Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Unencrypted iTunes Backups Don’t Include Health Data

Trevor McKendrick:

Unbelievable. If you restore an unencrypted iPhone backup from iTunes, all your health data disappears.


The Encrypt Backup feature in iTunes locks and encodes your data. An encrypted iTunes backup includes certain information that other backups don’t:

  • Your saved passwords
  • Wi-Fi settings
  • Website history
  • Health data

iTunes doesn’t encrypt your backups by default. To encrypt a backup in iTunes for the first time, you’ll need to turn on the password-protected Encrypt Backup option. After you turn on Encrypt Backup, iTunes automatically makes encrypted backups for that device from then on.

This makes a fair amount of sense as a privacy feature. You might not want your health data stored in the clear. But I doubt many people know how this works, and encrypted backups are not the default, so it’s easy to accidentally lose your data when restoring. As far as I know, there is no good warning about what might happen.

After you’ve overwritten your phone with the unencrypted backup, and used the phone for a while, it’s not clear what to do. iOS backups and restores are all-or-nothing. There is no granularity to say: keep the new data I’ve created in other apps, but restore my old HealthKit data from iCloud.

Update (2016-01-12): Hwee-Boon Yar:

I had a corrupted health.db in an iCloud backup. After a few days, couldn’t get a working version anymore.

…had to setup iPhone as new, lost all health data (years of steps and sleep data from Jawbone UP) and watch activity.

Plugs in Boxes:

My Workflow for exporting and importing Health data to and from CSV

3 Comments RSS · Twitter

Hey. That last link is broken, and seems to point to exactly what I've been trying to figure out how to do for the past few days :) Any chance you remember what it said?

Thanks, and love the posts. Keep them coming!


@Nick I’m not sure what happened; Twitter no longer shows any tweets for that user. Here’s what it said:

@mjtsai My Workflow for exporting and importing Health data to and from CSV:

Oh, interesting. Thanks Michael! I didn’t know about Workflow. I’ll check that out.

Also interesting, I sent Tim Cook an email and Apple called me a day later. They’re going to have someone call me on Tuesday to see if we can’t extract the Healthkit data from my old iTunes backup and somehow inject it into the new phone.

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