How to Back Up iPhone: The Complete Guide

iPhone in front of cloud with data
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How to Back Up Your iPhone: A Short Summary

It’s important to protect the information in your iPhone with regular backups. You can save your data in iCloud or on your Mac or PC. For creating a backup on iCloud, follow these steps:

  1. Connect your iPhone 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).
  6. Tap Back Up Now.

If you don’t want to save your data in the cloud, there are other ways to back up your iPhone. Read the full article below to discover all the “hows” and “whys” of backing up your iPhone.

We take our phones for granted these days. After all, they’re with us 24/7, rarely out of reach. For many, our smartphones are one of our biggest investments, and we often focus on protecting the handset itself. But what about the information inside your pricey device?

Keeping your phone’s data safe is important. That’s where iPhone backup strategies come into play.

Where Should You Back Up Your iPhone?

When it comes to iPhone backups, you have a few choices. You can send your data to the cloud (iCloud) or keep a copy safe and sound in a more down-to-earth location (your computer). Some people save a backup in both places. This redundancy offers peace of mind, and the ability to restore data under almost any circumstance.

How to Back Up iPhone to iCloud

To back up your iPhone to iCloud, you must have an iCloud account tied to an Apple ID. If you do, here’s how to do the backup:

  1. Connect your iPhone to a Wi-Fi network.
  2. Go to Settings > Your Name.
  3. iCloud Backup Step 1: Settings
  4. Tap iCloud.
  5. Scroll down and tap iCloud Backup.
  6. iCloud backup step 2: iCloud
  7. Verify iCloud Backup is toggled to ON (green).
  8. iCloud backup step 3: iCloud backup
  9. Tap Back Up Now.

Keep in mind that you need to stay connected to your Wi-Fi for the entire backup process, otherwise your data might not be stored correctly or completely. You’ll also need to have enough iCloud storage space for the backup file.

iCloud backups: pros and cons

Choosing to back up iPhone to iCloud has its advantages, but also comes with some downsides. We’ve listed them in the table below.

ProsCons
You can back up and restore over Wi-Fi anywhere and anytime – no computer required.You are limited to 5GB of storage space with a free iCloud account. If you need more space, you’ll have to buy a monthly storage subscription.
Your backup is automatically encrypted.Sending your data to a cloud location creates more data and privacy risks than keeping your data local.

How to Back Up iPhone to a Computer

Apart from saving your files in the Cloud, you can also store them locally, on your own device. If you have a Mac, there are two possible ways you can back up iPhone to your computer, depending on the version of your operating system. If you have a PC, there is only one option.

  • Mac running OS Catalina 10.15 or later: use the Finder feature to back up iPhone.
  • Mac running OS Mojave 10.14 or earlier: use iTunes to back up your iPhone.
  • PC: use the iTunes for Windows app.

We’ll describe the processes for both Finder and iTunes down below.

How to back up iPhone on Mac using Finder

If you’re running OS Catalina 10.15 or later, you can use Finder to back up your iPhone to your Mac.

  1. Connect your iPhone and computer with a USB cable.
  2. Open Finder and select your iPhone in the sidebar on the left under Locations.
  3. Click General at the top of the Finder window.
  4. iPhone backup with Finder
  5. Select Back up all of the data on your iPhone to this Mac.
  6. Select Encrypt local backup to add an additional layer of security to your data. You will be prompted to add a password.
  7. Click Back Up Now.

You’ll now have a backup of your iPhone data on your Mac computer.

How to back up iPhone using iTunes

If your Mac is running OS Mojave 10.14 or earlier, use iTunes to back up your iPhone. If you’re backing up to a PC, use iTunes for Windows. You can download this from the Microsoft store. The process is virtually the same for both Mac and Windows.

