Protect Your Valuable iPad Data with a Backup Plan

iPad with backup cloud and document
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How to Backup iPad

Regularly backing up your iPad is the best way to protect the important data stored there. iPads are often the place where you save irreplaceable photos, important files, and personal information. Failing to keep a second copy of these things can mean they are lost forever if your iPad is lost, stolen, or broken.

You can back up your files either to iCloud, your Mac, or your PC. Here’s how to backup your iPad to iCloud:

  1. Connect your iPad to a Wi-Fi network.
  2. Go to Settings > Your Name
  3. Tap iCloud.
  4. Scroll down and tap iCloud Backup.
  5. Verify iCloud Backup is toggled to ON (green). This will create an automatic backup schedule for your iPad.
  6. Tap Back Up Now to manually backup iPad.

If you’d rather save your backup on your computer, it is just as easy. Read our article below for complete step-by-step instructions on the “hows” and “whys” of performing an iPad backup.

Apple’s ubiquitous iPad is one of the most popular tablets on the market today — and has always been since the device debuted in 2010. If you own one of the nearly 425 million iPads Apple sold in the last 10+ years, then you no doubt want to protect the irreplaceable photos, files, and data that you save on your device.

However, safeguarding that data doesn’t happen by accident. Knowing why and how to backup iPad is something every iPad owner should understand… and regularly do.


Where Should You Backup iPad?

When it comes to backing up your iPad, you have a couple of choices:

  • You can send your data to the cloud (iCloud) for the convenience of being able to restore a backup anytime and anywhere you have a Wi-Fi connection.
  • If you prefer to avoid the security risks inherent with storing private information in the cloud, you can choose to save your backup data to your computer’s hard drive.

Of course, you can always do both. Saving a backup file in two different locations offers an added measure of safety.


How to Set Up Automatic iPad Backups to iCloud

Regularly backing up your iPad to iCloud is quite easy, and this is by design. Apple is renowned for making devices as simple as possible to use, and that includes letting users manage storage.

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Tap your Apple ID.
  3. Tap iCloud.
    iPad-iCloud-backup-screenshot-1
  4. Tap iCloud Backup.
    iPad-iCloud-backup-screenshot-2
  5. Toggle the button to ON (green). With iCloud Backup turned on, your iPad will automatically backup each day when it is (a) locked, (b) connected to power, and (c) on a Wi-Fi network.
    iPad-iCloud-backup-screenshot-3
  6. You can manually backup your iPad anytime by tapping the Back Up Now button.

iCloud Backup: Pros and Cons

ProsCons
You can backup and restore to iCloud over Wi-Fi and eliminate the need for a computer.You have a maximum of 5GB of storage with a free iCloud account. You’ll have to buy a monthly storage subscription if you need more space.
You can set up an automatic backup schedule to iCloud, so you never have to worry about manually backing up your iPad again.There are privacy and data risk implications when you send your data to a cloud location.

How to Backup iPad to a Computer

If you prefer to keep your backup stored on your computer’s hard drive, the process will vary depending on whether you have a PC or Mac.

If you have a Mac, the process will also depend on the operating system you have installed. Each procedure is covered below.

  • Mac OS Catalina 10.15+ — Use Finder to backup iPad
  • Mac OS Maverick 10.14 or earlier — Use iTunes to backup iPad
  • PC — Use iTunes for Windows to backup iPad

How to Backup iPad using Finder

For Mac users with OS Catalina 10.15 or later installed, you use Finder to backup your iPad.

  1. Connect your computer and iPad with a USB cable.
  2. Open Finder on your computer.
  3. Select your iPad in the sidebar under Locations.
  4. Click General at the top of the Finder window.
    iPad-finder-backup-screenshot-1
  5. Select Back up all of the data on your iPad to this Mac.
  6. Select Encrypt local backup if you want to password-protect your backup file.
  7. Click Back Up Now.

How to Backup iPad using iTunes

If you’re using a PC or a Mac with OS Maverick 10.14 or earlier installed, you use iTunes to backup iPad.

