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Frequently-Asked Questions

General • SMSRegistration


Always take a moment to make sure you are using the latest release version, available at the MSB download page. Any significant issues are noted there as well.

MSB was working fine and one day it just started crashing every time I open it. What happened?

Apple changes their backup format from time to time, and this is certainly the case for iTunes 8.1 and 8.2. As a rule, if problems crop up after a iTunes upgrade; check the MSB download page for an updated version.

MSB fails to scan and says it will put a log. Why can't it read the backup?

MSB can encounter problems from time to time, as it has to deal with unknown quantities such as bad/incomplete backups, undocumented format changes imposed by iTunes, mysterious backup files created by the multiplicity of App Store software or files with weird permissions. In later versions of 2.0 (and higher), MSB tries to provide as much info as it can in the form of a Log.

Send me the log and I can probably determine what the problem is by looking at the last file MSB was trying to access. You can try reading the log and moving the last-named file out and try again. Very often, the file is an relatively inconsequential image or preference file from a third-party app. If you determine that the file is causing a problem, and can attach it, I'd really appreciate it. I'm always looking for ways to catch these problems.

MSB is not displaying the expected range of dates for a given device. Why are my older / newer items missing?

If you are not seeing your archived data:

Confirm that MSB is registered (check to see if it says 'REGISTERED' in MSB's Preferences pane)

Verify that you have not inadvertently moved or renamed  the 'MobileSyncBrowser Data' file in your Documents folder.

If you are not seeing your recent data:

MSB relies on iTunes to keep its backups current.

Check to see if iTunes is updating backups as well as  syncing media when your device is attached. If your device is running iPhone OS 3.0 or greater, check the settings to make sure the backup encryption is OFF. MSB cannot read an encrypted backup and will skip it.

To disable encryption, select your device in iTunes and make sure 'Encrypt iPhone backup' is not checked. The next backup performed will not be encrypted.

If you are using iTunes 10.5 or higher, make sure your device is not set to backup to iCloud.
iTunes Settings Tab
Then, in iTunes’ Preferences, select the Devices tab and see if the listed backup date for your device is consistent with your last sync (MSB should display the same info in the top 'Backups' list).

NOTE: Apple has changed the name and appearance of this tab on many occasions.
iTunes Backup Date

If it is not current, attach your device and right-click/control-click on its name in the left column of the main iTunes window, then select Back Up from the pop-up menu that appears.

iTunes Device menu
When iTunes has successfully completed the back up, relaunch MSB.


MSB is showing a empty window when viewing an SMS conversation; why is this happening?

When memory is severely limited within MSB, such as when holding a large database in memory, you may get a 'blank screen' when viewing an SMS conversation, which is also memory-intensive. If this happens, you may Export to HTML and view the conversation in your default web browser.

How can I save/print SMS conversations the way they are displayed in MSB?

MSB normally exports as text for your use in other programs such as spreadsheets, but can export SMS conversations as HTML:

Versions before 3.0: Option- or ALT-click on the Export button.

Version 3.0 and greater: you are always prompted for your choice.

The conversation will then be displayed in a window in your default web browser; you can then Save As or print/save as a PDF. Your web browser may also allow selecting a different type size, if you wish.

I have an extremely long SMS conversation and it takes a very long time to display and export. What can I do?
Split Conversation Example

If your MSB is up-to-date, you will see that SMS conversations with more than 1,000 message have a blue chevron ( > ). If you ALT-click on this button, the conversation will be split into equal parts, never greater than 1,000 messages each. You can then view/export in sections; since the memory required is reduced, their combined processing time is less than that of the full conversation.

Note: MSB must be registered to use this feature.

Why do SMS messages 'to' and 'from' the same contact appear as TWO 'conversations'?

NOTE: This issue has been addressed in software - please download the latest version of MSB from the main page.

Explanation: This is due to minor difference in phone number formatting when an SMS message is received; using US phone numbers as an example, if you send a message to '(999) 123-4567' (as it appears in your contacts) and the reply is tagged by your phone company as '1 (999) 123-4567', any difference in prefixes or country codes can cause a mismatch.

Because of differences from country to country and from one phone company to the next, you must alter MSB's behaviour to suit your circumstances.

To do this, MSB must know how many digits are truly 'significant' and which numbers are not relevant. You can change this in the telephone number formatting option in Preferences.

Help! I deleted an SMS conversation on my phone and need it back! Can MSB recover it?

Recovering deleted text is a tricky business... MSB will not show deleted messages, but - they are what are known as 'soft' deletes, meaning that they do linger in the database for a variable period of time; the space is marked as 'available' and will get overwritten sooner or later depending on your usage and iPhone firmware version.

If you have accidentally deleted a message or conversation, the first thing to do is STOP USING THE PHONE and put it in 'Airplane Mode' so no NEW messages are received, becuase these may overwrite the deleted message(s).

If you synced your device recently BEFORE THE DELETION, most of the messages are likely to be in your backup, so DO NOT SYNC until you succesfully recover that conversation with MSB.

If you have synced AFTER THE DELETION occurred, the conversation you seek will also have been marked as deleted in the backup.

You may be able to recover some of the data following these steps.

If you synched AFTER the deletion, skip step A.
  1. Find iTunes' backup folder (MSB's File menu has a Reveal Folder item to display the Backup folder) and make a copy of that Backup folder in a separate location so you have 'before and after' copies of the backup.
  2. Register for the PLUS version of MSB: you must have access to the raw SMS database file (as-is, not interpreted by MSB)
  3. Use the 'Photos & Other Files' item to navigate to /Library/SMS/sms.db and export the file. Again, the ability to export is only available using the Plus version of MSB.
  4. Open this raw file (sms.db) with a text editor. If those deleted messages are still in there, this would be the way to see if they exist (in whole or in part) and optionally copy the text snippets out; which is admittedly laborious.
  5. If you do see snippets of the conversation you want and this is something mission-critical (say, for legal purposes) and you really need to salvage it with timestamps (dates) and whatnot, you can have the file 'scraped' by someone with forensic tools to extract the data (I can do this on a time-available basis). This expertise isn't free/cheap, so this is why I recommend you poke around on your own first.

Can I edit and send my Notes back to my device?

This is not currently possible, although it is expected that future versions of iTunes (not MSB) will synch notes much as it does contacts and other information.


What is the upgrade policy for MSB?

When you purchase MSB, you are licensed the existing version. Updates are provided as a courtesy: MSB is provided 'AS-IS' but, at my sole discretion, my policy is that keys allow you to install and use any maintenance updates released within one year after your purchase, if released (For example, I cannot be held responsible if Apple makes some change that makes a fix impossible.)

I am a registered user and I just downloaded the most recent version, but it gives me an error, or:

I am having problems with registration. What can I do?

If you have just received a key and the program won't register, you may have received a bad code. Send your registration email with a brief explanation and I will test it and send a new code if necessary.

If this is a code that has worked before: Older versions of MSB may produce a preferences file that newer versions don't like. On certain systems, MSB will try to reset the preferences file, unsuccessfully. The quickest solution is to reset the MSB preferences.

To do this, quit MSB if open, then hold down the SHIFT key before and during the program launch. Continue to hold the key down until the MSB window is displayed.

You can use the File menu in MSB to reveal its Preferences folder on your system. In version 5, you must hold down the Alt/Option key to see this item. You may delete the entire folder or just the com.macsupport-pr.vIDT.plist file contained in this folder.

I just received a new key to enable the optional data recovery features. MSB is already registered and will not let me enter my new key. What should I do?

Follow the steps in the preceding question to delete the MSB preferences file.

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