What to do when your iOS backup is newer than your iPhone’s OS


The wait for iOS 12.1 public beta 5 was so short you could have napped through it.
Running an iOS beta can cause problems when you get a new device.
Photo: Ed Hardy/Cult of Mac

Everyone in Apple’s beta program is running a pre-release version of the next iOS version. Which is great, until you get a new iPhone or iPad. Then you can’t restore the new device from the backup made on your previous one because the old device is running a newer OS.

Don’t panic, there is a solution. And we’ll walk you through it.

If you’re confused about what we’re talking about, consider the just-released 2018 iPad Pro. It comes running iOS 12.1, but anyone whose previous iPad was in the Apple Beta Software Program is already on a beta of iOS 12.1.1. The easiest way to set up the new iPad Pro would be to install a backup from your old tablet, but you can’t do that if that backup was made with iOS 12.1.1. It’s newer that the OS the iPad is running.

One option is closed to you. It’s not possible to remove the iOS beta from the older computer, make a fresh backup, then install that on the 2018 iPad Pro. 

Instead, you have the put the latest beta on the new tablet. Then both your tablets will be on the same iOS version and you can install the backup.

Getting the new device on the iOS beta

The first thing to do is set up the new iPhone/iPad as a new device. Give it your Apple ID, but don’t restore from any old, old backups you might have out on iCloud. 

Once this is done, head immediately to the Apple Beta Software Program webpage. Say that you want to Sign Up, then sign in with your Apple ID. On the resulting page, click on “enroll your iOS Device.” Install the profile, then restart your iDevice.

Once the phone/tablet has been restarted, go to Settings > General > Software Update, and the latest beta should be listed. Install it.

Getting the backup on your new iPhone or iPad

Once you have your computer running the latest IOS beta, you have to completely reset it once again in order to get it ready to install the backup you made with your previous device.

Go to Settings > General > Reset and choose “Erase All Contents and Settings.” Jump through the hoops necessary to convince the device you really want to do that.

When the iPhone or iPad has finished removing all previous data and rebooted, you’ll need to set the computer up again from the start.

Hint: this is a lot easier if you put your old tablet, or your iPhone, near the new one with Bluetooth turned on. The device you’re setting up will be able to grab some settings off the older computer.

This time, when you’re working your way through the setup process, the most recent backup made on your previous computer will be available to install. Do so.

If this experience has soured you on the Apple Beta Software Program, we have instructions on how to leave it.