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MobileMe Free Trials Could Lose Your Precious Files

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The MobileMe trial began to seem like it was going to go on forever, since Apple kept tacking on more time to make up for having released a half-baked service to begin with. Sadly, not so. My own trial term recently came to an end, but by the time it did, I’d become fairly dependent on the service, so I quietly acquiesced while Apple charged my credit card for the full subscription.

Some others did not go so quietly, and promptly canceled their account rather than be caught paying. The result? All of their data not only no longer synced, it no longer existed. Part of the downfall of storing info in the cloud is that when you stop paying for said cloud, it has a very short memory. What had happened was that users who’d forgotten to disable sync in their devices’ settings had indeed synced. With their information gone from the MobileMe servers, what replaced it was blank information. Long story short, sync with nothing and you end up with nothing.

It looks like the only way to recover the data is to pay for a full year’s subscription, and then cancel said subscription. Alternatively, you can just remember to turn off MobileMe syncing before canceling your account, if you haven’t already done so.

I’m conflicted as to who’s to blame here, but I’d say Apple should probably have made people more aware that this sort of thing might happen if they didn’t continue their MobileMe subscription or at least disabled the ability to sync to the account. A perfect time to do so would’ve been in those reminder emails they send out shortly before your trial subscription runs out. As a cautionary tale, the whole mess is a good reminder that the cloud is not yet the be all and end all of computing.

22 Responses to “MobileMe Free Trials Could Lose Your Precious Files”

  1. I didn’t get any pop ups telling me that ALL data would be erased from my iPhone.
    I got the message your subscription will be cancelled.
    That’s it. I cancelled and deleted the app after it kept disconnecting me from the net.
    All contacts, photos, internet links, calender everything gone!! all business emails.. and funny thing was I really didn’t use or like the mobileMe ap.

  2. Who, especially novice users, would think to turn off contact sync before ending their mobile me trial? I am a programmer and I certainly did not think to do it. I would have lost all of my contacts, but I backed them up to my gmail account using the iBackupContacts app. I simply copied the body of my backup email into iBackupContacts and all of my contacts were back in my phone. Life saver. I would have lost all of my contacts had I not created the app. Here is a link

  3. A mobileme system service update took place November 17, 2009 as alerted by mobileme. One could not login into the system as alerted by mobileme. However, they did not specify what time of the day the outage would occur and for how long. At around 4pm (PST) on the 17th, I noticed the names to the contact list along with the phone numbers on our mobileme site are gone for 80% of our contact list, which are customers. All we see are empty cells that say No Name. We are on our second week of trying the service. So far so good we thought until now :( I am sure there is a way to retrieve the data (we hope). The contact list on the iPhone also have the contact names missing BUT the phone numbers are still there. I noticed on the iPhone under Settings/Mail, Contacts, Calendar one can sync back to a specified time listed: Events 2 Weeks Back, Events 1 Month Back, Events 3 Month Back, etc. (would this even work?). Unfortunately they don’t have days. Their support page doesn’t offer a way to contact support that I can notice. Any suggestions? Thanks

  4. All it needs Apple to do is to add a pop-up that states – deleting the mobileme account with contact sync ON will delete your contacts PERMANENTLY.

    I have now restored from a recent backup and now deleted the account from my iphone with the sync turned OFF.

    Simple – but all it takes is a bit of polite advice to avoid some needless pain.

    One day those egghead geeks will get off their pedestals and be a bit more friendly…

    Enjoy all.

  5. I’m against apple on this.
    I put all of my contacts on my iphone, then it offered me to use this rubbish mobileme service.
    I get to the end of the trial period, I’ve hardly ever used it because it’s less than useful, so I go for the quick option get rid of it…
    Come back to my contacts WHICH WERE ON MY PHONE BEFORE I USED THE POXY SERVICE and they’re gone…
    Luckily the only thing I have lost is my contacts on my iphone – I have them backed up other places, now I just need to get them back on without doing it manually…

    I will think twice before doing anything further apple…

  6. the sync function was defaulted to update.. which should append information if there is an inconsistency between the two sources the sync should happen on… thus if it doesn’t find any data in the cloud, it should not delete anything from the phone.. but unfortunately it does..
    Mobile me was a bad investment of time for me.. I now am skeptical about Apple’s other software too..

