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Backing up your iPhone is always a good idea. Maybe your phone is misbehaving and you hope to restore it to factory conditions and then apply the latest backup. Perhaps you're upgrading to a new iPhone and want to transfer all your current data. Or you want to back up certain data or content for safekeeping. Whatever the reason, you can back up your phone and restore the backup if and when needed, a process you can perform on an iOS or iPadOS device.

How you back up your phone varies based on the platform. Windows users can back up their phone through iTunes or iCloud. If you’re running macOS Catalina or higher, turn to the Finder application. You can also bypass your computer entirely by backing up your phone to iCloud. Subscribers to the Google One online service can also back up specific iPhone data such as contacts, calendar appointments, and photos.

Cloud Storage or Local Backup?

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 restore the backup only from the Apple account on your computer. If your computer crashes, there goes your backup. The good news is that you can encrypt an iTunes or Finder backup if you want to back up your passwords, health information, and other sensitive data.

If you use iCloud instead, your backup won’t be affected by computer problems, is automatically encrypted, and is available anywhere. You can even back up to iCloud and restore the data from your phone itself, so you don't need to go through iTunes or Finder. Unfortunately, if your backup uses too much data, you may need to upgrade to a paid iCloud account.

Apple doles out 5GB of iCloud space for free. The paid plans give you 50GB of storage for 99 cents a month, 200GB for $2.99 a month, or 2TB for $9.99 a month. For example, my 512GB iPhone 12 with around 190GB of data required more than 20GB of space on iCloud for its backup, so I needed the 50GB storage plan just to get started.

Google One is another cloud storage option, but it comes with some limitations for iPhone users. You can only back up your contacts, calendar, photos, and videos. Your apps, settings, and other items won’t be included. There is also no direct way to restore this data through the Google One app on your iPhone. Google One is available for free with 15GB of space or as a paid subscription with 100GB to 30TB of storage.

Back Up and Restore Data With iTunes

First, connect your phone to your computer and fire up iTunes. Click the icon for your phone, then make sure the option for This Computer 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.

If you want to back up passwords, Wi-Fi settings, website history, and health data, you'll need to encrypt the backup. Check the box next to Encrypt local backup. Enter and then re-enter a password and click Set Password. With Encryption enabled, iTunes should immediately start backing up your phone. If not, click Back Up Now.

How to Back Up and Restore Your iPhone

After the backup is finished, you can confirm that it was encrypted. Click Edit > Preferences in the program’s top menu. 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 confirm your encryption password.

Okay, now let's say you need to restore your iTunes backup, either to the same phone or to a new phone. Before you can restore a backup to an iPhone, you need to disable the Find My iPhone feature. On your phone, go to Settings > [Your name] > Find My > Find My iPhone. Toggle Find My iPhone to off, type your password, and tap Turn Off.

With Find My turned off, connect the phone to your PC. Click Restore Backup. Make sure the correct backup is selected by the date and time. If not, click the drop-down menu and select the backup you want to restore. Click Restore. Type the encryption password if the backup was encrypted. iTunes starts restoring your phone.

Sign into your phone when prompted. After the restoration finishes, sign in again. You may need to wait for all your apps to be updated and accessible. Then browse your phone's home screens to make sure all the apps and information are intact.

Back Up and Restore Data With Finder

If you have a Mac running macOS Catalina or higher, you will use Finder instead of iTunes to back up and restore your iPhone. To set this up, connect your iPhone to your Mac and open Finder. Click Go > Computer in the menu, then click your phone under the list of locations. The first time you do this, click the Trust button on Finder. Then tap Trust on your phone and then enter your passcode.

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 data to iCloud or to your Mac. You can also opt to encrypt the backup. When you're ready, click Back Up Now.

To indicate the backup, the buttons in the Backups section in Finder get grayed out, and a status message and graph at the bottom show that your iPhone is being backed up. When the backup is complete, the buttons become available again, and the date for the Last backup on this Mac will indicate today as well as display the time.

To restore your phone from the backup, click Restore Backup. Choose the correct backup from the drop-down menu and click Restore. Wait for the restore to complete and then sign back into your phone.

Back Up and Restore Data With iCloud

Back up your phone’s data directly from your iPhone by using iCloud. Open Settings > [Your name] > iCloud > iCloud Backup on your iPhone. Turn on the switch for iCloud Backup and tap the Back Up Now button that appears. Your phone is then backed up to iCloud. After the backup completes, return to the previous screen to see how much iCloud space the backup ate up.

After you turn on iCloud Backup, a backup automatically runs every 24 hours after the last successful backup. For this to occur, your phone must be turned on and connected to the internet through Wi-Fi. It must also be connected to a power source, and your screen has to be locked or turned off.

If you connect the device back to iTunes or Finder on your computer, you’ll notice that the option under Automatically Back Up is now set to iCloud.

To restore your iPhone from the iCloud backup, go to Settings > General > Reset on your device. Tap Erase All Content and Settings. You’re then asked if you want to update your iCloud Backup before erasing. If you need to create a new backup, tap Backup Then Erase. If you know you have a recent backup, tap Erase Now instead.

In order to erase everything, you’ll need to enter your passcode. Then tap Erase iPhone twice. The device gives you ample warning that this will delete all media and data and reset all settings to ensure that you don’t do this accidentally.

Once your data has been backed up, you can restore it in the event of a problem or use it to set up a new phone. Follow the screens to set up the phone either manually or automatically through another iOS device. At the Apps & Data screen, choose Restore from iCloud Backup and then sign into iCloud with your Apple ID and password. At the Choose Backup screen, tap the backup you want to restore.

If you don't see it, tap the Show All Backups link and select one from the list. Next, choose the settings you want to restore. Your iPhone is restored from the backup and restarted. Sign in and wait for your apps to be installed and updated.

Back Up and Restore With Google One

You can also back up your iPhone using the Google One service. This backs up your contacts, calendar, photos, and videos across Google Drive, Gmail, and Google Photos. First, download and install the Google One app from Apple's App Store.

Open the app, and on the Home screen, tap Set up data backup. Then, select the content you wish to back up—Contacts, Calendar, and Photos & Videos. Decide if you want to back up data over a cellular connection. Tap Back up now, and your data will be backed up to Google’s servers. You must keep the app open during this time, otherwise the backup will pause.

Return to the home screen and swipe down to the Storage section or tap the Storage icon on the bottom toolbar to see how much space has been used for the backups and other content. The app has a graph that shows how the backups were allocated among Google Drive, Gmail, and Google Photos.

Swipe down to confirm what data was backed up from your current device. You can tap Backup settings to change which data gets backed up in the future.

Since there is no restore function in the iPhone app, you will have to visit each individual service when you want to view or potentially restore the data. Open Google Drive, Gmail, and Google Photos and search for the specific data you wish to access.