iPhone Backup to iTunes

You can take a a backup of your iPhone using iTunes or iCloud. This page has everything you need to know so you can make an iPhone backup from start to finish using iTunes. You’ll also find out how to restore your data from a backup if you already have one.

Note that iTunes backups are different than iCloud backups. When you back up via iTunes, you’ll get a complete copy of all the data on your device. When you back up your iPhone, your data is safe. You can restore your phone to the way you had it the last time you made a backup, or move your data to a new iPhone.

What’s in a backup?

A backup includes all the personal content and settings you need to completely restore your iPhone. Certain things like iTunes purchases or photos might not be in your actual backup file. This happens when they’re already stored on Apple servers, or if you originally synced them from your computer. These items will automatically sync back to your device when you restore, so your iPhone will be set up just like it was before.

What’s not backed up? Any content synced to — but not locally residing on — your iOS device, including:

  • movies;
  • music;
  • podcasts;
  • apps;

Those items will be backed up if they are currently on your iPhone, iPad touch, or iPad, though. So, if you purchase an app, then remove it from your iPhone, it’s not included in the backup. The App Store will still have record of you buying the app, so you can download it again. It just won’t be included if you restore from a backup.

Wireless sync

Make sure iCloud is turned off. Go to Settings > iCloud > Storage & Backup and toggle iCloud Backup to off. Then go to Settings > General > iTunes Wi-Fi Sync and select your computer from the list. You’ll see an option to "Sync Now" but by default the iOS device will automatically sync when the device meets conditions:

  1. the screen is locked (i.e., you’re not using the device);
  2. the device is connected to Wi-Fi;
  3. the device is plugged into a power source;
  4. you have enough available space in iCloud for the backup.

Back up to iTunes on your Computer

You can create a backup in iTunes by connecting your iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch to your computer with its included USB cable. iTunes takes a backup of your iOS device when you sync with iTunes (disabled if you have iCloud backup turned on). You can also manually backup your iOS device using iTunes.

To do so, plug your iPhone into your computer. Unlock your device, open iTunes, and select the device. You’ll see a Backup section, where you can control how your device backs up and manually back it up. Follow these steps to manually backup your iOS device using iTunes.

  1. Open iTunes and connect your device to your computer.
  2. Save content that you downloaded from the iTunes Store or App Store by clicking File > Devices > Transfer Purchases. Then wait for the transfer to finish. If you’re using Windows and you don’t see a File menu, hold down the Control and B keys.
  3. If you don’t need to save your Health and Activity data, you can make a backup that isn’t encrypted. Just click Back Up Now. If you’re using Windows click File > Devices > Back up (if you don’t see a File menu, hold down the Control and B keys).

    If you want to save Health and Activity data from your iOS device or Apple Watch, you’ll need to encrypt your backup: Select the box called Encrypt [device] backup and make a memorable password. Write down your password and store it somewhere safe, because there’s no way to recover your iTunes backups without this password.

  4. After the process ends, you can see if your backup finished successfully in iTunes Preferences > Devices. You should see the name of your device with the date and time that iTunes created the backup. If you encrypted your backup, you should also see beside the name of your device.

Restore iPhone from a backup

Restoring iOS or iPod software deletes all of your data and content from your device, including songs, videos, contacts, photos, and calendar info. You can also erase all content and settings on your device to restore it to factory settings.

  1. Connect your device to the computer that you stored your backup on.
  2. Open iTunes. If iTunes tells you there’s an iOS update, get the latest version.
  3. Go to File > Devices > Restore from Backup. If you’re using Windows and don’t see a File menu, press the Alt key.
  4. Look at the date and size of each backup and pick the most relevant.
  5. Click restore and wait for the process to finish. Your device will restart and then sync with your computer. Stay connected until the sync finishes.

Sometime transferring a backup to your device takes a while because the backup is large. iTunes will display a progress bar to show you the remaining time. When the first part of the process finishes, your device restarts. The overall wait time can vary, so give the process time to finish.

Backing up your iPhone isn’t hard, but losing all the data on it during the upgrade to iOS 9 sure is. Follow these steps to be certain that no matter what happens when the new operating system eventually drops, you’ll be fully prepared ahead of time for any glitches or bugs that may come.