A Trio of iPhone Restoration Problems (and Fixes!)

After weeks of dealing with a bizzaro battery life problem (sudden precipitous drops, plugging the thing in then disconnecting it a few seconds later only to watch it immediately drop by 20 percentage points, etc), I decided to restore. My settings have been schlepped from iOS version to iOS version and across 6 iPhones over the course of the past 5-6 years and now reside on a black 64GB Verizon iPhone 5 running iOS 6.1.4. If it's a hardware problem there really isn't anything I can do about it, short of replacing the battery, so it's worth a shot to clean up the OS. Here's what went down and what got me going again...

The first step before restoring is always to back up iOS to a local machine - you don't want to be waiting to pull down your photos and such from iCloud.  The issues began as soon as I started.


Issue #1: Not enough storage on local drive to perform a backup or restore. 

I've been rocking an 80GB SSD for quite some time, and all the crap associated with a Win7 installation and installed programs filled it up fast. iPhone and iPad backups can be very large, into the 10's of GB. With a small drive like this, I really can't have more than a couple of them before there's an issue. 

Once I cleared out enough space to do a backup (by moving the backup files to a separate drive with plenty of space), I was able to do a final backup. However, half way through the restore process, it ran out of space again saving GBs of who-knows-what to the drive. The restore failed.   

Solution #1: Link iTunes Backup Folder to a Different Drive

This is something that's frequently done in Linux, but less so in Windows. I had been avoiding doing it for months since I expect to have to re-do it every time iTunes is upgraded, but it's a very simple task - especially if you use an application to do it for you.

Symbolic links can map a folder or a file to some other folder or file anywhere else on the system. So for this, I created a symbolic link from the backups folder on my small SSD to a backups folder I created on a large HDD. Since the path doesn't change, iTunes doesn't know the difference, but now it's got plenty of room to dump its crap all over the place.  

You can do this on the command line or find a GUI like I did to type the commands in for you.  


Issue #2: Restoring 32GB of music from iCloud is a nightmare.

There is no single button that will download all of your music from iCloud. In fact, there are as many buttons as you have albums, and there's no way in hell you're going to want to push all those individually. You have to open each album, scroll to the bottom, and tap 'Download All Songs'. Too many albums, too much tapping, too long to wait for 32GB of music to shower down upon the device.

Solution #2: Force music to restore via iTunes.

Presumably you keep the same music library on your phone as you do on your computer and iTunes has it all stored locally. These days, music syncing isn't typically handled by iTunes; it's managed directly on the device and hooked up to iCloud to tie in with your purchases. This needs to temporarily be turned off to allow iTunes to sync your music. 

Settings >> Music >> Turn off iTunes Match

This will let iTunes manage your music, and give you a chance to sync it all back onto your device from your computer instead of via iCloud. This saves a ton of time since the local transfer speeds are so high. After flipping off iTunes Match, sync with iTunes then flip iTunes Match back on. After a minute or so of staring at a picture of a cloud with a progress bar slowly ticking across the screen, your music will again be tied in with iCloud. All of your music is now on the device, and you didn't have to manually tap on all of those Boyz II Men albums.


Issue #3: Over half of my apps would not re-download after install.

After the restore from iTunes had 'completed', I noticed over half of my apps were stuck in the 'Waiting...' state and had not been installed. No amount of tapping, double tapping, or rebooting would fix this. It seemed the only way was going to be to delete each one and reinstall them, at the great expense of losing all the data and settings within them. I stared at these sad, empty progress bars for an entire day before figuring this one out.

Syncing the device with iTunes would not cause the apps to be downloaded - it would hang right before doing so. I did this so many times with all sorts of different incantations. No matter what I tried, including restoring again and restoring from iCloud, it would not sync the apps. 

Solution #3: The apps must be updated in iTunes if they are out of date.

Going to the 'Apps' section of iTunes (not the store, not the list of installed apps on your phone, but the app library alongside the music library) revealed that the vast majority were flagged as needing updates. Turns out it was simply refusing to put old versions on there when newer ones had previously been installed.

This is an artifact of rarely syncing with iTunes. The apps were no longer being downloaded automatically by iTunes, and for good reason - app updates rarely find their way on the phone via iTunes. Force all the updates and sync. Suddenly the apps begin downloading. A Christmas miracle. 


And now everything is back to normal. Except of course for my battery life issues, which the restore did not fix. Figures.