How to extract a previous iCloud backup

Earlier today someone asked me on Twitter if it was possible to locally extract a previous iCloud backup? Well the answer is YES and NO, technically you can’t because iCloud backups would be stored “in the cloud” but there is a work around for this, possibly.

You are able to access the iCloud folders that move data back to your Mac, such as Keynote or Pages documents, OSX Daily has a great write up on how to access that data. But the actual iCloud backup resides somewhere on Apple’s servers and the only way to get that data is to restore your iPad/iPhone from a previous backup, I posted step by step instructions on how to do this a few day ago. So if you wanted to access data from a previous backup you would need to restore your iPad using that iCloud backup, once you restored the iPad using that backup you could then connect your iPad to your computer, open iTunes and backup your iPad to iTunes. This would then give you local copy of your backup.


To access that data you will need to open your Library folder, Click on an empty part of your desktop and use the keyboard combo = Command + Shift + G:


This will put you in the Library folder, now navigate to Application Support > MobileSync > Backup. If you know the exact date of the backup you are looking for you can right click on the folder and choose “Get Info”, you will see the date the backup was created.
A few things to note about this:

  • You should backup your iOS device to iCloud before starting this, that way you can restore it to its current state after you are finished.
  • I am not sure if you can access every single iCloud backup that has ever been sent to iCloud, you will get a list of previous backups but from my experience it does not look like the complete list.
  • This procedure will take quite a while depending how much data you have on your device that you are restoring, so be patient.
    I understand this is not an ideal way of handling recovery of data, but if you are using iCloud instead of iTunes for your backup methods, this is the way it works. A couple of weeks ago on Total iPad, Patrick expressed his dismay at the way backup and recovery was handled. I guess until Apple comes up with a way to handle situations like this, work arounds are what we have to do.
    If you need help or have a question, try me on Twitter @iCrizzo.

I originally wrote this post on my personal blog.