Everything You Need to Know About Backing Up & Restoring Your iPhone from iTunes
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By now, most iPhone users take for granted that the contents of their iPhone is backed up wirelessly to their iCloud What iCloud Is & Why It Changes Everything [Mac] What iCloud Is & Why It Changes Everything [Mac] Perhaps the biggest announcement made by Apple at the recent WWDC was that of iCloud, but many people are understandably not sure what it is. Is it a streaming media service? Is it a Dropbox... Read More account, and they can restore that content if need be back on their iPhone or to an upgraded iPhone model (see this article about restoring from iCloud When iPhones Go Wrong – Restoring From iCloud Backups [iOS] When iPhones Go Wrong – Restoring From iCloud Backups [iOS] Like any Apple product, the iPhone just works right? Unfortunately, we don’t live in a perfect world and regardless of what anyone will tell you, iOS is not perfect. Things go wrong, but luckily there... Read More ). But it is still useful to know how to restore your iPhone from iTunes.

Ideally you can backup all your iPhone’s data to your iCloud account, including the apps and app data, Camera Roll photos, purchased music and other media, messages, wallpaper and so on. But if you haven’t noticed yet, your free iCloud account is limited to 5GB of space for all your iOS devices. If you start running out of space, you will either need to disable some data that is being synced to your iCloud account or you will need to purchase more space. Quite frankly, I don’t think more space on iCloud is worth the extra fee.

I try to keep my data also backed up via iTunes to my computer so that it can be restored from there if need be. Here’s what you need to know to do that.

Update Latest iOS and iTunes Versions

Since you’re going to make a backup to your computer, make sure all your devices are updated to their latest versions of the software. This should alleviate any problems when it comes to syncing data between your devices and restoring content to your device if you ever need to. On your iPhone, check Settings > General > Software Update to see if you need to update to the latest iOS. And on your computer, check select iTunes > Check for Updates in the menu bar.

Note: iTunes does not support restoring a backup from a new version of iOS to a device using an older previous version of iOS, so update everything.

IPhone latest version

How Back Up to iCloud

Backing up your iPhone’s data to iTunes is a pretty straightforward process. When you connect your iPhone to an electrical outlet, it should by default automatically sync with iTunes on your computer if both devices share the same Wi-Fi network. That will keep all your iPhone data in sync between both devices. If this backup has not occurred or you want to check it, open the Settings app on your iPhone and select General > iCloud and then select iCloud Backup.

ICloud backup

How to Back Up to iTunes

You can check the last time you backed up your iPhone to your computer via iTunes by clicking on iTunes > Preferences > Devices.

ITunes backup

To manually back up your iPhone to your computer, connect your iPhone to your computer via USB cable. When you open up iTunes 11 Getting to Know iTunes 11.1: From Radio Stations to Genius Shuffle Getting to Know iTunes 11.1: From Radio Stations to Genius Shuffle Along with the release of iOS 7, Apple has also updated iTunes with several new features including iTunes Radio, Genius Shuffle, Podcast Stations, and a few changes to managing iOS devices. Read More in the Library view, your iPhone should be listed under the Devices button near the top-right of the menu. If the device is not listed, try restarting iTunes.

You can also communicate with your iPhone and backup or sync via Wi-Fi, but you will need to connect your device via USB cable to do this first. To enable Wi-Fi sync and backup, check Sync with this iPhone over Wi-Fi in the Options area of the Summary tab. When iTunes detects your phone in future, it will show up here and you will have access to the same functions as if you were using a wired connection.


Under the Summary section you will see information about your iPhone and the buttons for backing it up. Typically your backups will be done to iCloud, but if you want to back up to your computer instead, select “This computer” under where it says Backups. Notice also you can enable an encrypted iPhone backup. This is recommended particularly if you’re backing up data to your laptop or a shared Mac.

IPhone manual backup

Note: Selecting Automatically Back Up to “This computer” will disable automatic iCloud backups, and favour your local computer instead.

Next, click the Back Up Now button and let it do its thing. This backup will store all your iPhone’s data, including Camera Roll photos, voice memos, wallpapers, password info stored on your iPhone’s keychain, application settings, notes, paired bluetooth devices, and in-app third-party purchases to your computer’s hard drive. Be sure to keep all your most important iPhone data (contact information, email messages, calendar dates and so on) synced to your iCloud account. This manual backup does not back up your Mail messages. See this Apple support page for a list of all the information that is and is not backed up.

For good measure you should also manually transfer content you downloaded from the iTunes Store on your iPhone, just in case it was not automatically transferred to your computer. To do this, select View > Show Sidebar and then right-click (or Control-click) the device under Devices and select Transfer Purchases.

