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How to back up your iPhone or iPadSource: iMore

Your iPhone or iPad store all your photos, messages, health data, documents, accessory setups, settings, and more. In other words, your memories and your preferences. Your data is important, even precious, and should be treated as such. The best way to secure your data is to back it up. You can back up your iPhone or iPad via iCloud, or directly on your computer using iTunes. Before you download any software, you should always back up your device. You should also maintain a regular backup routine, just in case something happens to your iPhone or iPad, like getting lost or stolen.

What is a backup?

A backup of your iPhone or iPad includes your device settings, app data, Home screen and app organization, iMessages and texts, ringtones, your visual voicemail passcode, health data, and HomeKit configurations. Photos and videos are only backed up if you don't already have iCloud Photo Library enabled on your iPhone, iPad, and Mac.

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You can use iCloud to back up your device, or you can connect to iTunes on your computer. It's up to you. The main difference is where your backups are stored. iCloud backups are stored in iCloud and iTunes backups are stored locally on your Mac or PC.

If you back up your iPhone or iPad using iCloud, you'll be able to access and them anywhere using Wi-Fi. If you back up your device using iTunes, you have to use the computer you store the backups on to access them.

How to enable iCloud backup on your iPhone or iPad

Using iCloud as a backup location for your iPhone or iPad is a great idea. If anything happens to your phone or tablet, you will have a backup you can access from anywhere with an internet connection.

But before you can start backing up to iCloud, you have to make sure that iCloud backups are enabled on your device.

  1. Open Settings on your iPhone or iPad.
  2. Tap your Apple ID at the top of the screen.
  3. Tap iCloud.

    Enabling iCloud backup showing how to open Settings, tap the Apple ID banner, and tap iCloudSource: iMore

  4. Tap iCloud Backup.
  5. Flip the switch next to iCloud Backup on.
  6. Tap OK.

    Enabling iCloud backup showing how to tap iCloud Backup, flip the switch to enable backups, and tap OKSource: iMore

iCloud will attempt to start a backup your data every 24 hours or so, as long as your iPhone or iPad is connected to Wi-Fi and plugged in to charge. Most of the time this will happen while you sleep.

If you've never backed up to iCloud before, the first backup can take a while. After that, iCloud will only upload the changes you've made since the last backup, which is much faster.

Note: Need to delete an older iPhone backup stored in iCloud? Here's how!

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How to manually trigger an iCloud backup

iCloud backups should automatically happen at least once a day: They trigger when your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch is plugged in and on Wi-Fi. That said, here's how to make sure you have an up-to-the-minute backup solution.

  1. Open Settings on your iPhone or iPad.
  2. Tap your Apple ID at the top of the screen.
  3. Tap iCloud.

    Manually triggering an iCloud backup showing how to open Settings, tap the Apple ID banner, and tap iCloudSource: iMore

  4. Tap iCloud Backup.
  5. Tap Back Up Now.

    Manually triggering an iCloud backup showing how to tap iCloud Backup, then tap Back Up NowSource: iMore

    Keep in mind: If you want to back up your iPhone or iPad to iCloud, you must first have an iCloud account and be signed in to it. If you don't and aren't sure how to make one, here's how to go about doing it.

How to back up your iPhone or iPad manually in macOS Catalina

In macOS Catalina, backing up to iTunes is no longer an option, as that app's functions have now been split into the Music, Podcasts, and TV apps. The device backup feature, meanwhile, now resides in Finder on Mac. Here's what you need to do to back up there.

  1. Connect your device to your Mac.
  2. Click the Finder icon in the dock.
  3. Click on your device under Locations in the Finder sidebar.

    Backing up iPhone or iPad to macOS Catalina showing how to click on the Finder icon to open a Finder window and click on your device in the sidebarSource: iMore

  4. Click Back Up Now to manually initiate a backup.
  5. Click the button next to Back up all of the data on your iPhone to this Mac if you want your iPhone to favor backups to your Mac instead of iCloud.

    Backing up iPhone or iPad to macOS Catalina showing how to click Back Up Now and click the button next to Back up all of the data on your iPhone to this MacSource: iMore

  6. Click the checkbox to enable or disable encrypting your local backups. It's highly suggested that you do this if you're going to use a local backup to move data to a new iPhone, as some data will be lost if the backup isn't encrypted.
  7. Click Manage Backups... to view all existing device backups.

    Backing up iPhone or iPad to macOS Catalina showing how to click the encryption checkbox and clicking the Manage Backups... button to see all of your backupsSource: iMore

  8. Click on any device backup you want to delete.
  9. Click Delete Backup. Be aware that the backup might not disappear until the next time you visit the 'Manage Backups...' view.

    Backing up iPhone or iPad to macOS Catalina showing how to click on a device backup and click Delete BackupSource: iMore

  10. Click OK.

    Backing up iPhone or iPad to macOS Catalina showing how to click OK to delete an iPhone or iPad backupSource: iMore

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How to back up your iPhone or iPad manually on macOS Mojave and earlier

Here's how to set up and use device backups on your Mac if you're running macOS Mojave and earlier.

  1. Connect your device to your computer.
  2. Open iTunes.
  3. Click on the Device icon next to the category dropdown menu on the left side of the iTunes window.

    Enabling device backups to iTunes showing how to click the device icon in iTunesSource: iMore

  4. Select Summary from the sidebar.

    Enabling device backups to iTunes showing how to select Summary from the sidebar in iTunesSource: iMore

  5. Select This computer under Automatically Back up.
  6. Tick the box for Encrypt [device] backup to ensure that your passwords, health, and HomeKit data is backed up. You'll have to create a password to protect your encrypted backups. The password will be automatically stored in Keychain.

    Enabling device backups to iTunes showing how to click This computer and enable encrypted backupsSource: iMore

  7. Click on Back Up Now to start the backup.

    Enabling device backups to iTunes showing how to click Back Up NowSource: iMore

  8. Click Done when you are finished.

    Enabling device backups to iTunes showing how to click Done when your backup is finishedSource: iMore

Any questions?

Do you have any questions about how to enable iCloud or iTunes backups? Let us know in the comments and we'll help you out.

Updated April 2020: Updated with information about backing up on macOS Catalina.

Backing up: The ultimate guide

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