  1. Connect your iPhone and computer with a USB cable.
  2. Open iTunes.
  3. Click on the iPhone icon in the top left of the iTunes window.
  4. iphone-backup-to-itunes-step-3
  5. Go to Settings > Summary.
  6. If you want to encrypt your backups, tick the Encrypt Local Backups box. You will be prompted to add a password.
  7. Click Back Up Now.
  8. iPhone-iTunes-Backup-Screenshot-2

A copy of your iPhone data will be stored locally on your computer.

Computer backups: pros and cons

If backing up to your computer seems preferable, be sure to weigh the benefits and costs.

ProsCons
Backing up and restoring data is faster.You must have both your computer and iPhone to back up and restore data. If you lose your phone when you don’t have your computer, restoring your data to a replacement phone will have to wait until you have access to your computer again.
You’ll only be limited by the storage size of your computer’s hard drive.If your computer is stolen or the hard drive fails, your backup is gone. One way to mitigate this risk is to copy your backup file to a cloud storage service you may already be using, like Dropbox, Google Drive, or OneDrive.*

*Typically, these services provide a larger amount of data storage than is available through your free iCloud account.

Other Ways to Back Up iPhone

While the backup options provided by Apple are free and the easiest to use, there are options from third-party app makers as well. These apps may provide features such as backup of contacts, recovery of deleted data, and the ability to browse backup data.

Popular examples of these apps include iMazing, Phone Rescue, and iBackup Viewer. Unfortunately, most of them come with a hefty price tag to get full functionality. However, for users willing to pay, the added convenience and features of these apps make them attractive.

Why You Should Back Up Your iPhone

The fact that there’s a World Backup Day on March 31st each year shows that many people find it important to back up their data regularly. This isn’t without reason: keeping a replicated copy of your most current information “just in case” can save you a lot of stress. There are several good reasons why you should regularly back up your iPhone. Here are a couple of situation in which you’ll be glad to have a backup of your data.

You are protected if your iPhone is lost, stolen, or damaged

Photos and videos are irreplaceable. Messages and voicemails can’t be replicated. These are just a few important things that will be lost when your phone breaks or disappears.

Whether you leave it in the back of an Uber, a pickpocket steals it, or you accidentally drop it on an unforgiving tile floor, there are many ways your phone can unexpectedly exit your life.

While replacing your iPhone will be easy (not counting the dent in your pocketbook), replacing your pictures and messages is not. Without a current backup of your phone’s data, all the information in your old phone is likely gone forever.

Your phone’s data is consolidated into a single backup file

If you’re not super technical, how and where your data is saved can be confusing. Gmail calendars, iCloud contacts, WhatsApp messages – everything promises to be stored someplace safe “in the cloud.” But the cyber sky is filled with clouds, and your backups are scattered among them.

What’s even more confusing is that not every piece of information you save in your phone goes up to the cloud at all. Some data is stored only on your phone – unless you back it up.

Regularly backing up your iPhone consolidates nearly all of your phone’s data in one place, making it easy to get your phone’s data back quickly and with less stress.

Your data is more protected against cybercrime

Although nobody wants to believe they could be targeted by cybercriminals, the chances aren’t as small as you might imagine. While huge incidents tend to make the news, individuals can fall victim to cybercrime, too.

Whether it’s phishing, malware, or ransomware, your mobile device is not bulletproof. If your phone is implicated in a cybercrime attack, having a backup of your important settings and data stored somewhere else can be a lifesaver.

How to Restore iPhone From a Backup

If the unthinkable happened and you have to replace your iPhone, follow these steps to restore your phone’s data from a backup.

Restore iPhone from iCloud

  1. Turn on your new iPhone.
  2. From the Hello screen, follow the onscreen prompts until you see the Apps & Data screen. If you previously set up the device, you have to fully erase all content and start from scratch.
  3. Tap Restore from iCloud Backup.
  4. Sign in to your iCloud account with your Apple ID.
  5. Select the backup you want to use.
  6. Follow the prompts to restore any purchases and apps.
  7. A progress bar should appear. Wait for it to complete before disconnecting from Wi-Fi.

