Image: Samar Haddad / The Verge Yes, of course you want to back up your iPhone. As we all know, despite phone cases and the latest protective glass and careful
iPhone lock screen
Image: Samar Haddad / The Verge

Yes, of course you want to back up your iPhone. As we all know, despite phone cases and the latest protective glass and careful engineering, disaster — in the form of cracked displays, lost devices, and three-year-olds who think it’s fun to sit on your latest phone — can happen. When that happens, you want to have all your data backed up.

The easiest way to go is to back up using iCloud, which is not only simple to set up but also makes it just as simple to set up a new phone if your old one is no longer available. (You can also back up to other services, such as Google Drive, but it isn’t nearly as convenient.) Or, if you’re an iPhone user who is steadfast about retaining your privacy, you can back up your iPhone to your Mac or Windows computer and retain full control of your data backups.

Here’s how to back up to iCloud or to your laptop / desktop.

Back up to iCloud

  • Tap on Settings > [your name] top button > iCloud > iCloud Backup.
  • If iCloud Backup is switched off, toggle it on. If it’s already toggled on and you’re preparing to wipe your old iPhone, you may want to tap Back Up Now just in case.
  • If you want to check to make sure you’re backed up, go to Settings > [your name] top button > iCloud > Manage Account Storage > Backups. You’ll be able to see how many backups have been made and of which devices. Select the device to see the backup in more detail.

Back up to your desktop

  • Connect your phone to your computer using its charging cable. If you haven’t done it before, you may get a pop-up asking for permission to connect; select Allow.
  • Open a Finder window (by either clicking on the Finder icon in your dock or selecting File > New Finder Window in the top Finder menu bar), and look for your iPhone in the left-hand menu under Locations.
  • If this is the first time you’ve done this, when you click on the phone icon, you may be asked if you trust the phone, first on the computer and then on the phone itself; you may also be asked to enter the phone’s passcode.
  • First-timers may also be asked if you want to set your phone up as a new device or restore it from a previous backup. In this case, select the first.
  • Select the General tab on top and look for the category labeled Backups. Select Back up all of the data on your iPhone to this Mac.
Using Finder to set up a computer to back up your iPhone.
Using Finder to set up a computer to back up your iPhone.
  • You’re going to want to encrypt your backup for increased security. Check Encrypt local backup and enter a password. Don’t lose that password; otherwise, you’re going to lose access to your data.
  • Once you set the encryption, it’s probable that the backup will start automatically. Otherwise, click on Back Up Now.
Using iTunes to change your backup from iCloud to this computer.
Using iTunes to change your backup from iCloud to this computer.

If you need to restore your backup, just go to the same page and click on Restore Backup.

Note that you can either manually back up your iPhone or you can also have it automatically back up each time you connect it to your computer. Look for Options just below the Backups section and select Automatically sync when this iPhone is connected.

Once you’ve set up your backup to your computer, you may want to delete any backups you’ve made to iCloud.

To do this on your Mac:

  • Click on the Apple icon in the top corner of your system.
  • Select System Settings > Internet Accounts > iCloud.
  • Select the Manage button in the lower-right corner of the window and then Backups.
Select a backup to delete, then click on the minus icon in the lower left of the window.
Select a backup to delete, then click on the minus icon in the lower left of the window.
  • Select a backup to delete, click on the minus icon in the lower left of the window, and select Delete. This will both delete all of your backups from iCloud and turn off any additional backups.

To do this on your iPhone:

  • Go to Settings and tap your name.
  • Select iCloud > Manage Account Storage > Backups. If you have more than one device backed up, select a device.
  • Tap on Delete & Turn Off Backup. If you’ve already turned off backups for that device, the button will just read Delete Backup.
  • Tap on Turn Off.
Select iCloud > Manage Storage > Backups.
Tap on “Turn Off & Delete”
Tap on Turn Off & Delete.

And you’re done!

Update May 23rd, 2023, 9:12AM ET: This article was originally published on January 23rd, 2020, and has since been changed to add directions for backing up with iCloud and to update the other instructions.

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