Querying data from iTunes backup SQLite and Plist files

Support centre iPhone Backup Extractor support › Advanced configuration & forensics

Users iPhone Backup Extractor are able to automatically export their data to PDF, HTML, VCard, ICAL, VCF or CSV formats for easy access.

Some users may wish to directly manipulate the raw files stored in their backups using expert mode. These are often comprised of SQLite database (.sqlite3, .sqllitedb and .db) or Plist (usually .plist) files.

iPhone Backup Extractor includes a built-in Plist editor, but users wishing to extract data from these files will need a SQLite database client.

How can I work with SQLite databases?

Users might want to try either of these two applications:

  • DB Browser for SQLite. DB Browser used to be named the SQLite Database Browser. It's our recommended tool for Windows, and it's free. They also provide a version for macOS.
  • Base 2. Base is our preferred SQLite tool for macOS, and isa available as a direct download and App Store app.

The date and time fields just come back as numbers, how can I interpret them?

You may struggle to intrepret a number of the fields in the databases. Don't forget, iPhone Backup Extractor can extract the data automatically for you! However, if you're going it alone, you should find the dates are represented as either the number of seconds since 1/1/2001, or 1/1/1970, depending on the position of the date field. In Excel, you could use a formula such as =1/1/2001 + A1/60/60/24 where A1 is your time data. You may also need to adjust the value to account for your local timezone.

How can I work with Apple's database files directly?

As an example, to manually extract contact data, users should restore "Libray/AddressBook/AddressBook.sqllitedb", and then open the restored file with the SQLite Browser. Choosing the "Execute SQL" tab, paste this into the "SQL string" field:

SELECT ABPerson.first, ABPerson.last, ABMultiValue.value FROM ABPerson, ABMultiValue WHERE ABMultiValue.record_id = ABPerson.ROWID

Pressing the "Execute Query" button should return the full contact list shown in the "Data returned" field.

To extract SMS data, users should restore the file "Libray/SMS/SMS.db", open the restored file with the SQLite Browser browser, choose the "Browse data" tab, and then select "message" from the "Table" drop-down. On clicking the magnifying glass button, users should their full SMS history shown in the "Data returned" field.

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