Apr 24, 2013

Don't lose your SMS text messages!


Category: Mobile Computing Computers
Today I happened to need to download all my audio notes (or memos as Apple call them) from my fairly ancient (3GS) iPhone. I then thought, rather foolishly as it turns out, that it would be a good and noble thing if I also backed up all my SMS messages...

Today I happened to need to download all my audio notes or memos as Apple call them from my fairly ancient (3GS) iPhone. I then thought, rather foolishly as it turns out, that it would be a good and noble thing if I also backed up all my SMS messages. Since the day when iTunes ate all my files in one of its uncontrollable syncing processes, I have not trusted iTunes. The good news is that it was quite easy to download all my photographs, though they weren’t the object of the exercise.

I then tried a piece of software which I bought a year ago called iPhone to PC Transfer by iMacSoft. It was on the old version of my computer and had always been a bit flaky, but when re-installed on my updated computer (larger SSD) it managed to crash not only itself but also iTunes, whenever my iPhone was plugged in. This was particularly intriguing as I hadn’t started iTunes, though I know that some iPhone transfer programs use iTunes in the background.

The take-home lessons are these:

1) on a PC you don’t need any third-party program at all to transfer your photos since you can download them from the ‘Computer’ panel (found either on the desktop or by pressing Windows + e) then right-clicking on the ‘Portable Device’ icon that should show up when you plug your iPhone into the computer’s USB port. Your computer may also be set up so that when you plug the iPhone it automatically asks you if you want to open the ‘Internal Storage’ folder, in which should be a DCIM folder which contains folders which contain the photos. Phew. However, good luck finding anything else this way, so:

2) a free program called Syncios (http://www.syncios.com*) seems to do a very reasonable job of copying/exporting voice memos (and photos) to your PC.

3) It will also export your SMS messages, and without requiring your iPhone to be jail-broken as some programs do. There are two only problems with the output: it’s one huge disorganised text file and none of the phone numbers are associated with names. On the one hand you won’t lose your messages on the other hand you probably won’t be able to find what you’re looking for, which is a nice irony somewhere along the lines of the ending of The Raiders Of The Lost Ark.

There are some programs that offer better sorting of SMS but they are all so crippled in their trial versions that you cannot check that you are going to get a complete result. They may be fine, they may not be, but they all costs around $20 and I consider that to be an expensive experiment.

When I get round to it, I’ll do some research into whether there is an app which sends SMS to your email and also will download it to your PC or email en bloc.   

PS. iMacSoft got back to me promptly regarding my crashing software and thanks to their advice I was able to download a new version and use that. This time it just in ‘Not responding’ mode for a bit, but did not crash. It did export my SMS messages, but also in a chaotic and largely useless fashion. Since Syncios is free, and  iPhone to PC Transfer is not, it would seem that the budget choice would have to be Syncios unless you really need to have your text messages in a findable and organised form.

* I had never heard of Syncios before yesterday, and I have no affiliation with them, but hey, if you’re from Syncios, I’m open to offers, maybe 10% of your gross? Oh wait, your product’s free. They even offer tech support. I shall enquire of them how on Earth they manage this with a free product.

This piece is part of a putative series called The Ruthless Guide to Computing (On A Budget).