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How To Preserve Your Jailbreak Apps and Settings Between iOS Upgrades

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If you drag your feet between iOS upgrades because you don’t want to have to reinstall all your awesome Jailbreak apps, custom tweaks, and fiddle with all the default settings, then follow along as we show you how to easily backup and restore everything for easy iOS upgrading.

Those who jailbreak their iOS devices have a variety of extra hassles to deal with when it comes to upgrading their iOS version. When dealing with a non-jailbroken device, you simply use iTunes to backup your apps and reinstall them from there if anything goes wrong with your upgrade.

While that same mechanism works for normal apps on a jailbroken iPhone or iPad, it doesn’t help you at all when it comes to your jailbreak apps and all the tweaks you have applied—those apps and settings are wiped away when you upgrade to the new version of iOS. Even if you apply the new jailbreak for the new version of iOS you upgraded to, the jailbreak apps and their settings are gone for good. By following along with this tutorial you will be able to preserve your jailbreak apps and settings between iOS versions and save yourself a hug amount of time and hassle in the process.

What You Need

For this tutorial you won’t need much. To get started we’ll need the following:

Although PkgBackup isn’t free—and certainly more expensive than your average $0.99 App Store offering—it’s a really robust application that makes this entire process easy on so many levels. Given the sheer amount of time you’d spend reinstalling your jailbreak apps and tweaking the settings between upgrades, it’s more than worth the price. That said, if you want to experiment with cheaper and/or outright free options that assist in backing up jailbreak apps (albeit not as easily and smoothly as PkgBackup) you may want to check out xBackup ($1.50), AptBackup (Free), and  iBye ($1.50) to get started.  

Where PkgBackup shines is that it backs up to both your local address book and to cloud-based storage (so you don’t have to fuss with SSH’ing into your iOS device to retrieve the backups from the hidden file system and you can retrieve them from the cloud),  and in addition to backing up your jailbreak apps and jailbreak app settings it also backs up your general springboard settings, Cydia repositories, preference files,  and supports data backup for all your regular apps too.

One final note before we continue–it is beyond the scope of this tutorial to assist you with actually jailbreaking your iOS device. Please be sure you are comfortable with the jailbreak requirements for the iOS version you are upgrading to before continuing.

Installing and Configuring PkgBackup

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First stop, hit up the Cydia store and search for PkgBackup—it’s included in the BigBoss repository and should appear right away in your search. Purchase the product and install it—for those of you who have never purchased an app through the Cydia store you’ll need to authorize yourself with a Facebook or Google account (to associate the paid apps and allow for easy future re-downloads) and then pay via Paypal or Amazon’s payment system.

Once installed navigate to your iOS devices settings menu before actually opening up PkgBackup. Go to Settings –> Extensions –> PkgBackup.

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Within that sub-menu toggle “Scan Applications”, “Scan Packages”, “Confirm Backup”, “Confirm Restore”, and “Enter Backup Memo” to On. The on-startup scan is convenient and stops PkgBackup from reminding you that you need to do a refresh scan every time you open the applications. Confirming your backups and restores, as well as attaching a note to each backup, is just good file keeping practice.

Backing Up Your Apps and Settings with PkgBackup

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Once you’ve toggled the settings, return to your springboard and launch PkgBackup. iPad users will have to forgive that the application is sized for the iPhone and doesn’t have retina support—it’s a very minor flaw in an otherwise superb application.

When you launch the application it will scan your packages—it should just take a moment or two. Once the initial scan is completed, it will warn you that you have no created a backup yet.

If you do not intend to use the cloud-based backup but, instead, want to backup to your local address book (which will then be synced to your iTunes installation upon the next sync) go ahead and click “Yes” to start the process. We recommend using a cloud-based solution, however. To continue following along with our tutorial to the letter, click “No”.

Once you have clicked “No”, tap on the gear icon in the upper left corner of the interface.

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By default “Addressbook” is checked as your primary backup location. We want to change this to a cloud-based solution. While we are using Dropbox, you can just as easily use Sugarsync if you are so inclined. Tap on your cloud-storage service of choice. You’ll be promoted to log in and authorize yourself with that service. When you have done so successfully the service you selected will be checked as the new default—as seen in the second panel of the image above.

You can also, while you’re in here, schedule routine backups. The backups are very small (under 100k) so you can backup as frequently as you want without chewing up much space. We skipped the scheduled backups as we really only need them when we make major changes or before an iOS upgrade.

Return to the main screen. On the main screen you’ll see a list of various apps and settings you can backup. By default PkgBackup selects all of your installed Cydia packages. In addition you can also backup the data for stock Apple apps, Appstore Apps, Cydia sources, and preference files as well as your SHSH blogs (necessary if you want to downgrade your iOS version in the future). Go ahead and select the ones you wish to backup (we recommend, at minimum, doing all the Cydia Sources and preferences files in order to backup your Cydia experience).

Once you’ve selected the individual pieces you want to backup go ahead and tap the Backup button at the bottom of the interface.

