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Difference between Sync and Backup?

145207 Views 60 Replies Latest reply: Apr 2, 2014 10:08 AM by fredfighterapple RSS Branched to a new discussion.
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Steven Shmerler Level 1 Level 1 (60 points)
Currently Being Moderated
Feb 27, 2011 9:00 AM
I've asked AppleCare but can't seem to get an understandable answer. Maybe someone can help here.

What is the difference between doing a Backup and doing a Sync via iTunes on your computer for either your iPad or iPhone?

Thanks,
Steven
Mac Pro 3.0 GHz Quad-Core, iPad WiFi + 3G (Yea!), Mac OS X (10.6.6), 30" HP LP3065 Monitor, 22" Cinema Display
  • lllaass Level 10 Level 10 (135,205 points)
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    Feb 27, 2011 9:05 AM (in response to Steven Shmerler)
    Have you looked at the topic About syncing and backups in the following article?
    http://support.apple.com/kb/HT1766
    Mac Mini Early 2010 OSX 10.6.6, G4 MD OSX 10.5.8 - iPad 3G & G4 Touch, iOS 4
  • Demo Level 9 Level 9 (73,760 points)
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    Feb 27, 2011 9:46 AM (in response to Steven Shmerler)
    Here is a portion of the support article mentioned above. The way I can personally understand it is that the sync transfers the content back and forth and a backup is created when you perform the sync. This talks in terms of the iPod and iPhone but it works the same for the iPad.

    About Syncing and Backups
    You can use iTunes to sync content on your computer (such as music, applications, podcasts, videos, ringtones, photos, notes, email account settings, contacts, calendars, and bookmarks) with your iPhone or iPod touch (Note: Some content is available only on iPhone and some features require iOS 2.0 or later software). Syncing makes sure this content is the same on your iPhone or iPod touch and computer.

    iTunes creates a backup of your iPhone or iPod touch when you sync, which you can then use to restore from if you need to return to a previously backed-up state. You can use a backup to transfer this information to a new device, except for some specific exceptions noted in parenthesis below. With iOS 4 and later, if you encrypt the backup it can transfer the keychain items (passwords, credentials) to a new device.

    If you protect your iPhone or iPod touch with a passcode, you will be prompted to enter the passcode when you connect to iTunes. Once you successfully enter the passcode, iTunes will recognize that device as authorized and you will not need your passcode to back up or sync. When restoring from an iOS 4 (or later) backup, if the device had a passcode set, iTunes will ask if you want to set a passcode (and remind you that you had protected your device with a passcode.) iTunes will not ask you to set a passcode when restoring from iOS 3.x and prior backups.

    iTunes only keeps one backup created during the sync process for each device. If you restore the iPhone or iPod touch and choose to set up as a new device from the Set Up your iPhone (or iPod touch) screen, iTunes will automatically sync and create a new, empty backup that will replace your previous backup. If you change your mind and want to restore to your previous state, you will have to retrieve your previous device backup from Time Machine (on your Mac), or other backup solution you regularly use. If you have Mac OS X 10.5.5 or later and use Time Machine, you may use Time Machine to find a previous backup.

    Message was edited by: Demo
    MacBook Pro 13", Mac OS X (10.5.8), Intel iMac (Tiger 10.4.11) MacBook White 13" (10.5.8) iPad 32g (iOS 4.2)
  • Rudegar Level 6 Level 6 (18,465 points)
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    Feb 27, 2011 10:38 AM (in response to lllaass)
    Sync Will ADD things from the iPad to the computer
    Backup just save a copy of whats on the iPad in the computer
    Shuttle, Windows 7
  • Mac on Andy Level 3 Level 3 (825 points)
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    Mar 4, 2011 10:26 AM (in response to Steven Shmerler)
    My understanding is that syncing is the process of updating and backing up the iPad (or other iOS device) that includes creating a backup of the device and updating the content of iTunes and iPad (e.g copying purchases made on the iPad to iTunes, transferring newe songs etc that you want on the iPad from iTunes).

    The backup contains everything iTunes needs to restore the device to it's current condition, but doesn't include media e.g music, films, TV programmes. Theres no need to back these up as they are already in your iTunes library. As medis probably takes up the most room on most people's devices excluding these from the backup saves a lot of space - I have an iPad and an iPhone and I don't really want two 16GB backups sitting on my hard drive when the bulk of those backups would be duplicates of items already in my iTunes library.

    For most part, you just need to think if sync as that does everything you need to keep your device running the way you want. Occasionally when troubleshooting it is useful to have the options to perform a backup or transfer purchases separately.

    As already mentioned the support article at
    http://support.apple.com/kb/HT1766
    Does a good job of describing the process.
    imac 27" i3, Mac OS X (10.6.6), iphone4, ipad, apple tv
  • Demo Level 9 Level 9 (73,760 points)
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    Mar 6, 2011 5:58 PM (in response to Steven Shmerler)
    I watched what actually does happen when I connected my iPad to my Mac and set the whole process in motion by clicking Sync. This is how I break it down to understand the difference.

    The first step in the top window in iTunes says is Starting Sync.

    The next thing it says is backing up and the process begins.

    The backup creates a copy of everything on your iPad and it is stored on your computer in the Mobile Sync Folder. That Mobile Sync Folder can be found by navigating to User>Library>Application Support>Mobile Sync>Backup. That Backup Folder contains all the backups for each particular device that you sync to your computer - iPad, iPod Touch or iPhone. You can open the folder and see all of the days and times that your devices were backed up. These backups are what you need if you have to restore your iPad/iPod Touch/iPhone at some point.

