Daily tip: How to manually transfer data from your old iPhone to your new iPhone 4S

Switching from an old iPhone to the new iPhone 4S and wondering how you can transfer your data over? Luckily, iTunes makes this process almost painless. After your initial transfer to your new device, iOS 5 and iCloud will make the process even easier from here on out. But if for some reason you still need to transfer your data manually, we've got you covered!

If you've ever had to swap an iPhone out at an Apple store, you're probably already familiar with this process. If not, follow these easy steps to copy data to your new phone. This process will save all your contacts, camera roll photos, apps, and settings into an iTunes backup for you.

  1. Plug your current iPhone into your computer and open iTunes.
  2. If it doesn't start to sync automatically, click the Sync button. (You can alternately right click your device name in the navigation bar and click back up as well. Either way will work just fine.)
  3. Unplug your current iPhone and plug in your new iPhone.
  4. You'll be asked to register your iPhone if you haven't already.
  5. iTunes should prompt you to do one of two things, set up as a new iPhone or restore from a backup. Choose to restore from a backup and select the backup you just made.
  6. Once the restore is done your iPhone will reboot. When iTunes detects it again it will start to sync back any apps and games your old iPhone had installed.
  7. Let iTunes do its thing. When you come back, your new phone should have all the same settings and data as your old one!

After you've done a manual transfer you'll have the option to use iCloud backups in the future. If you have any questions or have issues, check out our TiPb Forums for all the help you could ever need!

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Allyson Kazmucha

Senior editor for iMore. I can take apart an iPhone in less than 6 minutes. I also like coffee and Harry Potter more than anyone really should.

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Reader comments

Daily tip: How to manually transfer data from your old iPhone to your new iPhone 4S


Why do you guys even bother with these tutorials? If people can't figure this stuff out, they don't deserve to have an iPhone. It's the simplest sh*t.

Honesty.... or honestly... Do you really expect everyone out there to have the same level of knowledge about this stuff? How about new users on sprint?? People who never owned an ios device before?? Etc

Someone converting from another OS may have no clue what they're doing. While I don't necessarily learn much from some of the basic tutorials, there are always people who can benefit from them.

Well then I dont deserve to have an iphone. Some people may need reassurance that they are doing things properly to prevent any problems afterward....even if they are very simple.

I do volunteer work to weatherize homes for people, old, young, etc. Nothing crazy, stuff that has been known about for years, but people don't know how, hence the work. I have also cleaned many a computer system for friends, family and such, not everyone knows how to do things.
With a MAJOR update like iOS5 looming, and stats show that people do NOT plug in & B/U; this is just a gentle nudge, reminder, or how to....it doesn't hurt you, so honestly why do you bother to post a comment like such? Move on...

You know, all of us are granted different gifts in this world. Would you be able to sing like Whitney Houston (In her golden days)? Would you be able to play Chopin on the piano. In fact, why didn't you invent Itunes, or Mac, or Windows? It's asinine for you to comment on how we shouldn't need these tutorials. I didn't study computers in school, I studied Psychology, which you would obviously be great at given your human empathy and your ability to see things from other's POV. I hope trying to make people feel stupid on here made you feel better. If you know Itunes so well, why even waste time commenting? Go get a life and like your mother taught you, if you don't have anything nice to say, keep your opinions to yourself

Whenever I restore from a backup my phone doesn't seem to run as fast as when I setup as new. This was especially noticeable when I went from a 3GS to an iPhone 4. Then again I do download lots of apps.

Sounds like you have data saved in your backup from a jailbreak. I run into this quite frequently. Best bet is to save all your important data through SSH and restore a new phone, rejailbreak and SSH back into the phone and restore your saved data

Maybe a Windows thing applies to you: clean install. Dropbox your data, if applicable, and for major changes in ios (if feasible) I take a pencil & paper and write items down, that way I can have a fresh clean install. Its more work, but I am usually happier

Or if you have an iPhone 3GS or 4 just wait for iOS 5 (tomorrow :p ) and use iCloud backup -> it works great

Will this work the same if your old phone is jailbroken? Or do I need a different process to transfer my data to a non-jailbroken 4s?

