You should always backup on a regular basis, but even the worst situations can become minor blessings, as I discovered when my iPad lost its settings this week.
I'd been having some serious battery woes with a third generation iPad recently, and it only had a few weeks worth of warranty left on it -- although as we've noted before, the line between what Apple considers its warranty and what the ACCC considers fair coverage isn't the same thing -- so I booked it in for a genius inspection. I'd carefully backed it up beforehand, but then I don't keep that much data onboard the iPad in any case. First port of call was a DFU restore, which, to its credit, does appear to have fixed the battery problem. I headed home and set to restoring the iPad to its former configuration.
There was only one problem; the restore process crashed, and despite a couple of hours mucking around with old restore images, Time Machine and a certain quantity of bad language, it wouldn't restore as I'd have liked it to. I've done DFU restores previously with no issue whatsoever, but for whatever reason -- I'm still not sure -- this one just wouldn't work.
What was annoying here specifically was that I had a lot of complex folder structures set up for a variety of uses; photography, writing, different game styles, video applications and so on. Actually synchronising the applications back was feasible but a little tedious because I've got plenty of apps in my account that I don't want on every iPad. At the same time, it opened up an opportunity to remove clutter from my iPad in a way that simply hunting down applications wouldn't have done. Instead of choosing what to delete, I had to choose what to add back.
The end result? Looking at it from a positive viewpoint, I've got an iPad with a battery that works again, and one that's significantly leaner than it used to be, with just the core applications that I need and quite a lot of space sitting spare for when I really need it. In many ways, it reminded me of the process that Lifehacker editor Gus went through when his home flooded; that was a disaster, but one that he turned into an opportunity for some clutter-removing frenzy. It shouldn't take a data disaster to make you or me clean out old unwanted applications, but sometimes a blank slate is the best position to start from.