verify that the data is on your computer

    To avoid creating duplicate data, complete these steps on either your Mac or your Windows PC, but not both.

    On your Mac

    Follow these steps only if you're using iTunes 11 or later with OS X Lion v10.7.4 through any version of OS X Mountain Lion v10.8.

    Sync your device:

    1. Connect your iOS device to your computer via USB.
    2. Open iTunes, then select your device in iTunes.
    3. Click the Info tab at the top of the iTunes window, then adjust the following settings in the Info pane:
      • If you were missing contacts, select both “Sync contacts” and “All contacts.”
      • If you were missing calendar data, select both “Sync calendars” and “All calendars,” then deselect “Do not sync events older than 30 days.”
      • If you were missing bookmarks, select “Sync Safari bookmarks.”
    4. Click the Sync button.

    After the sync completes, look in Calendar (or iCal), Contacts (or Address Book), or Safari for your missing data. If the data is there, follow these steps to export the data:

    • Contacts (or Address Book)
      1. Choose View > Groups.
      2. Select All Contacts from the the Groups list.
      3. Choose File > Export > Export vCard, then save the .vcf file to /Users/Shared on your hard drive.
      4. If you've organized your contacts into groups, you should also export your contacts as an archive: Choose File > Export > Contacts Archive, then save the .abbu file to /Users/Shared. Unlike the vCard export, the contacts archive includes information about the groups to which your contacts belong.
    • Calendar (or iCal)
      1. Select the calendar in the Calendar list and choose File > Export > Export.
      2. Save the calendar to /Users/Shared on your hard drive.
    • Safari
      1. Choose File > Export Bookmarks.
      2. Save the bookmarks .html file to /Users/Shared on your hard drive.

    After exporting your data, log out of your new or guest user account, then log back in to your own account. This isn't necessary if you skipped the previous section and are still logged in to your main user account.

    On your Windows PC

    Follow these steps only if you're using Windows 7 or later and Outlook 2007 or later, iTunes 11 or later, and iCloud Control Panel 2.1 or later.

    Sync your device:

    1. Connect your iOS device to your computer via USB.
    2. If iTunes does not open automatically, open it as follows:
      • In Windows 8.1, go to the Start screen, click the down arrow in the lower-left corner to access the Apps screen, then click the iTunes app.
      • In Windows 8, go to the Start screen, then click the iTunes tile.
      • In Windows 7, choose Start menu > All Programs > iTunes > iTunes.
    3. Select your device in iTunes.
    4. Click the Info tab at the top of the iTunes window, then adjust the following settings in the Info pane:
      • If you were missing contacts, select both “Sync contacts with Outlook” and “All contacts.”
      • If you were missing calendar data, select both “Sync calendars with Outlook” and “All calendars,” then deselect “Do not sync events older than 30 days.”
      • If you were missing bookmarks, select “Sync bookmarks with [your browser].”
    5. Click the Sync button.

    After the sync completes, look in Outlook or your web browser for your missing data. If the data is available, continue to the next section.

  8. Update iCloud with the data on your computer

    In this section, it's important to follow only the instructions that apply to the data you lost. For example, if you're missing only calendar data, follow the steps for calendar data only. If you're missing contacts and bookmarks, follow the steps for both contacts and bookmarks. To avoid creating duplicate data, complete these steps on either your Mac or your Windows PC, but not both.

    On your Mac

    1. Make sure that you're logged in to your primary OS user account.
    2. Choose Apple menu > System Preferences, then click iCloud.
    3. Sign in to your iCloud account using the Apple ID password you set in step 2.
    4. Follow the instructions that apply to the data you lost:
    • Contacts
      1. Go to /Users/Shared, the folder to which you exported your contacts.
      2. Double-click the .vcf file to open it.
      3. You may be asked to review duplicates. For each duplicate, select the contact to keep. In most cases, Update is the best choice.
      4. When asked, choose to import your contacts into the Contacts (or Address Book) app.
      5. If you saved a contacts archive and want to recover information about the groups to which your contacts belong, double-click the .abbu file to import it as well.
    • Calendars
    • Bookmarks
      1. In Safari, choose File > Import Bookmarks, then select your exported bookmarks from /Users/Shared, the folder to which you exported your bookmarks.
      2. Click Import. You should then be able to see the imported bookmarks by choosing Bookmarks > Show All Bookmarks. They'll be in a folder named with today's date.

    On your Windows PC

    1. Open the iCloud Control Panel and sign in to your iCloud account using the Apple ID password you set in step 2.
    2. In the iCloud Control Panel, select the checkboxes representing the data (contacts, calendars, bookmarks) that you want to upload to your iCloud account.
    3. When asked, choose to merge your data with your iCloud account.
    4. Verify that your data is up to date in iCloud:
      • Your contacts should be available in iCloud Contacts.
      • Your calendars should be available in iCloud Calendars.
      • Your bookmarks should still be available in your web browser. In a later step, you'll sign in to iCloud from your primary user account and other devices. You can then confirm that your bookmarks have updated to iCloud.
    5. Complete these steps only if you followed the previous instructions to log in to a new or guest user account on your computer:
      1. Sign out of your iCloud account in the iCloud Control Panel.
      2. Log out of the new or guest user account, then log back in to your primary user account.
      3. Open the iCloud Control Panel and sign in to your iCloud account.
      4. In the iCloud Control Panel, select the checkboxes representing the data (contacts, calendars, bookmarks) that you want to upload to your iCloud account.
      5. When asked, choose to merge your data with your iCloud account.
    6. Verify that your data is up to date on your computer:
      • Your contacts and calendars should be up to date in Outlook.
      • Your bookmarks should be up to date in your web browser.
  9. Sign back in to iCloud on your iOS devices

    You can now go to Settings > iCloud on your iOS devices and sign back in to iCloud using the Apple ID password you set in step 2. While you're in iCloud settings, make sure that the Contacts, Calendars, and Safari settings are turned on. After a few moments, the data from iCloud will update on your device.

    After recovering your data, remember to back it up regularly. Learn more about choosing an iOS backup method.

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Last Modified: Aug 6, 2014
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  • Last Modified: Aug 6, 2014
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