Nice article...but isn't iCloud supposed to take care of all this? I Just watched that keynote and I believe all of this can be done wirelessly by Friday anyway? True?

IFFFF, you upgrade your old iDevice to iOS5 and PROPERLY set up iCloud PRIOR to your new 4s! (jealous of you(s) that got the phone, I jumped in and got the 4 prior to VZW nixing their unlimited data plan option...

Would this work to move data from iTouch to iPhone 4s, or is it not a good idea even if it is possible? MobileMe already has my contacts, only data I worry about retyping/saving would be in Notes, Pages, iAnnotate & Print to PDF. Also as Print to PDF is no longer available to buy, will it transfer over or do I loose it on new device?
Now that Sprint has iPhone I can round out my iCollection and pass the iTouch on to my 5 year old.

iOS 5 has really breathed new life into my 3GS. I'll probably upgrade after the first of the year but 5 has really added a lot of great features to the 3GS.

How do you create a new 'backup' when you sync, instead of constantly overwriting previous backups? On my computer I have 3 options of backups, one from yesterday, one from Feb, and one before that.
I tried to restore from a backup previously, and apparently that backup was corrupt. So I had to use my backup from Feb. However, I sync my phone at least monthly, but no other backup was available (so I lost all my data/pictures/notes etc since Feb to now)
I don't want to risk this again when transferring my data from I4 to I4S

Quick Question...
I'm selling my 3GS which was running 4.3.5 and getting the 4S on Friday.
I've done a backup and restore and setup as new on my 3GS and am sending it in the post tomorrow.
Question is-when i plug my new 4S into my iTunes-will i try to restore from my 4.3.5 software or rather import all my settings into ios 5?

Just plugged in my new 4S and it asked me to register but didn't ask to backup from my old 3GS. Now installing ALL of my apps , no pix or music and taking forever. What can I do? Do I erease everything and try again? Help!! IT seemed so easy but not doing correctly.

volume really low when someone calls me. i tried raising the volume on the phone all the way up but still very low. any suggestions

have you removed the clear protective film? My first call was so faint that I thought my phone was defective.... until I realized there was this oh-so-clear film on the front AND the back

I went from a 3GS to a 4S and when I restored from backup, it totally overwrote everything making my 4S a 3GS. I had to restore factory settings to my new phone and resync. In the process all of my game history and some of my 3rd party apps histories. I had already updated the 3GS to io5 so I dont understand why this happened. Any ideas??

Have just transferred all of my information from icloud from my old 3Gs to the 4s. Worked great but now I have no service. Any ideas what is wrong?

Things worked well for me until I got to step 6. The iPhone4S rebooted and iTunes asked me once again to set up my new phone. It simply does not recognize that I did this and now want to move content. Any ideas...

I just got a 4S after cracking my 3G. I want to set it up but iTunes won't recognize it. Is my OS on my Mac just too old? (10.4.11)

I have just run a backup from my iPhone 3GS to 4S and now when I receive calls from numbers already stored on my phone it does not recognize them. Please help...

Magnificent points altogether, you just received a new reader. What may you suggest in regards to your submit that you just made a few days in the past? Any certain?

Thank you for the auspicious writeup. It actually used to be a leisure account it. Look complex to far introduced agreeable from you! By the way, how can we be in contact?

I have just purchased Iphone 4s and followed the steps that you said except I back up to the compuer not icloud. None of my apps have come over from iphone 4. Any suggestions as to how I can get them transfered?

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I have an iphone 4S. Its a great phone but a month and a half after the warranty ran out it stopped working. I purchased another one for a discounted price. My question is this: is it possible to transfer my contacts, pictures etc to the new iphone if the old one is not doing anything. I would not hold a charge nor does it even come on. I didn't save any of the old data to my computer. Am I SOL or can this be saved? Can someone respond please?