How to access files from discontinued or unavailable iOS apps


Each new version of iOS and new release of Apple hardware can result in apps being left behind, and no longer working on recent devices. In particular, there are some common causes for this:

  • App developers can withdraw apps from the App Store at any time
  • 32-bit apps ran on most Apple devices up to iOS 11, but required a 64-bit version from iOS 12 onwards
  • The iPhone 5C cannot run versions of iOS newer than 10.3.3, and some apps require a new version
  • Users may switch from an iPhone to an iPad and vice versa

There are two approaches for getting files from discontinued apps: using "File Sharing" to access directly on the iOS device, and by rooting through an iOS backup.

Using File Sharing to examine files on an iOS device

Not every app supports File Sharing, but app developers who want to provide their users easier access to their data tend to enable it.

How to access files from iOS apps with File Sharing:

  1. Load iTunes (or Finder on iOS 10.15+) and connect your iOS device.
  2. Navigate to your device within the interface. (It's like a little phone shown in the top-left.)
  3. Click "File Sharing".
  4. Choose the app you want to get files from.
  5. Select the files you want to extract and click "Save".

iTunes' File Sharing interface
iTunes' File Sharing interface

If the app in question has a lot of files, it's easier to export them all and sort through them on your computer, rather than through this interface.

The File Sharing interface doesn't show files from every app on your device: only the apps that support File Sharing. If the app you need doesn't show files here, there's another option: looking at a backup.

Getting files from discontinued apps from an iOS backup

By browsing through an iPhone or iPad's backup, users are able to see all of the files that an iOS app includes.

  1. Create a backup of your iPhone or iPad if you don't already have one.
  2. Download and run iPhone Backup Extractor; it'll automatically find and display your backups.
  3. Select your backup on the left-hand side of the app, and choose "App view" to get a list of all apps.
  4. Select the app in question from the list of apps, and click "Extract all".

That will automatically recover all of an app's files from your backup and save them on your computer where you can examine them at your leisure.

WhatsApp's files shown in "App view" mode
WhatsApp's files shown in "App view" mode

If you need help recovering files from a particular app, please reach out to us, and we'll do our best to help you. Don't forget to check out the guides we have in our support section on recovering files from a number of specific apps.

About the author

Aidan founded Reincubate in 2008 after building the world's first iPhone data recovery tool, iPhone Backup Extractor. He’s led Reincubate to win the UK’s highest business honour twice, has spoken at Google on entrepreneurship, and is a graduate of the Entrepreneurs’ Organisation’s Leadership Academy.

His work has been cited in over 20 academic papers on forensics and mobile data, including "iPhone 3GS Forensics: Logical Analysis Using Apple iTunes Backup Utility" (Bader, M & Baggli, I, 2010), "iOS Forensic Investigative Methods" (Zdziarski, J, 2013), "Overcoming Forensic Implications with Enhancing Security in iOS" (Gangula, MR, 2019), and "Direct Message Extraction for Automatic Emotional Inference and Drug Detection" (Fong, G, 2019).

Earlier in his career, he served as CTO at Wiggle through to its $230m breakout exit. Aidan is an occasional investor, and published "So, you want to work in tech?" in 2016.

Reincubate's CEO at Buckingham Palace

Pictured left are members of Reincubate’s team meeting HM Queen Elizabeth Ⅱ at Buckingham Palace, after being awarded the UK’s highest business award for our work with Apple technology.

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