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PkgBackup will prompt you to confirm the backup, then it will prompt you to give the backup a name, like “Test Run”, and then you will see it copying the files (locally if that was the option you selected or to the cloud-storage of your choice).

When the backup is complete it will give you another popup notification to the effect of “Your backup is now on Dropbox!” (or whatever location you saved it to). Now is the time to go check your cloud-based storage (or sync your address book to copy the data). When we go to our Dropbox test account, we see the backup files right in the PkgBackup folder:

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Success! At this point you can now begin the upgrade process for the new version of iOS. When you’re done upgrading and jailbreaking, check the next section to get your apps and settings back on your iOS device.

Backing Up Your Apps and Settings with PkgBackup

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Once you’ve upgraded your iOS device and jailbroken it, you’ll have access to the Cydia store again. Now it’s time to essentially repeat the first half of the tutorial.

Launch Cydia, search for PkgBackup and install it. Don’t bother installing any other apps or messing with any other settings. If you stashed your backup in your address book, make sure to sync it now. If you used a cloud-based solution, go ahead and launch the application and repeat the steps from earlier in the tutorial to authorize access to Dropbox or SugarSync.

Here is where the process differs. From the main screen, tap the button at the bottom that says “View Restore”. By default PkgBackup selects your most recent backup, if you wish to change it tape the drive icon in the upper right corner of the screen beside the name of the recent backup it is displaying (from within that menu you can pick any previous backup from your backup source).

When you have the backup you want, tap “Do Restore” at the bottom of the screen. You’ll receive a confirmation, and then PkgBackup will take your pile of applications, application settings, and other backup data and reinstall it all in the proper order. After that you’ll be prompted to reboot your device. Reboot and enjoy all your jailbreak apps!

What would have taken you an hour or longer of fussing and tinkering just took, including reinstalling PkgBackup, about 5 minutes.


Have an awesome jailbreak tip, trick, or hack? We want to hear about it. Shoot us an email at tips@howtogeek.com to share your jailbreak wisdom.

Jason Fitzpatrick is warranty-voiding DIYer and all around geek. When he's not documenting mods and hacks he's doing his best to make sure a generation of college students graduate knowing they should put their pants on one leg at a time and go on to greatness, just like Bruce Dickinson. You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 02/14/12

Comments (11)

  1. Peter Vu

    Umm… I can use AppBackup for free. =D

  2. Joe Danger

    Open Backup will do this for free as well, syncs to iCloud and is the simplest and easiest solution.

  3. Scuzzle

    This is all well and good, and a good tutorial to boot, but all too often one of the JB apps that you backed up will not be compatible with the iOS you just upgraded to. So what will happen? Your device will crash into safe mode, repeatedly, until you remove the offending JB app. This is pretty much a trial-and-error process, and can end up nullifying any time gain in using a backup service.

  4. Adriaan Bornman

    Hi there
    Please tell me if there is a way I can upgrade from jailbroken iOS 4.2.1 to maybe jailbroken iOS 5.0.1 or something but I don’t want to lose anything, apps contacts etc etc. Then I have an social networking instant messaging app don’t want to lose that messages will this tutorial work for this needs?
    Thanks in advance :)

  5. tribas

    It´s not that simple, i used it when upgraded from 4.3.3 to 5.0.1 and the phone didn´t even boot, since most tweaks are not compatible between IOS 4 and 5.

  6. Rebs

    Good tutorial and well worth the money.
    I have this app for the last 2 years and I would be lost without it.

  7. Infernova

    @Peter Vu

    Umm… I can use AppBackup for free as well. What’s your point?

    AppBackup backs up App Store apps. PkgBackup backs up Cydia apps. They’re completely different things. So stop being a troll.

    @Scuzzle

    Well make sure fetch your SHSH blobs (i.e. with iFaith) so you can downgrade if PkgBackup for some reason doesn’t work with the new iOS.

    @tribas

    Like I said, make sure to save your SHSH blobs for your 4.x firmware BEFORE you upgrade so that you know you can go back and restore your PkgBackup if the upgrade messes things up.

  8. Infernova

    @Adriaan Bornman

    As long as the social messaging app is from the app store, you will not lose it upon restore if you use backup in iTunes. In iTUNES. Not with a special program; iTUNES.

    I’ve just had to clarify this to so many ppl who ask, ‘where can I get itunes backup program on google’

    WTF?

  9. Scuzzle

    @Infernova

    I’m not sure how having your SHSH blobs saved makes PkgBackup a better tool. The intent of this article is clearly to illustrate how PkgBackup will save you time when upgrading to a new iOS. If this article was about how to downgrade to a previous iOS if you do not like the new one, then yes, bringing up SHSH blobs would have been appropriate.

    @tribas and I pointed out that using the tool when upgrading to a new iOS is not nearly as seamless, nor as painless, as this article infers.

  10. rrr

    ogo

  11. jcbrown4

    @Scuzzle
    He brought up SHSH blobs because if PkgBackup wasn’t compatible with the new version of iOS, you could still downgrade to a previous version and still use PkgBackup to restore all of your Cydia packages.

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