How to transfer Health data to a new iPhone or Apple Watch

Health Records
Health Records (Image credit: iMore)

When you move to a new Apple Watch or new iPhone, or even if you're just nervous about updating to iOS 14 or watchOS 7, one thing you need to keep an eye on is your health data. Because it's a very private set of information, it's available as an optional set of data to sync to iCloud in iOS 11 and later and via encrypted iCloud, macOS, and iTunes backups. If you want to move to a new device, however, you'll need to decide how to bring that information over.

This is what you should know about how to transfer health data from your old devices to your new ones.

Option 1: Back up your health data with an encrypted iCloud or Mac backup

While the Apple Watch doesn't make a backup in the "true" sense of the word, it does sync Health data to your iPhone's health repository, along with saving watch faces and the like as a package inside of your iPhone backup. To recover your health data, you'll need to make a backup of your Health repository — and that means making an iPhone backup.

You create encrypted iCloud backups whenever you back up to iCloud with your iPhone, but creating encrypted backups with your Mac is a bit of a different beast. Here's how to do 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, 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.

Back up your iPhone on macOS Catalina, showing how to click Finder, then click device (Image credit: iMore)
  1. Click the checkbox next to Encrypt Local Backups if it's not already checked.
  2. Click Back Up Now to manually initiate a backup.

Back up your iPhone on macOS Catalina, showing how to click checkbox, then click Back Up Now (Image credit: iMore)

How to create an encrypted backup in iTunes on macOS Mojave and earlier

  1. Connect your iPhone or iPad to your computer via USB.
  2. Open iTunes
  3. Click on the device icon in the tab bar.

Back up your iPhone with iTunes, showing how to open iTunes, click device icon (Image credit: iMore)
  1. Click Summary if you're not already in that section.
  2. Click the checkbox next to Encrypt iPhone/iPad backup. This will allow your Health data to be backed up.

Back up your iPhone with iTunes, showing how to click Summary, then click the encryption checkbox (Image credit: iMore)
  1. Back Up Now under Manually Back Up and Restore.

Back up your iPhone with iTunes, showing how to click Back Up Now (Image credit: iMore)

Option 2: Sync with iCloud

Apple offers encrypted syncing of your Health data to iCloud, just as it stores your notes, keychain, and other information. Before you decide to go down this route, however, you'll want to make sure both your iPhone and your Apple Watch are updated to at the latest versions of iOS and watchOS, respectively.

How to sync your Health data with iCloud

Once enabled, iCloud will sync your health data; if you decide to set up a new iPhone before setting up a new Apple Watch, you should be able to sync that over to your Apple Watch with no problem.

Option 3: Use the iOS local data migration tool

Starting with iOS 12.4, Apple introduced a new way to securely transfer data directly between devices over Wi-Fi or through a direct, wired connection using a Lightning-to-USB adapter. This method is available to you when you use Apple's quick transfer method when setting up a new iPhone.

How to use iPhone-to-iPhone migration

What now?

Once you've set up a plan for restoring your health data on a new iPhone or new Apple Watch, you can start the upgrade process. Be sure to follow our guides to restoring your Apple Watch or iPhone from backup, as well as how to sync your Health data.


Have any questions about how to transfer health data to a new iPhone or Apple Watch? Let us know down in the comments.

Updated September 2020: Updated for iOS 14. Serenity Caldwell contributed to an earlier version of this article.

Joseph Keller

Joseph Keller is the former Editor in Chief of iMore. An Apple user for almost 20 years, he spends his time learning the ins and outs of iOS and macOS, always finding ways of getting the most out of his iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, and Mac.