My Personal Guide – How to migrate to a new iPhone 4S – even if you have a new PC and no iTunes backup

Migrating from an old to a new iPhone is a piece of cake, right?

Not if you have a new PC at the same time, or you just never bothered to sync your old iPhone to your new PC before.

This “Personal Guide” is strictly subjective. This is how I have done it or how I would have done it. There are many other ways how to do something, but this is my suggestion. And of course: this is on your risk alone. This worked for me – but who knows what could go wrong…

The easy part

Migrating from my own iPhone 3GS (still running iOS 4.35) to my new 4S was a relatively simple and straightforward process.

However some month ago it had been an annoying hassle to migrate my iTunes library from my old Windows XP installation to a new Windows 7 – But I won’t blog about this today.

I regularly had the iPhone 3GS connected to the PC and synced it.

  1. I backed up the 3GS once more.
  2. Then I switched on the new 4S (after putting in the SIM card), unlocked the SIM card and connected the 4S to the PC.
  3. At some point during the initial setup (remember with iOS 5.0 you could set up a new iPhone without a PC/Mac) the 4S asked me if I wanted to install a ‘new’ iPhone or restore data from iTunes.
  4. I choose restore from the 3GS backup and iTunes started to copy all the data to the new 4S – see screenshot below.
  5. In the next step, the 4S re-booted
  6. Then it appeared in iTunes and all apps were also restored – which took a while.
  7. After that everything was transferred to the new iPhone (SMS, Photos, Apps, App data). The only thing I needed to do was re-enter the passwords for e-mail accounts and some apps.

The difficult part

A friend of mine also had used an iPhone 3GS so far and wanted to move to a 4S.

Unfortunately he had moved to a new PC a couple of month ago and had never synced his 3GS to his new PC before. This means that apps and music had never been associated with and synchronised with his new PC.

As a result when he connected his old iPhone 3GS to the new PC, synced with iTunes (after authorizing iTunes with his Apple ID) and transferred purchases to this PC, data was backed-up, but not the music.

In iTunes in the Apps tab “Sync Apps” was disabled. When we clicked to enable it, iTunes warned us that we would sync to a new iTunes library and all Apps and data would be lost. That sounded scary so we aborted this.

When we connected his new iPhone 4S to the PC and tried to follow the steps as above, it was only partially successful: Data was transferred, but no apps and no music.
The music was not a big issue as my friend had the music backed up on an external hard drive so it could easily be restored. (The playlists – of which he did not have many – could not be saved.) Therefore we did not look for a third party app, which might make it possible to rescue music and media from an iDevice.
However we wanted to avoid loosing apps and app data.

We googled for a while and eventually found this useful forum thread:

This is what we did:

  1. In iTunes ‘Click on Edit. Click on Preferences. Click on Devices. Check the box next to “Prevent your iPod etc. from automatically syncing.” Click OK.’ – I had this turned on anyway.
  2. Connect iPhone
  3. Transfer Purchases – what we had already done
  4. Back up old iPhone
  5. Right click on iPhone and select “Restore from Backup”
  6. After the iPhone restored and rebooted, ‘click on the Apps tab on top, and check the box next to “Sync Apps”, then click on “Apply” below.’
    iTunes might warn you, that you’ll sync to a new iTunes library and all Apps and data would be lost – ignore it and proceed.
  7. Now the 3GS did sync again and all apps were transferred back to the phone.
  8. What we lost, however, was the order of the apps and all app folders my friend had previously had on the phone.
  9. After finishing the sync, we made another backup to be on the safe side (unplug phone and reconnect, then sync again)
  10. Now follow the description as above from point 2) onwards.
  11. If you want to continue using your old phone (e.g. as a backup device of for travel abroad – as the SIM lock might have expired), you could rearrange the folders the way they were supposed to be on the old phone, then back up and then sync the new phone.

The result

Thus, apart from music and the folder structure, everything else was successfully transferred to the new iPhone.
This should work in a similar fashion for other iDevices. However hopefully this would be easier with iCloud backup and transferring from an iPhone that already runs iOS 5 – we’ll see 😉

Hard and software that was used.

  • iPhone 3GS (iOS 4.3.5)
  • iPhone 4S (iOS 5.0)
  • iTunes 10.5 (running on Windows 7)
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