Transfer purchaes

Restoring iPhone from iTunes Backup

To restore data back to your iPhone’s USB, connect your device to your computer. Open iTunes and select the menu bar, View > Show Sidebar or select it under Devices in the Library menu. If you’re running iTunes 10.7 or earlier, right-click (or Control-click) the device in the sidebar and select Restore from Backup.

Itunes sidebar iPhone

If your iPhone has iOS 7 installed you will need to turn off the Find My iPhone feature. Open Settings > iCloud > Find My iPhone. In order to turn it off, you will need your Apple ID.

Find my iphone

If for some reason you just need to restore your contacts, calendars, notes and so on, but not the entire system, click on the Restore Backup… button under Backups. Typically this data is stored on your iCloud account.

Restore backup itunes

Stay Backed Up

The iPhone is a powerful device for storing some of your most important information, so ensuring that your data is backing up on a regular basis is extremely important. Manually backing up your device provides extra security when you need to troubleshoot your problems with your device by restoring it from the most recent backup.

For more, check out how to keep your iPhone and iPad in sync How to Sync Your iPhone and iPad How to Sync Your iPhone and iPad Need to know how to sync your iPhone and iPad? Here's how to keep two iOS devices in sync and protect all your data. Read More .

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  1. Sheila Yoder
    February 1, 2017 at 3:05 pm

    Hi... I have an iPhone 6s and I recently disabled the iCloud Photo Library - I keep my photos locally on my laptop, and didn't want to pay for the extra storage. I do back up my phone regularly, using the process you describe at the beginning of this article. If I toggle the "Photo Library" option under iCloud - Manage Storage - Backups - This iPhone - "Photo Library" will this create a backup of all my photos? I don't want them to be backed up anywhere necessarily, I just want to make sure that in the case of my phone being broken or lost, I can choose "Restore iPhone" and my photos will be part of that restore, even if I don't use the iCloud photo library on my Mac or my phone. Thanks in advance!

  2. Ranee
    January 9, 2017 at 8:17 am

    So my husband has an iPhone 6s now and his old phone is an iPhone 5. The I phone 5 will still show when notes are updated and photos are added but it won't show new messages. Why is that and is there a way to fix it so that it does? It's nice to have the old one working when it's on wifi so that he can see if he gets a text when he is in the shop and not have to take his new phone out there.
    Both are logged into the same Apple ID
    Both iMessages are on but the old one says waiting for activation

  3. Nicole
    December 22, 2016 at 7:55 am

    Please help me. I recently had an issue with somebody coming across one of my passwords. I was not sure which account had been infected or compromised first. I eventually, throughout one week to over a month, ended up resetting passwords For my iCloud, windows, browsers, outlook, Gmail, dropbox, Facebook, true key, multiple banking and credit apps, kid games and even more accounts, ad nausea!!!
    Going through all of these motions I was initially advised to do one thing and when that didn't solve the problem then the next and the next and the next. (Advised by multiple folks working at the Apple store Genius Bar, on the phone with Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, dropbox, and every other 800 866 877 855 number that no normal person has the time to contact much less to accomplish anything)
    Now that you have a history you will understand why I have multiple iCloud, Gmail, dropbox, outlook, etc. accounts. (Each of them are backed up properly, secured and have new passwords.)
    I did a full factory reset on my iPhone, restored my computer (Windows HP Intel all-in-one desktop) to factory settings, created all of my accounts again as "me2", am extremely hesitant to even use my chrome book. My iPad is more of a pain than fun for my son, I am still trying to get Internet back on my Old PC desktop, (which I undoubtedly messed up in all my 'fixing' the settings) my iPad is more of a pain than fun for my son.

    Is it possible to back my iPhone up to my desktop PC - without Internet connectivity (if not please offer next best solution)
    AND then, can I retrieve messages back to my phone or otherwise upload them from 2 or 3 of my Apple IDs &/or multiple backup dates?
    My goal is to not lose text threads that go back years that I kept as my own records for tenants rental properties and legal matters and to be able to retain all of them from at least two if not the three Apple IDs I've had to create during my troubleshooting nightmare.
    information. Another goal, probably much simpler, is to combine all of the contacts, and information from all of these apps and locations including my Sim card (which I didn't even know existed) to be complete in each and or at least one of them.
    I also didn't know that I had a Sim card pin in the settings… When I tried to turn it on it said it needed a four digit pin, when I tried to enter "a new pin "it said failed attempt three attempts remaining before Sim pin is locked. I must have initially set one up without realizing it, please advise how to reset it in order to effectively put a pin on it that I know. Right now the setting reflects Sim pin off.

