Unable to transfer voice memos from iPhone

I made a few recordings on my iPhone using the Voice Memos app but out of the three recordings I was only able to transfer one of them successfully into iTunes.
The way it’s meant to work is, if you connect your iPhone to your machine & select Music > Sync Music & tick the Include voice memos then when you sync your phone, your recordings should show up in a playlist in iTunes named Voice Memos.
Assuming your files have been processed correctly that is!

What happens is when you record your voice memos, they are saved as quicktime .mov files, then the app converts these to .m4a files afterwards. If you’re unlucky & this conversion process is interrupted e.g in my case I made these recordings on a iPhone 3G which meant no multitasking, switching out to another app meant that I was left with an incomplete m4a file which would never play or get imported, at the time I assumed this was due to the fact that the recording was too long for the iPhone but now that I’ve upgraded to the iPhone 4 & still experiencing the same problem I decided to look further.
I downloaded a demo version of PhoneView which gives you access to the files stored on your phone & fired it up, selecting the Voice Memos folder I could see my recordings which I selected & hit the “Copy From iPhone” button.
The file which transfered succesfully into iTunes previously played without a hitch, but the other two still wouldn’t play though file(1) reported all three files as:
ISO Media, MPEG v4 system, iTunes AAC-LC
Looking at the preferences for PhoneView I enabled “Advanced disk mode” to see if I could dig a little deeper
Advanced Disk Mode

After enabling this & selecting the Disk folder on the top left hand side I was given access to the filesystem on the phone, selecting the Recordings folder I could see .mov files of the two recordings which I couldn’t get to play so I copied them out & gave them a try in quicktime, these turned out to be the intact recordings.
View of the iPhone filesystem via advanced disk mode

Deleting the .m4a versions & reopening the Voice Memo.app restarted the conversion process again.
Voice Memos.app processing recording, converting from mov to m4a file

15 Replies to “Unable to transfer voice memos from iPhone”

  1. This worked perfectly. Thank you so much, I have spent far too long trying to access my files.

  2. Thanks, this is a great tip!

    When I first discovered this I went to the bother of converting the files myself.

    I had no idea Voice Recorder would re-convert on it’s own.

  3. YOU LEGEND! This enabled me to recover a very important interview I had done for my Masters dissertation! Hours of stress and then a perfect, simple explanation. Much better than the Genius Bar or Apple helpline

  4. Thank you SOOO MUCH!!!!

    I had an 86 minute Voice Memo that WAS NOT transferring… I have spent almost 5 hours searching the web for an answer. I found this site after rewording my search, and BAM!!!

    2 Minutes after downloading I have my Voice Memo in my iTunes library!!!

    Phone: iPhone 4
    iTunes: 10.6.3

  5. Thanks so much! There were so many important recordings that wouldn’t go through and I spent so much time going through so many websites and yours is the only one that worked!

    Thanks!!! 🙂

  6. Hi, I do not have a Mac I am on Windows 7 i think it is 🙁 Do you have any tips to help me? I’ve tried everything I can find to get my voice memos from iphone to itunes and no luck 🙁

  7. Thanks a million, spent so much time and tried so many different suggestions but nothing worked at all, and eventually it happened in a fraction of a minute…….thanks a lot once again…

    Kind regards

  8. I deleted the m4a that was at 0kb and now when I turn on the phone and go to voice memos it has a spinning circle at the voice memo that didn’t finish compiling or whatever but it just keeps spinning. This is on an older phone (3g)…how long should I wait and let it spin? The screen keeps going black so I keep turning it back on but I’m not sure if this is just a lost cause.


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