iPhone App Store ate my data


One of the things I’ve liked most about using the iPhone with the App Store was how easy it is to get software updates for programs I’ve purchased.  A visit to the App Store is all it takes to find out if one or more of your purchased apps have an update available.  In iTunes you can click the Get All Updates button and let things just happen.  At least that’s the way it worked until this evening.

The App Store in iTunes told me two programs had updates available so I clicked the button to get them all.  Everything worked as always until the last app.  It was updating the CarbonFin Outliner, an app I use heavily and have written about here.  The update looked like it went OK but then an error box popped up on the Mac.  I don’t remember exactly what it said but it was a debugging error code of some sort.  I checked the iPhone and the App Store and both indicated that the Outliner was now up to date so I thought maybe it was OK.  Silly me.


A little later I went to add some items to a pretty big outline I have in progress and to my horror discovered that all of my created outlines are now gone!  The only outline in the program is the sample "welcome" outline that is installed with new purchases.  Gone.  There were about seven or eight outlines in there that are now in the iTwilight Zone.  Most of those I was finished with as I had already written the articles from them but a couple were works in progress.  Gone.  Now I have to recreate them from scratch, something that I’m never able to do completely.  Gone.  I feel iSick.


Dave Haupert

From the development side, I found that if the version number of an update does not increase, the update will wipe out all data. Not so if the version number is higher. Perhaps that developer just forgot to increase the build #s? I would hope the whole apple clearance process would check for that and save lots of headaches, especially when there is a bottleneck waiting for future fixes to post. Might take a week or more for the immediate quick fix to be live on the app store.

Lastly, this is why apps that store data need conduits of some sort, or ways to get the data off the device and not just rely on the backup of the iPhone itself.


Hmm… It appears I am word challenged today…

I think Apple should STOP spending so much time on how sexy… not START…



I think Apple needs to start spending so much time on how sexy they can make their products look, and a lot more time on making them work right.



I love the CarbinFin Outliner. I was just about ready to update when I read your blog. THANKS for the warning! The iTunes page for this app says:

NOTE:As with all iPhone application updates, there is a small chance of data loss. Please email all you outlines as OPML before updating – in the unfortunate event that you lose your outlines during update, you will be able to re-import them.

Stephen Hill

Outliner (the same program you experienced the data loss with) now offers sync in version 1.2… I haven’t tried the app yet, but it looks interesting…

I experience the same data loss with a ToDo app, but fortunately the app syncs with Remember the Milk, so no problems :)

James Kendrick

I agree with all of you. Since my iPhone is backed up each time I sync it with iTunes I never thought about the fact that Outliner data was stored internally with the program. There’s no way to do a selective restore so I can only roll back the entire iPhone to recover it. I’m looking for a cloud solution for simple outlining on the iPhone now. Any suggestions?

Steve Rubel

This is why I follow Dr. Tofel’s advice in using cloud apps. I use iPhone apps that sync with the cloud or offer email out. For example, I use WriteRoom but I always email myself a copy when I am done using it or have it create a draft that I store in GMail IMAP. This way, when my phone gets hosed, I have everything I care about. My phone got hosed last night and I had to reformat it but all of the important stuff (except game high scores) were in the cloud.



I thought that every time you connect with iTunes it backed up your data (at least that’s what mine seams to do). If so, I would think that you could at least roll back to the last backup. Even if you lost the latest updates to apps, you would at least have your outlines back.

Trent Rossey

I’m thinking that this may be one reason that a lot businesses don’t want to use the IPhone. Just imagine a lot of mission critical information lost on a an upgrade. Wait, you don’t have to imagine do you? Not good.

Robert Plymyer

I’ve had the same experience of lost data with each update of two programs I use (Gashog and Total Fitness). Backups don’t help-there’s no way to restore data. Hope they fix this soon.


I feel your pain. May worth trying to contact carbonfin and see if they have any suggestion. In the mean time, why don’t you patent “isick”?

David Zeller

First, my condoloences. Next, tough love — if you are using your device for important work, you should be backing up! iPhone, laptop, desktop, whatever – back ’em up, Cowboy!

(I have no idea where that last part came from!)



Ouch! Do your files get backed up by iTunes and if so can they be recovered?

Rick Huizinga

I’ve noticed the same thing when updating any app. All settings and memory from the previous version are lost forever.

It would seem that because there is no file system on the iPhone, that all data is contained within a segment of memory owned by that program. This memory is freed and its contents are lost whenever the program is removed – either by command, or implicitly by upgrading the program to a new version (which removes the old version and installs a new version).

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