    Technically challenged and frustrated !!!!!

  4. Richard
    December 1, 2016 at 7:02 pm

    Is it possible to extract an iPhone backup file made on a windows system running on vista load it in the backup folder on a mac and then restore say a new phone using the mac. My 6s plus is currently backing up no problem on my current vista system which can no longer get iTunes updates. I am pretty sure if i tried to restore a new 7 or 6 plus from my windows iTunes it wouldn't recognise the new phone. My concern is that if I damaged my 6s plus my current backups wouldn't work on a new phone. I am buying a new mac early next year and in the event my phone was damaged in the interim and I had to get a new one I was intending to extract my last iPhone update file, locate it in the correct folder in my new mac and do a restore. Will this procedure work ok. Thank you.

  5. Rusty
    November 7, 2016 at 11:38 pm

    I had my iPhone backed up on my computer through iTunes. My computer crashed last night. Does this mean I'm going to lose everything I have backed up on iTunes? I'm going to have to buy a new computer download iTunes onto the computer sign into my account. I'm hoping everything will still be there once I get to that point. Can anyone give me any advice on this subject?

  6. Kyle
    November 7, 2016 at 10:42 pm

    If you need to recover or gain access to any account or social media account, You can contact this professional hacker Davies Hacker at daviesmicheal6 at gmail dot com or text at 5134370262.

  7. phoebe
    October 7, 2016 at 10:35 am

    i need to back my phone up as its got a broken glass and i would feel better knowing all my important files are on the computer, however i tried the other day and when i clicked back up none of my stuff seems to be saved on my computer am i doing something wrong?

  8. Natalie
    June 19, 2016 at 5:21 am

    I am going into the apple store tomorrow, and they say to back up your device before going in. If I do this via my computer or iCloud, will everything still be on my iPod touch? They say to back it up just in case, but I don't want to have everything just suddenly disappear.

  9. Don Ebberts
    June 14, 2016 at 10:54 pm

    I back up my devices to a Windows 10 laptop. I was poking around and noticed that I have some large files, such as GarageBand 2.0.6.ipa or Toy Story 1.5.3.ipa that I no longer have on my devices.
    Is there any problem with removing these from my Windows 10 computer? I assume that these are just old files from a time when I backed up and had these apps on one of my devices. I did a search on GarageBand and did not find any other files for these. If I delete all of them, will the current ones just be re-backed up next time? These .ipa files take up about 10 GB so if I don't need them, I would like to get rid of them. Thanks for the help.

  10. brucethat
    June 1, 2016 at 2:34 am

    Appreciate for that! There are so many iOS devices user all around the world. As a official backup tool and manager, iTunes or iCloud is used by people. But maybe they don't fit for everyone, such as me. I think it's not friendly to use sometimes. So you will look for other ways to manage your data. I will recommend you the FonePaw iPhone Data Recover and FonePaw iOS Transfer. They are software that support iOS devices and kinds of data. You can use them to transfer music, WhatsApp, SMS, contacts etc between iOS devices and PC.

  11. Elo
    April 2, 2016 at 3:47 am

    what happens when you select your entire device as a back up?

  12. George
    February 14, 2016 at 9:07 am

    I did the back up of my old phone to itunes. However i did not restored the backup when i bought the new phone. Now i wanted some of the old apps with data to be restored to my new phone. Will i lose any current data on the phone if i restore from the back up.

  13. Jnet
    February 3, 2016 at 7:07 am

    I appreciate that in this description, you use the language to convey this process happens after logging in to iTunes. I am trying to to a factory restore on my phone, and throughout the Apple support site, everyone uses the language "Connect to Itunes." Thanks.

  14. Tini
    December 4, 2015 at 8:36 am

    I just wanted to ask. some time ago I deleted messages on my iPhone 5S, but today I looked thru my phone and they are still there.
    How is it possible?
    and yes, im backing up things on iCloud and connecting my phone to iTunes everyday as well. Is it possible that is automatically restoring?

    iPhone 5s, iOS 9.1

  15. Anonymous
    October 22, 2015 at 11:39 am

    hi id just like to know how to work out what file is what from when I backed up my iPhone 5s to my pc. i.e finding the folder in which they all get stored being in the end mobilesync then back up. the file names all look like this


    with no file icon pic or file type when I bring up properties. Rather than open up every file guessing what file type it is to what will open it is there any other way of identifying whats what ?

    sorry if its a dumb question

  16. Anonymous
    August 25, 2015 at 3:55 am

    Actually I prefer to use the app AnyTrans to do backup. It backs up literally everything on my iPhone, incl MP3s that I imported from CDs. I like it backing up all those non-purchased music, pdfs, so I will lose no data after restore. The best part is I can back up anything I want and skip those unneeded content, no full backup needed. That's a BIG time-saver.

