How to Back Up and Restore Your iPhone

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Backing up your iPhone is always a good idea. Maybe your phone is misbehaving and you hope to fix it by restoring it to factory conditions and applying the latest backup. Or perhaps you’re upgrading to a new iPhone and want to transfer all your current data. Whatever the reason, you can back up your phone and restore the backup if needed on an iPhone as well as on an iPad or iPod touch.

Apple offers a few backup methods. Windows users can back up their phone through iTunes; those running macOS Catalina can use the Finder. You can also choose to back up your phone to iCloud.

iTunes vs. Finder vs. iCloud:

There are pros and cons for each method. Using iTunes or Finder means you don’t have to rely on the cloud, though it also means you can only restore the backup from the Apple account on your computer. If your computer crashes, there goes your backup. The good news is that you can also encrypt an iTunes or Finder backup if you want to back up your passwords, health information, and other sensitive data.

With iCloud, your backup isn’t affected by computer problems, is automatically encrypted, and is available anywhere. You back up your phone to iCloud via Wi-Fi from the phone itself, so you don’t even need iTunes or Finder. The backup can also be sent to your computer and iCloud to cover all the bases. Unfortunately, if your backup uses too much data, you may need to upgrade to a paid iCloud account.

How to Back Up with iTunes:

First, connect your phone to your computer and fire up iTunes. Click the icon for your phone. At the screen for your phone, make sure the This Computer option is selected in the Backups section. Click the Back Up Now button. iTunes syncs and backs up your phone to your computer. After the backup completes, the timestamp under Latest Backup indicates the latest backup date and time.

Encrypt in iTunes:

If you want to back up passwords and other sensitive information, you’ll need to encrypt the backup. The encryption option backs up your saved passwords, Wi-Fi settings, website history, and health data. Check the box next to Encrypt local backup, then enter your password and click the Set Password button. With Encryption enabled, iTunes should immediately start backing up your phone. If not, click the Back Up Now button.

Confirm Encryption in iTunes:

After the backup is finished, you can confirm that it was encrypted. Click the Edit menu and select Preferences. In the Devices Preferences window, click the Devices tab. A lock icon next to a backup indicates that it was encrypted. As long as you keep the encryption option enabled, all future backups will be encrypted. To stop encrypted backups, uncheck the box next to Encrypt local backup and type your encryption password.

Automatic Backups in iTunes:

You can back up your iPhone manually through iTunes, but it might be easier to set it to automatically back up the device. For this feature to work, your phone must be plugged in to the computer and the option to automatically sync must be checked. Now any time you plug in your phone and open iTunes, a backup runs as part of the synchronization.

How to Back Up with Finder in macOS Catalina:

If you have a Mac running macOS Catalina, you probably already know that iTunes has been retired in favor of dedicated apps for Music, Podcasts, Movies & TV, and Books. So how do you backup and restore an iPhone without iTunes? That’s where Finder comes into play. Using the Mac’s Finder app, you can perform many of the tasks you used to do through iTunes.

To set this up, connect your iPhone to your Mac and open Finder. Click the Go menu and select Computer. From the list of locations, click the one for your phone. The first time you do this, click the Trust button. Click Trust on your phone and then enter your passcode.

Set Finder Back Up:

The next steps are similar to those in iTunes. At the General tab in the Backups section, choose whether you want to back up your most important data to iCloud or to this Mac. You can also opt to encrypt the backup. When you’re ready, click the Back Up Now button.

To indicate the backup, the buttons in the Backups section in Finder get grayed out, while your phone displays a sync icon in the upper right. When the backup is completed, the buttons become available again, and the date for the Last backup on this Mac will indicate today and the time.

How to Back Up With iCloud:

You can perform backups to iCloud through iTunes and Finder, but why not try it from your iPhone? To kick this off on your phone, open Settings > [Your name] > iCloud > iCloud Backup. Turn on the switch for iCloud Backup. To back up your phone, tap on the button to Back Up Now. Your phone is backed up to iCloud. After the backup completes, go back to the previous screen to see how much space the backup took on iCloud.

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