Once the download of your backup is complete, you can start using your new phone. However, some content will continue restoring in the background. This could take several hours or even days, depending on how much data is involved. It will only restore while you are connected to Wi-Fi and power, so it’s a good idea to do a restore when your phone will have continuous access to both.

Restore iPhone from computer

On a Mac running OS Catalina 10.15 or later, open Finder. For Macs running an earlier OS and for all PCs, open iTunes.

  1. Connect your phone to your computer with a USB cable.
  2. Select your device when it appears in iTunes or in the Finder window (under Locations).
  3. Select Restore Backup…
  4. Choose the most relevant backup file.
  5. Click Restore and wait for the data to download.
  6. Keep your phone connected until it restarts and finishes syncing to your computer.

Protect Your Apple Data

Chances are that someday you will need to restore a backup to your iPhone. It’s better to take the time now to create a regular backup program, than wish you had when it’s too late. Take a few minutes to secure your important information on your iPhone today.

While you’re in a backup frame of mind, don’t forget to protect and back up the data on your Mac and your iPad, too. If you want to protect your data and your privacy against others, now is also a good time to review the privacy settings on your iPhone. Once you get everything tweaked to your preferences, you can sleep better at night knowing your phone’s important data is secure.

Back Up Your iPhone: Frequently Asked Questions

Didn’t find what you were looking for in the article? Do you have other questions? Check out our FAQ below. If you still can’t find what you need, leave a comment on this article. We’re always happy to help.

You have several options when it comes to backing up your iPhone. You can back up to iCloud (requires an Apple ID) or back up to your PC or Mac.

If you have a PC, you’ll need to download iTunes for Windows. For Mac users, you’ll either use Finder (OS Catalina 10.15 or later) or iTunes (OS Mojave 10.14 or earlier).

Read our full article for detailed steps on how to do each type of backup.

If you don’t have or want an iCloud account, you can back up your iPhone to your Mac or PC:

  • If you are using a Mac and are running OS Catalina 10.15 or later, you use the Finder feature.
  • For older macOS, iTunes is the way to go.
  • All PCs use iTunes for Windows to back up iPhone.

Backup instructions for each are detailed in our full article.

Yes, and it is easy to do. You’ll need to download the iTunes for Windows app first.

  1. Connect your iPhone and computer with a USB cable.
  2. Open iTunes.
  3. Click on the iPhone icon in the top left of the iTunes window.
  4. Go to Settings > Summary.
  5. If you want to encrypt your backups, tick the Encrypt Local Backups box. You will be prompted to add a password.
  6. Click Back Up Now.

There are two ways to back up iPhone to your Mac. Which one you use will depend on the operating system you are running on your Mac.

  • macOS Catalina 10.15 and later – use Finder to back up iPhone.
  • macOS Mojave 10.14 or earlier – use iTunes to back up iPhone.

Step-by-step instructions for completing each type of backup can be found in our full article.

To back up iPhone to iCloud, you’ll need an Apple ID. Every Apple ID includes a free iCloud account with 5GB of storage.

  1. Connect your iPhone 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).
  6. Tap Back Up Now.

If your backup file is larger than the storage space you have on your iCloud account, you’ll need to purchase a storage subscription with Apple.

You need to use iTunes to back up iPhone to PCs and Mac computers with OS Mojave 10.14 or earlier.

  1. Connect your iPhone and computer with a USB cable.
  2. Open iTunes.
  3. Click on the iPhone icon in the top left of the iTunes window.
  4. Go to Settings > Summary.
  5. If you want to encrypt your backups, tick the Encrypt Local Backups box. You will be prompted to add a password.
  6. Click Back Up Now.
Tech journalist
Liz is a professional writer with a special interest in online privacy and cybersecurity. As a US expat who travels and works in diverse locations around the world, keeping up with the latest internet safety best practices remains her priority.