I Just Learned The Backup Lesson The Hard Way

I Just Learned The Backup Lesson The Hard Way
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Last week, I had a key piece of hardware, my smartphone, fail. When the device died I was annoyed but figured I had a backup I could fall back to. It turns out the plan I had in place wasn’t there, leaving me with a bunch of lost data.

I’ve been using an iPhone for a while now and, I guess I’ve become complacent. I generally switch to the latest model each year and, since the iPhone 3G landed here a decade ago, I’ve never had an iPhone fail, nor had one from a family member fail. But last week, the almost brand new iPhone XS Apple has provided to me for review went black.

I tried the reset process (volume up, volume down and then hold the power button), plugged it into a charger, tried the reset process again and again and again to no avail. It was dead.

As my family has several iOS devices – the younger kids have iPads for school, my wife, the older kids and I have iPhones – we have Family Sharing set up and pay an extra $4.49 so we have 200GB of online storage. I thought I’d set the iPhone up to automatically backup to iCloud.

It turns out I’d planned to do that but hadn’t.

Fortunately, cloud backups of photos (I had those syncing to other devices and have also have OneDrive photo sync set up) protect those valuable assets and things like apps and music are also fine. And, as it happened, I’d backed up my previous iPhone using iTunes about eight weeks ago so I didn’t have to do a full start-from-scratch installation. But I did discover one thing.

While many apps sync their data back to cloud services, Apple doesn’t do that with Health data. It’s stored locally in the Secure Enclave (Apple’s implementation of the Sercure Element chip) and there it stays. That meant that despite getting almost everything back to where I wanted, I lost several weeks of health data.

While that’s not a huge deal – it pisses me off!

So, the lesson here is to check your backup and recovery plans. If you have recently updated your device, don’t assume the backup settings have been replicated from the old device to the new one – double check. And test your restore procedure occasionally to make sure you know what to do.


  • Apple Health data can synced to iCloud, though I believe it’s disabled by default. You should check out and confirm your iCloud settings every time you move to a new device!

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