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It took me a few days to realize that my iPad 2 was no longer able to connect to 3G, after I upgraded to iOS5. I made the prerequisite, yet futile, attempts to solve the problem with Bell and Apple’s support. Bell support people were excellent, though they didn’t solve the problem. Apple’s “Genius” staff (the four or five I dealt with) were completely unhelpful, though very friendly and courteous.

After much hair pulling and frustration with Apple’s “too bad, you lost the files even though you were obsessive in your backup schedule,” scoop on the process, here’s how I managed to build a fresh, 3G-functioning, user profile with my previous preferences, documents and Angry Birds scores intact!

One good thing came out of my long talks with the support team and a couple of replacement iPads (to ensure it wasn’t a hardware issue):

The problem is stored in your backup file!

If you do a fresh install of your device, everything should work like a charm. If it doesn’t, STOP HERE. Schedule an appointment with an Apple Genius.  Be sure that you leave with a working 3G device! If you don’t have a working data plan, deal with that next.

Warning: I take no responsibility for the effectiveness of this procedure! If you manage to mess your iPad or iPhone up badly enough that a restore won’t fix it, you shouldn’t be allowed to own it. When done incorrectly, the worst you should expect is to do another restore of the factory default setup.

Note: Calendars, Contacts, Safari, etc. that can be synced with iTunes should be. They are not part of this process!

I discovered a piece of software that will allow me to copy app-level files to and from an unjailbroken phone. It’s called iExplorer, by Macro Plant (no, don’t have any affiliation). The best news is that it’s free, too!

Previously, I tried one of those backup extractor programs, which was great to see the files, but did nothing to help me get them back into the backup file for restoration. I paid 24EU on one for PC only, then discovered a free one that works on the Mac. Duh. Well, hey, the price of R&D.

MacroPlant iExplorer:

Anyhow, let’s get down to it…

The Process of Restoring Your iPhone or iPad documents and preferences:

  1. Restore your iDevice to the backup you made (with your good files), before you screwed it all up with iOS5. You did make a backup, right? You’ve made a backup at SOME POINT recently, right?

    If you have multiple backups, be sure to compare dates when selecting them in iTunes to ensure you are going for your most recent one. If you don’t know which one it was, work your way back until you find your data. Yes, it will take a bit, but what’s your data worth?

  2. Install and start iExplorer. If you don’t know where to find it, you really shouldn’t be doing this.

  3. On the left, you’ll see a with the Apps and Media folders. Open Apps. If the folder is empty, you need to sync some apps into your device first! You know how to do that, correct? Go nuts!

  4. Now, open your Finder and navigate to a folder that you will use for your temporary storage.

  5. Make a folder for each app you plan to backup the data for. Don’t try to do it in one drag, I found that the APP folders act strangely.

  6. Go into each App’s folder and grab everything (except the app folder, weren’t you listening?), dragging what’s in each to the corresponding folders that you made in your Finder.

  7. With that done, feel free to dig through your Media folder to see what else is floating around in it.

  8. Shut down iExplorer, go back to iTunes, and do a restore of your awesome Apple product. This time, DON’T RECOVER A BACKUP, go for a fresh install.Yes – wipe it all! The last thing you want is something lingering from one of your post-iOS5 install recovery attempts messing you up again.

  9. I recommend not selecting a WIFI network until after you’ve done the recover. Oh, and for the love of all that is Apple, select “Don’t Use iCloud” when the question is asked.

  10. You’ve now got a completely stock looking install. It makes me not want to blemish it with any software… the good news, I suppose, is that this is a good way to ensure your iPad, iPhone or whatever it iIS you have, is clutter free and performing at its peak

  11. Now, it’s time to screw all that up. Go into iTunes and select your apps, then sync!

  12. Check that your 3G is working. If it’s not, at least you didn’t spend 24EU on a piece of software that ended up being completely pointless. You also probably dropped it on your cat, that often kills the 3G.

  13. do the double-tap on your home button to see what’s running. Hold down one of the icons, and remove anything that’s there. If an app is running when you replace the files, they will likely not show up until you do this, if at all.

  14. Start iExplorer, take a look-see to ensure your apps are in place, and start carefully dragging files and preferences back from the Finder. Be patient, do once folder at a time. If you mess it up, you are best to start again, I don’t see much in the way of “undo.”

  15. iExplorer also blew up on me when I tried to overwrite three folders on an app. I didn’t take the time to diagnose or replicate the problem, but restarting iExplorer and copying the files, one by one, did the job.Test each app as you do it! Be sure to fully close the app, as I mention in #13, after you are satisfied that it’s doing it’s job.note: iBooks has files in Apps as well as the Media folder, though you probably only need to copy the Apps ones, as the Media files are for purchased books that should re-sync for you. I imagine it’s not the only app to do that, so keep an eye out!

  16. Once you are satisfied with your work, close iExplorer, open iTunes, and make a backup right now, before you mess it up again!

  17. Test it. If it doesn’t have everything, go back to restoring your messed up profile, get the files, then restore to the backup you just made in 15. Wash, rinse, repeat.