Apple Fail iPad iTunes Uncategorized

With #Apple it doesn\’t "just work", in fact it can fail and they can\’t help you. Don\’t upgrade to iOS5 without reading this.

Leaving aside the links they send you to fixes that will probably fix things, but they won’t support…
The iOS upgrade process is fundamentatally flawed.  At the beginning it wants to backup your device – good idea.  However (as I have discovered) it makes some pretty weird decisions about how much disk space is required – in my case it claims 20GB is required, but in fact only used about 500MB.  What I didn’t know it would do is do the backup, not verify it, and then perform the upgrade anyway.  So despite knowing the backup was smaller than expected my iPad was being upgraded anyway…
Because of the situation I was in, I was on the phone to Apple support when the upgrade process was finally made to start – so the backup happened and then the upgrade took place under their guidance, and then I got my iPad back.  But it was somewhat stark – no applications at all.  And no documents of in application data either.  Then the automatic restore of the iPad post upgrade failed.
So I got back onto Apple support.  The long and short of it is:
  • Backups are hidden away in your application data folders on Windows machines.
  • Backups may demand 20GB, but then only consume a few MB, but even if they only need a few MB you need that 20GB free first.
  • The backup before an iOS upgrade may remove all previous backups so that you have no fall back to iOS 4.x
  • The backup before an iOS upgrade is necessary (and if you cannot do it – you get a warning that it is a risk), however it is not verified, may fail, and you’ll not be told that the backup is bad before the Upgrade continues anywa, overwriting your setup.
  • Whilst Apple completely control the environemtn (hardware, software, app admission) their Tech Support says that inapp data or settings may corrupt a backup and make recovery impossible. And that’s not their fault, or their problem to fix.  Apparantly it’s mine.
If you have any in application content on your apple device then you need to make sure you have alternative arrangements for its protection:
  • some (like iA Writer, PhatPad etc) backup into the cloud with DropBox
  • some (like Pages etc) can backup through the File Sharing in iTunes (although in my experience not all your documents are exposed and therefore available to backup under iOS 4.x)
  • some will have iCloud backup after you get to iOS 5
  • some have the means to email yourself settings or data (and I do this)
  • some apps will store your settings in the cloud at their own services (Echofon, Feeddler using Google Reader for instance…)
In the end I have to accept that my iPad is little more than a factory reset, and I have to start again.  Many of my apps have settings in the cloud, or docs in the cloud so I should be OK, any that are not – I probably won’t miss (as I had been anticipating this issue and had been creating content defensively).
So my fix is to force App sync from iTunes to the iPad, overwriting anything there, and potentially any app data.  Once that is done, I then have the horror of rebuilding all my app group icons so that instead of 10 or more screens, I have 2 sensibly organised windows of apps that I can easily find, with the occasional exception where I use search instead.
I’m not stupid enough to believe that a backup should never fail and that Apple should be entirely responsible for the security and protection of my device.  But I am clever enough to know that that when a backup is a required step in an upgrade then a) the backup should be verified, b) the user should be advised of backup or verification failure and c) the user should be allowed to make an informed decision to go ahead without such a backup.
So – you should regard an Apple device as something that even the Apple tools may not protect, and in their own words, do not rely on a courtesy tool and instead make alternative arrangements for backup of app content and settings.  In the main, look for apps that allow you to use tools like DropBox et al for content, and apps like Feeddler or Echofon that can synchronise settings around the devices.
Finally?  I reckon if this story had been a Microsoft story instead of an Apple story…  imagine:
  • Paid for Microsoft support
  • An upgrade to an OS that fails
  • Microsoft support talk you through using Microsoft supplied tools to backup the system and implement the upgrade
  • The upgrade fails and you cannot restore your computer
  • Microsoft say that the failure is no longer their responsibility and that you are on your own, and wish you good luck with it.
I think some of the media and Microsoft ecosystem might have something to say.

By P J Bryant

Ramblings of a freelance IT Consultant working for some nice SME's, large organisations, resellers and the usual friends and family! Bit of

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