iPhone Backup to iCloud

You probably keep some very important information on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch, whether that’s photos of your kids or the email addresses of your most important business contacts. You definitely don’t want to lose that kind of information. But what would happen to your files, photos, and everything else if your iOS device were lost, stolen, or severely damaged? If you backed up your data, it will all still be available to you in a pinch.

Everyone who owns a mobile device should back up their data. Period. With iOS, you have two simple options: use iCloud or use iTunes. This article explains how to back up using iCloud. iCloud is Apple’s own cloud-based storage and backup solution for Apple software. It comes included with your device, and it’s free for up to 5GB.

Make a backup using iCloud

To back up an iOS device to iCloud, you need to first turn on this feature.

  1. Connect your device to a Wi-Fi network.
  2. In iOS 8 or later, tap Settings > iCloud > Backup. In iOS 7 or earlier, tap Settings > iCloud > Storage & Backup.
  3. Make sure that iCloud Backup is turned on.
  4. Tap Back Up Now. Stay connected to your Wi-Fi network until the process completes.
  5. Make sure the backup finished by tapping Settings > iCloud > Storage > Manage Storage, and then select your device. The backup you just made should appear in the details with the time and backup size.

Unlike other platforms, iCloud doesn’t require any third-party software, and it doesn’t create a partial backup of data (as with, for example, Android). Rather, iCloud backs up all data on the iPhone and automatically syncs new app data dynamically. Follow more steps if you need help making a backup in iCloud.

Back up automatically in iCloud

After you’ve turned on iCloud Backup, iCloud can automatically back up your device each day. iCloud makes these daily automatic backups only if:

  • Your device is connected to a power source.
  • Your device is connected to a Wi-Fi network.
  • Your device’s screen is locked.
  • You have enough available space in iCloud for the backup.

Manage your backups

Say you’ve got a 64GB iPhone. How can you back up all that content to a 5GB iCloud account? You can’t, and you don’t. iCloud automatically backs up the following items:

  • Photos and videos in your Camera Roll;
  • Device settings;
  • App data;
  • Home screen and app organization;
  • iMessage, text (SMS), and MMS messages;
  • Ringtones;
  • Visual Voicemail.

Apple also stores the most recent 1,000 photos from your Photo Stream, if that iCloud feature is turned on. (Go to Settings > iCloud > Photos and then toggle My Photo Stream.) These images don’t count against your storage quota, but they will only remain in iCloud storage for 30 days, since you’re expected to download them to your computer. Set everything up right and this will happen automatically; check out our article “Up and running with Photo Stream" to learn the basics.

Also, your device won’t back up the music you sync, or the apps on your device. In fact, it doesn’t back up any media. Apple says that iOS devices back up “purchased music, movies, TV shows, apps, and books,” but what’s actually saved are links to those items in the iTunes Store, App Store, and iBookstore. None of that counts against your iCloud storage.

If you have to restore your iOS device from an iCloud backup, you’ll re-download those items from their respective stores. This means, of course, that you’ll save space. You will not, however, have backups of any non-purchased items. Hopefully, you have those on your Mac in your iTunes library.

Restore your device from an iCloud backup

  1. Turn on your device. You should see a Hello screen.
  2. Follow steps in the iOS Setup Assistant. Join a Wi-Fi network and follow steps until you see the Set Up Device screen.
  3. Tap Restore from an iCloud Backup. Then sign in to iCloud.
  4. Choose a backup. Look at the date and size of each and pick the most relevant. After you choose a backup, the transfer starts.
  5. If you’ve purchased iTunes or App Store content using multiple Apple IDs, you’ll be asked to sign in to each. If you can’t remember a password, you can tap Skip this Step and enter it later.
  6. Stay connected. If you disconnect from Wi-Fi before the process completes, the restore process pauses until you reconnect. Give the process time to finish. Restoring from a backup can take a while, depending on the size of the backup and the network speed.

The only way to restore from an iCloud backup to a device you already set up is through the Setup Assistant. To get to the Setup Assistant on a device you already set up, you’ll need to erase all the content on your device and set it up again.