  1. Connect your iPad and computer with a USB cable.
  2. Open iTunes.
  3. Click the iPad icon near the top left of the iTunes window.
    iPad iTunes backup screenshot
  4. Click Summary.
  5. In the Backups section, choose This Computer to save your file locally.
  6. Click Encrypt local backup if you wish to password protect your data file.
  7. Click Back Up Now to perform a manual backup of your iPad.

You can find the backup files stored on your computer by choosing Edit > Preferences > Devices.

Computer Backup: Pros and Cons

ProsCons
Your data is stored locally, eliminating the risk associated with sending your information to a cloud location.Your iPad and computer must be within cable distance to backup. Same with trying to restore a backup file to your iPad.
Your storage space is only limited by the size of your computer’s hard drive.If your computer’s hard drive crashes or the computer is lost, stolen, or broken, your backup file is potentially gone forever.

Why You Should Back Up Your iPad

There are a number of reasons to regularly do an iPad backup. While some scenarios might seem quite remote, having a recent backup of your Apple devices makes the situation much less stressful.
Delete Data iPad iPhone

You’re protected if you lose or break your iPad

Nobody plans to lose or break their expensive iPad. But if tragedy strikes, it’s better to have a copy of your important information. After all, the device can be easily replaced. But all the important photos, notes, and documents? Likely gone forever — unless you have a backup.

You want to simplify your backups

If you’re like most people, you use myriad apps on your iPad. Most promise to save your information to the cloud, and if you have to restore that data in the future, the apps make it relatively easy to do so.

But what about device settings that aren’t sent up to cyberspace for safekeeping? Or files that are saved on your iPad itself?

With a regular iPad backup schedule, you capture all the scattered data in a single place — your backup file. A file that can be easily restored with just a few screen taps.

Your data is safe in a cybercrime attack

While it seems like big companies and global enterprises are the usual targets of cybercriminals, regular people are just as much at risk to fall victim to scammers and hackers with bad intentions.

If your iPad is infected with malware or a virus, or if you fell victim to a phishing scam, having your important data stored elsewhere can provide you some much-needed peace of mind. In situations like these, the value of regularly backing up your iPad becomes crystal clear.


How to Restore iPad Data from a Backup

If catastrophe strikes, restoring a backup file is easy.

Restore from an iCloud Backup

  1. Turn on your new (or newly erased) iPad.
  2. Choose your Language and Region.
  3. Tap Set Up Manually.
  4. Tap Restore from iCloud Backup and follow the screen prompts.

Since you will be prompted for your AppleID to continue the process, have that login information handy before you begin.

Restore from a Computer Backup

  1. Connect your new (or newly erased) iPad to your computer with a USB cable.
  2. Depending on your computer, do one of the following:
    1. Mac with OS Catalina 10.15 or later: In the Finder sidebar, under Locations select your iPad and click Trust.
    2. PC or Mac with OS Maverick 10.14 or earlier: In the iTunes window, select your iPad device.
  3. When the Welcome Screen is displayed, click Restore from this backup.
  4. Choose your backup from the list.
  5. Click Continue. If your backup is encrypted, enter your password when prompted.

iPad Privacy Concerns

Privacy settings iOS iPhone

Using any device that connects to the internet raises privacy concerns for most users. An iPad is no exception. There are several ways you can protect your sensitive data and make your iPad more private.

  • Reconsider cloud backups. Anytime you send your data to the cloud, it inherently adds a level of risk not present when you save that same information to your local computer. While iCloud uses 256-bit end-to-end encryption (the strongest encryption on the market today and the gold standard for data protection), no system is foolproof. Whether the convenience of the cloud outweighs your privacy concerns is unique to each user and their risk tolerance levels.
  • Review your iPad privacy settings. Whether you are concerned about exposing your kids to risk while they use an iPad or simply want to keep your activities as private as possible, periodically verifying your iPad privacy settings is always a good idea.
  • Use a VPN. A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is one of the best ways to ensure your safety online. When you use a VPN to access the web, you anonymize yourself online, encrypt all the data you send over the internet, and even bypass the geographic restrictions inherent to your actual location. Using a VPN is easy, and it costs very little to add this layer of protection to your daily internet use.

