An iOS application that backs up and restores the saved data and preferences of App Store apps.

Copyright (C) 2008-2014 Scott Zeid

This is the source tree for AppBackup. AppBackup is mainly written in Python 2.5 and Objective-C.


  • Directory structure with descriptions for some files
  • Prerequisites for building
  • Building AppBackup
  • Running AppBackup in the iOS Simulator
  • License

Directory structure with descriptions for some files

  • data/
    • bundle/
      Files included in .app bundle, excluding subdirectories
    • DEBIAN/
      Debian package control files
    • images/
      GIMP and SVG source files for image resources
    • usr/
      /usr/bin/appbackup{,-fix-permissions} launcher scripts
  • i18n/
    Translations in INI format and some conversion scripts
  • lib/
    3rd-party or other external libraries
    • obj-c/
      BDSKTask and MBProgressHUD
  • out/
    Directory where generated .deb files (and temporary files from the build process) are stored.
    • python/
      • path/
        Contains the easy_install-ed Python packages that will be copied into the .deb file
      • iosappbackup-<version>.tar.gz
        Python source distribution generated with make sdist.
  • src/
    • cli-proxy/
      The CLI proxy client used in the iOS Simulator build.
    • FixPermissions/ *
      FixPermissions (C; fixes storage directory permissions)
    • gui/
      GUI source code and third-party libraries in Objective-C
      • about.html/
        Generator for the HTML file used in the About screen
      • AppBackupGUI.xcodeproj
        An Xcode project, only for use with iOS Simulator.
    • python/
      Python packages that are part of AppBackup
      • iosappbackup/
        AppBackup CLI Python package
      • setup.py
        Defines dependencies, etc. for the Python package
  • Makefile **
    Builds the AppBackup GUI, uses easy_install to download the Python dependencies, and builds the Debian package. Can also install AppBackup on an iDevice via SSH.
  • config.dist **
    Sample configuration file for the Makefile. Should be copied to config, and then config should be modified as necessary.
  • ...

* FixPermissions is changed to setuid root after the package is installed.

** See the Building AppBackup section for details. AppBackupGUI and FixPermissions are re-compiled by default, but that can be changed.

Prerequisites for building

  • Linux (tested with Fedora; other distros, OS X, Cygwin, etc. may work but I haven't tested them)
  • Working iOS toolchain that uses clang (tested with a 3.1.2 toolchain)
  • The NSTask.h file must be added to the iOS SDK; see below
  • bash; dpkg; GNU make; Python 2.5 (OS X only), 2.6, or 2.7
  • Python setuptools

At the time of this writing, I am using Fedora 20 and this toolchain with the iOS 3.1.2 SDK to develop AppBackup. The iOS device I use for testing runs iOS 3.1.3.

In order for AppBackup to build successfully, the NSTask.h file must be copied from the Foundation framework in an OS X SDK to the Foundation framework in the iOS or iOS Simulator SDK. On a Mac running OS X Yosemite:

# iOS
sudo cp -a \
 /Applications/Xcode.app/Contents/Developer/Platforms/MacOSX.platform/Developer/SDKs/MacOSX10.10.sdk/System/Library/Frameworks/Foundation.framework/Headers/NSTask.h \

# iOS Simulator
sudo cp -a \
 /Applications/Xcode.app/Contents/Developer/Platforms/MacOSX.platform/Developer/SDKs/MacOSX10.10.sdk/System/Library/Frameworks/Foundation.framework/Headers/NSTask.h \

Building AppBackup

Options for the build process are set in the config file. You must create the config file before building for the first time:

  • Copy config.dist to config.
  • Edit config as necessary.
  • Compiling binaries is enabled by default; make CC in config be blank to disable that.
  • Precompiled binaries are not included in the git repository, but you can extract them from a pre-made AppBackup Debian package and put them into the correct places in the source tree if you are only trying to change or rebuild the Python parts.

AppBackup is built using a Makefile. The most common invocations are:

  • make
    Compiles the binaries (if enabled) and builds the .deb file.

  • make install DEVICE=<hostname/address>
    Installs the most recently built .deb file onto the given device. (If DEVICE is set in your config file, then you can omit the DEVICE argument if you want to install onto that device.)

  • make test DEVICE=<hostname/address>
    Compiles the binaries (if enabled), builds the .deb file, installs the .deb file onto the given device, and then runs ssh mobile@<DEVICE>. (If DEVICE is set in your config file, then you can omit the DEVICE argument if you want to install onto that device.)

If you wish to use make install or make test, make sure your device has an SSH server installed, and CHANGE THE ROOT AND MOBILE USERS' PASSWORDS. You will also need to manually install the AppBackup package dependencies:

$ sudo apt-get install bash coreutils-bin python setuptools

The Python version on your device must be at 2.5, 2.6, or 2.7.

Running AppBackup in the iOS Simulator

AppBackup can be run in a limited fashion in the iOS Simulator, and an Xcode project is included at src/gui/AppBackupGUI.xcodeproj for this purpose. (The Xcode project cannot be used to compile the regular version of AppBackup.)

You must have the iosapplist Python package installed first:

$ sudo pip install --pre -U iosapplist

Before you run AppBackup in the simulator, you must run the following command outside the simulator on the same machine, from the root directory of the source tree:

$ ./appbackup.test \
   -r ~/Library/Developer/CoreSimulator/Devices/<uuid>/data \
   --robot=plist shell-server --null

(You can, of course, point it to a different data directory. That directory should have the same directory structure as /var/mobile from a real device.)

AppBackup uses a command-line shell written in Python 2.5 to do its magic; however, the iOS Simulator's dyld will refuse to run the CLI or its launcher script, complaining that they are "built for Mac [sic] OS X". Therefore, the simulator version uses a proxy that connects to the shell server invoked as above, which listens on localhost port 14121 and only accepts one connection at a time.

The Xcode project sets the preprocessor directive USE_CLI_PROXY to enable this behavior, regardless of whether the project is being built for the simulator.


AppBackup is free software, which means that it respects your freedoms. AppBackup is released under the terms of the X11 License, and it also includes software released under similar free, permissive licenses. For the full text of the license and copyright notices for AppBackup and all software included with it, see the LICENSE.txt file in the source repository.