    After the backup is complete, it says Preparing to Sync and it then progresses to Sync Contacts, and goes through the entire sync process which transfers all of the apps, app data, photos, music etc, that is on your iPad into your iTunes library on your computer. After the entire backup/sync is finished, you get the message that it is safe to disconnect.

    Backup comes first and creates a copy of all of the stuff on your device and stores it in a folder on your computer. Sync transfers all of the content on the iPad into your iTunes library.

    Backup = copy/backup stored on computer. Sync = Transfer of data into iTunes library.

    Message was edited by: Demo
    MacBook Pro 13", Mac OS X (10.5.8), Intel iMac (Tiger 10.4.11) MacBook White 13" (10.5.8) iPad 32g (iOS 4.2)
  • Chris CA Level 9 Level 9 (73,395 points)
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    Mar 6, 2011 6:08 PM (in response to Steven Shmerler)
    So if you have just added something to your iPad and do a Backup, everything will be transferred from the iPad to my Mac.

    Correct. Nothing *backed up* to the computer from the iPad would be usable on the computer because it is stored in the backup file, not in iTunes.
    Which if I'm reading you right, would be the exact same thing if I did a Sych which would ADD the new item I added.

    You aren't reading it right.
    Syncing will copy files and data from the iPad to the computer and vice-versa. It will not copy from/to the backup files.
    Mac mini (mid 2010) - 2 GB RAM, Mac OS X (10.6.6), silver mini, blue mini, green shuffle, iTunes 10.1.1, 32GB wifi iPad
  • ccnz Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)
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    Oct 30, 2011 6:20 AM (in response to Demo)

    thank you for your post - i am unfortunately not very technically minded and this is the first post i have found which clears this issue up.

    but i do still wonder why on earth one would use the back-up feature then? .. if, when you sinc, everything is backed up anyway?

    and what is it you use then if (heaven forbid!!) your ipad goes south and you need to resore it to the exact condition it was before "the trip to the south"? ... do you use the back-up or sync to reconstruct your ipad to its former state?  ... is that where the difference maybe lies?? ... you can only restore from a backup and not from sync??

    thanks

    ingrid

  • Demo Level 9 Level 9 (73,760 points)
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    Oct 30, 2011 7:01 AM (in response to ccnz)

    You do not have to create a backup when you sync, because iTunes creates the backup for you. The reason that you use the backup feature is that it is simply a precautionary measure. You control when the backup takes place - you can backup without syncing - in order to make sure that the iPads contents are saved at that particular point in time - and you do not have to sync with iTunes. It would be no different that saving your computer files to an external drive in case the hard drive "takes a trip south"

     

    If you want to return the iPad to the condition that it was in before it "went south" you must restore from the backup. You cannot simply sync the iPad with iTunes to restore the data to the iPad's pre "trip south" condition.

     

    So the answer that I think you are looking for is you must restore from a backup if the iPad goes south in order to return the iPad to the condition it was in before the ill fated trip south.

  • ccnz Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)
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    Oct 31, 2011 4:04 AM (in response to Demo)

    yes - exactly ... it makes sense that way.

    thanks for your reply!

  • geekgirrl Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)
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    Jan 3, 2012 9:40 AM (in response to Demo)

    I still find this backup and sync confusing. I agree, it's redundent. They basically do the same thing.
    I've backed up my iphone on my new pc multiple times but when I go to sync it warns me that it will overwrite all my apps with the apps on the pc which "should" be exactly the same since I just backed it up.
    I want the phone to be the master copy since I change data in my apps on the phone and add apps to the phone not to the pc. Apple makes it look like the pc has the master copy of all your data with a sync and/or a backup. This is not what users want and their wording of it all is horrible but most companies are bad with wording.

     

    I want to know if I sync my phone will it just copy over the data on my phone with the last backuped data? Or will it erase all app data with the app data that is on my pc from the first time I backed up my data to this new pc?

    And yes this pc is enabled with itunes or whatever and I did transfer app purcheses.

     

    My goal is to upgrade my phone to 5.0.1 but it's not asking me to backup my phone first, which I thought it was supposed to do.

    For the simplest easy to use phone on the market it gets pretty complicated when you want to make sure all your phone data is safe. Lets not even start talking about syncing contacts.

     

    Thanks

  • Diavonex Level 9 Level 9 (58,710 points)
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    Jan 3, 2012 9:43 AM (in response to geekgirrl)

    Difference between Backup and Synchronization

     

    File Synchronization (or 'synching') is the process of ensuring that two or more locations contain the same up-to-date files. If you add, change, or delete a file from one location, the synchronization process will add, change, or delete the same file at the other location.

     

    Backup refers to copying of data from one location to another.

     

    Sync is not a backup.

  • geekgirrl Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)
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    Jan 3, 2012 10:35 AM (in response to Diavonex)

    But it is kind of like a backup. Your data is still in two places right? If you lose your phone you can sync a new iphone and recover your data. It's just so insane. My brain hurts.

  • Chris CA Level 9 Level 9 (73,395 points)
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    Jan 3, 2012 10:50 AM (in response to geekgirrl)

    

    still find this backup and sync confusing. I agree, it's redundent. They basically do the same thing.

    It's not redundant and they do not do the same thing.

    I've backed up my iphone on my new pc multiple times but when I go to sync it warns me that it will overwrite all my apps with the apps on the pc which "should" be exactly the same since I just backed it up.

    Did you also sync it (which is different than backing up)?

    I want to know if I sync my phone will it just copy over the data on my phone with the last backuped data?

    If you sync it, it will maintain the data on the iPhone. If you Restore from backup, it will restore from the last backup.

    My goal is to upgrade my phone to 5.0.1 but it's not asking me to backup my phone first, which I thought it was supposed to do.

    Why not simply selectthe iPhone then right click - Backup?

    Then update the iPhone.

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