Final Thoughts

Nobody wants to imagine the worst happening to their expensive iPhone or iPad. Unfortunately, breaking or losing these devices happens with surprising frequency.

To best position yourself for a speedy recovery in the face of a device tragedy, keeping a current backup of your data is a very sensible thing to do. Whether you keep that backup in the cloud or on your computer, the important thing is that you have the information saved… just in case.

How to Backup iPad: Frequently Asked Questions

Quickly find the answer to the most often asked questions about backing up an iPad.

The backup method you use depends on the operating system you have installed on your Mac.

With OS Catalina 10.15 or later installed, you use Finder.

  1. Connect your computer and iPad with a USB cable.
  2. Open Finder on your computer.
  3. Select your iPad in the Finder sidebar.
  4. Click General at the top of the Finder window.
  5. Select Back up all of the data on your iPad to this Mac.
  6. Select Encrypt local backup to password protect your backup file.
  7. Click Back Up Now.

For Macs running earlier operating systems, you use iTunes to backup your iPad.

You can easily backup your iPad to your Mac or PC computer and totally bypass iCloud altogether. This is the preferred method for those with concerns about sending their data to a cloud location.

For Mac users with OS Catalina 10.15 or later installed, you use Finder to backup your iPad.

  1. Connect your computer and iPad with a USB cable.
  2. Open Finder on your computer.
  3. Select your iPad in the Finder sidebar.
  4. Click General at the top of the Finder window.
  5. Select Back up all of the data on your iPad to this Mac.
  6. Select Encrypt local backup to password protect your backup file.
  7. Click Back Up Now.

If you’re using a PC or a Mac with OS Maverick 10.14 or earlier installed, read our full article for step-by-step instructions on using iTunes to backup your iPad data.

Absolutely! You’ll first need to download the iTunes for Windows app from the Microsoft store. Then:

  1. Connect your iPad and computer with a USB cable.
  2. Open iTunes.
  3. Click the iPad button near the top left of the iTunes window.
  4. Click Summary
  5. In the Backups section, click Encrypt local backup to password protect your data file.
  6. Click Back Up Now.

Be sure to check out our full article to find out how to backup iPad other ways, how to restore your valuable data, and the privacy concerns you should think about.

You can set up automatic backups only when you backup to an iCloud account. Here’s how.

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Tap your Apple ID.
  3. Tap iCloud > iCloud Backup.
  4. Toggle the button to ON (green). With iCloud Backup turned on, your iPad will automatically backup each day (or night) when it is (a) locked, (b) connected to power, and (c) on a Wi Fi network.
  5. You can manually backup your iPad anytime by tapping the Back Up Now button.

Read our full article to find out how to backup iPad other ways, how to restore your valuable data, and privacy concerns you should think about.

Your iPad must be connected to a power source, on a Wi-Fi network, and locked for a backup to be successful.

If it does and you still cannot do a backup, check to make sure you have enough storage space on your iCloud account to hold the backup. If not, you may need to buy additional storage from Apple.

You can check how much available space you have and see how much you’ll need for your next backup file.

  1. Go to Settings > AppleID.
  2. Tap iCloud. The amount of iCloud storage that you’ve used is listed at the top of your screen.
  3. Tap Manage Storage.
  4. Tap Backups, then tap your iPad name.
  5. Go to Last Backup & Backup Size > Next Backup Size to see how much space you’ll need for your next backup.

If you need to restore a previous backup to your iPad, here’s how:

From iCloud:

  1. Turn on your new (or newly erased) iPad.
  2. Choose your Language and Region.
  3. Tap Set Up Manually.
  4. Tap Restore from iCloud Backup and follow the screen prompts.

You will be prompted for your AppleID to continue the process, so have that login information handy before you begin.

Read our full article to find out how to restore your Ipad backup file from your computer.

Tech journalist
Tove has been working for VPNoverview since 2017 as a journalist covering cybersecurity and privacy developments. She has broad experience developing rigorous VPN testing procedures and protocols for our VPN review section and has tested dozens of VPNs over the years.