  7. I would be laughing if it did not happen to me. I used an expiring card to get my trial version of mobile me. When it was time to charge my card, the trial simply expired since it could not charge it to my card. Nothing happened to my contacts…TILL, till I removed “mobile me” mail settings from my phone… Some people are talking about warnings signs, list of things that will replaced with nothing, well it did not show itself to me. It just made all my contacts Puff…Gone….I absolutely disagree with David. I do know that PC and Mac is not a toaster. At the time of disconnecting the service it should stop syncing, not sync your contacts to a new value (nothing) That is just wrong.

    • Ditto on this experience for me. Contacts gone on my iPhone. I am NOT happy. There was no warning or explanation that contacts which where there BEFORE I signed up for the MobileMe trial would be wiped out when I removed MobileMe from my phone. It’s total B.S. Most important, how do I get them back, now?

  8. Joe the Rotorooter

    I agree with Dodson. All other syncing programs stop syncing when you cancel — no data loss. It is and should be expected that once the subscription is terminated, any attempts to sync will fail without the local/device files being modified.

    This is a problem unique to MobileMe. Which means its a problem with the program, not the user.

    (It is irrelevant that Apple tells you that your files will be removed — any sane user would assume that the cloud versions will be removed. It’s also ridiculous that Apple allows a sync to take place after said files have been removed from the cloud; any sane user would assume that meant a final sync before the files were removed.)

  9. I have to call BS. This is COMPLETELY the fault of the user(s). If you cancel MM the next time your Mac syncs not only does it tell you that your data will be removed but it pops up a LARGE sync window which WARNS YOU VERY CLEARLY that there is a more than 15% difference between MM and your local copy. Clicking the more info button reveals that your contacts, cal’s, etc. will be removed locally to match. It then gives you the option to stop syncing. This is in addition to the LARGE AND CLEAR warning that Apple gives you when you cancel Mobile Me.

    I get so sick of users doing incredibly dumb things and expecting Apple to nanny them to death – and then these so called blogs, yes you, repeat this crap as if it is anyone else’s fault but their own.

    Computers are not toasters, you do actually have to put some thought in to using them.

    Shame on the user for being so stupid to begin with, shame again for not having adequate backups. You have no one to blame but yourself!

  10. Any solution that is free should not ever be trusted as your sole method of backing up. If something happens, you have yourself to blame. The customer is ALWAYS responsible for backups. It is never the responsibility of the service provider.

  11. Brad Dodson

    This is inexcusable. It should just stop syncing – it should not suddenly think it’s syncing with an empty disk and wipe your files. It’s almost punitive.
    Check out Live Mesh (, it’s basically iDisk that works and it’s free (and it has never lost any of my data). If you delete a folder from the cloud in mesh, it still exists on your local machines, it just stops syncing.

  12. When I discontinued my trial, MobileMe showed me a pop-up windows reminding me that all information would be deleted from the servers and that I should back up first and pointed to a MobileMe site explaining how to back up. Once the sync doesn’t work anymore, even if it had been all wiped, if one had done the backup that Apple recommends, nothing really happens – apart from the “annoyance” of restoring the information.
    I stopped the MobileMe trial (too expensive for the performance provided (accessing from Germany was quite slow) and the features offered) and nothing happened to the data on my MacBook or iPod.

  13. Gazoobee

    It would have been nice for Apple to send a reminder, but if we are talking “fault” it’s clearly the user. I’ve done some bonehead stuff like this myself in the past and you feel like an idiot when it happens, but there is no use blaming anyone else.

    Look at it this way, if you were hiring someone else to do this stuff for you like a secretary or something, you would blame the secretary (even though you would hopefully also be understanding and kind about it). It’s no one’s fault but the person who synced with da nothing.