How To

Complete guide on how to backup iPhone on iTunes and iCloud

backup iPhone

One of the most important things you should do is to regularly backup your iPhone. Unfortunately, it’s also on the top of the list of things people neglect to do on any consistent basis. There is a reason for the increased storage and bigger screens on today’s smartphones. These devices often act as our primary computing devices, in addition to completely replacing your old point and shoot camera. At their core, these are mobile devices, designed so that you can take them virtually anywhere. Unlike an old desktop computer that spends its life sitting on a desk, your iPhone goes everywhere. That makes is incredibly susceptible to drops, being lost and gasp, going for a swim. All surefire ways to kill your phone and more importantly, lose your data. I’ve had entirely too many friends and family come to me pleading for a way to get back photos of their sons or daughters as a baby, or a video that cannot be replaced. Without the proper backup in place, these are often lost forever. Luckily for you, Apple offers a number of backup procedures that are ‘set and forget’. We’ll list your options, outline the pros and cons, and show you how to back up iPhone on iTunes and iCloud. If this is your first iOS device, well congratulations. These directions will work for you, but I’d also point you to our article on how to setup a new iPhone. Let’s do this!

how to backup iPhone

There are two methods of backing up your iPhone. One requires a computer, which is considered a ‘local’ backup. This just means it’s backing up your home PC or Mac. The other method requires backing up to ‘the cloud’, which is actually a slew of servers operated by Apple, thus the iCloud naming convention. Below are directions for how to backup using either option, along with a few pros and cons.

How to backup iPhone on iTunes

Before we proceed, you’ll want to download the latest copy of iTunes for either Mac or PC. When you connect a device that has been previously paired with a computer, connecting that device will start the syncing process. However, I think it’s important to outline the the backup process.

1. Connect your iPhone to your computer using the correct cable, either one that came with your iPhone or a MFi compatible third party cable. Beginning with the iPhone 5, all cables use a USB connection on one end and a Lightning connection that connects at the bottom of your phone, as shown below.

Lightning cable iPhone

2. Using your mouse or trackpad, select File > Devices > Backup. If there are no messages, you can safely move to the next step, which is checking when the last backup was made.

Devices backup

3. There are cases where iTunes will inform you that there are some apps on your iPhone which are not in your iTunes library. This often means that you downloaded an app from the App Store using your iPhone and these were never synced to your computer. If for example, you were to lose your iPhone, you wouldn’t lose these apps. They can always be downloaded from the App Store, so your paid apps are almost never lost. If an app has been removed from the App Store and isn’t on your computer, that would be a rare case of not being able to access it. I’d always recommend you select ‘Back Up Apps’. This moves all apps from your iPhone to your computer. It also has means that when you restore from a backup, these apps would be installed on your device.

apps not synced iTunes

How to check when last iPhone backup was completed

You’ll want to check and make sure that iTunes has made a backup. To check the time and date of the most recent backup.

  1. With your iPhone connected to your Mac/PC, select the Devices in the left column and select your iPhone.
  2. You should see the ‘Summary’ tab, under which you’ll see information about your iPhone, Backups and Options.
  3. Under Backups, you’ll see the Latest Backup.

iTunes last backup

Pros:

  • You control your data and the security of that data
  • Backups happen when iPhone is plugged in, locked and connected to WiFi.
  • You take a lot of photos and videos that are stored on your iPhone. This can cause overages on your iCloud account, which is limited to 5GB of storage.
  • You have access to your computer on a regular basis.
  • Can sync wireless when in range of network.
  • New, lower cost storage plans makes it more affordable.
  • It’s the easiest way to backup and restore your phone, bar none.

Cons:

  • In the event of a fire, theft or event that causes damage to your home, your data could be lost.
  • Requires you backup your computer.
  • To setup a new device, it involves tethering to your computer.

How to backup iPhone on iCloud

To backup your iPhone using iCloud, you don’t need a computer. Just follow these easy steps:
1. Navigate to Settings > iCloud > Backup.
2. Toggle iCloud Backup to the ‘On‘ position as shown below.
3. Enter your Apple ID password.
4. Tap on Back Up Now to initiate a backup. You’ll see a message with a status bar on the time remaining until it’s completed.

iPhone iCloud backup

If you had previously backed up using iTunes, you’ll see a message informing you that “Your iPhone will no longer backup to your computer automatically when you sync with iTunes.” The key here is the word ‘automatically’. We’ll go over how you can still backup to both iTunes and iCloud.

Pros:

  • Wirelessly syncs to Apple servers.
  • Your data is backed up on redundant servers, effectively removing concerns of data loss.
  • Able to restore backups anywhere. You can leave the Apple Store with your new iPhone 6 and immediately have all of your information restored.
  • Does not require a computer.

Cons:

  • Requires user take proper steps, including 2-step verification, to protect account.
  • The free 5GB limit isn’t sufficient if you take a fair amount of photos and videos. This could leave you with a device that stops making backups.

What gets backed up?

When you backup your iPhone to iTunes, Apple makes a thorough backup of your data. The below image shows each and every item that is backed up to your computer whenever a backup is completed.

Included iTunes backup

Why backup using using both iTunes and iCloud

If you own a computer, there are still a great number of reasons why you’d opt for iCloud backups. It’s easy, wireless, secure and I’d trust Apple’s servers over your personal hard drive any day of the week. It also makes it incredibly easy to restore from a backup, without the hassle of wires. That being said, I’m a proponent of using both methods. You’ll have the comfort of knowing that you data is backed up both locally and in the cloud. If you are backing using iCloud, it will be noted in the Backup section of iTunes. Although your iPhone is configured to use iCloud, you can still follow the directions above to create a local iTunes backup.

Whichever method you choose, backing up your iPhone is incredibly important. Select a method that works best for you and be sure that your iPhone is backing up on a regular basis. If you’ve had your iPhone lost, stolen or damaged, it can be a terrible and costly experience.  Phones, while expensive, can be replaced. Memories cannot.

Have questions? Need help? Check out our iPhone forums! It’s free to join and you’ll be able to ask questions, take part in discussions and more.

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