    • Bakari Chavanu
      September 1, 2015 at 5:33 pm

      Youki, than for the tip about AnyTrans. I'll check it out.

  17. Anonymous
    August 18, 2015 at 12:34 pm

    Hi. I have an iPhone 4S and will soon be upgrading to 6. I wanted to know when you transfer apps from one phone to another, do the data remain on there eg, photos exchanged on whatsapp? Also, I moved to another country, but did not change my number on apps like Whatsapp, Snapchat etc. When I transfer these apps to a new phone, will those numbers be changed to the phone number I currently use? If so, how can I transfer the app so that the number remains the same.
    Thank you for your help.

    • Bakari Chavanu
      September 1, 2015 at 5:35 pm

      Hetal, if you backup your apps to you iCloud account, your data should be backed up with it.

  18. Anonymous
    August 3, 2015 at 5:05 pm

    I have some videos that I copied to a folder and synced via iTunes so that I can watch them on the iPhone. For some reason they are included in the iTunes backup though. This made my backup too large to be stored on my laptop, so I had to stop syncing the videos so that my iTunes backup would succeed. Now I cannot watch the videos and backup my phone to my computer at the same time. Is there some way to stop the iTunes backup from including these files. It seems really silly to do that anyway - to have a backup of something that exists in another mass storage device already.

    • Bakari Chavanu
      August 5, 2015 at 12:27 am

      Hmmm, I don't believe there's a way to stop that backup as long as those files are in iTunes. You might post this question on the Apple support site to see if anyone else has a solution. Sorry I couldn't be of any more help.

  19. Anonymous
    July 9, 2015 at 3:44 pm


    I am really stuck up in a bad situation. :(
    I took back up on my PC on 29-06-15 and handed over my phone for repair. I got a new device as a replacement for my older device. When I connected to my PC and tried to get the back up, the message came that as the device is in older version, back up cannot be taken. You need to connect the new device, update to the similar version (as the older phones version) and then take the back up. But now I am not able to see the back up pf 29-06-15, instead can only see the new back up which I never took. I don't want everything backed up but only my photos . Is there a way to get the photos back into my iPhone from the earlier back up done in my PC ? ;( Plz help !!

    • Bakari Chavanu
      July 14, 2015 at 8:19 pm

      Gaurang, I have no experience with PC computers. I strongly recommend posting your question on the Apple support site. Sometimes you might find a solution already posted there for your particular issue. If you live near an Apple Store, they will help you for free if you set up an appointment. Sorry I can't be of more assistance.

  20. Anonymous
    June 29, 2015 at 7:17 pm

    How do I know that everything from my IPhone successfully backed up onto my computer via ITunes. Specifically photos and contacts?

    • Bakari Chavanu
      June 30, 2015 at 10:26 pm

      Max, you should have contacts and photos synced to you iCloud account, as well as have them saved in their respective Mac apps. Off hand I can't remember where the folder is located by default for you iOS backups. Try looking in your iTunes Media folder.

  21. Anonymous
    June 13, 2015 at 10:32 pm

    We have just backed up my husband iPhone 4s as he's is updating his phone, after sync/backing it up its all changed :( no txt messages all gone only txt from 2012 ? A lot of social apps he's logged out of and can't remember password few years ago and also he had exchange emails on his phone as well as gmails , they are also all gone ? Any ideas how to get it back , and why didn't it back it up as it was ?
    Pippa Smith

    • Bakari Chavanu
      June 16, 2015 at 5:30 pm

      Hmm, Pip, those issues are difficult for me to advise on. It looks like you need to call Apple and see if they can help you recover that lost data. It seems that your text messages should have appeared if they were connected to your iCloud account, and same goes for passwords, if they were saved to your iCloud Keychain. Wish I could be of more help, but all I can suggest is calling Apple.

  22. george
    May 2, 2015 at 6:08 pm

    the backup option in iTunes is not clickable, why? i have not set it to iCloud backup i just need to manually backup my iPhone.

    i can't see it also in backup under preferences in iTunes

    • Bakari Chavanu
      May 5, 2015 at 6:55 pm

      George, I'm not sure what you mean. Are you not able to click the backup button in iTunes?

  23. Christina
    May 1, 2015 at 6:01 pm

    I haven't done a update in awhile. I have the 7.1.1 version. Plus my phone is stating that I do not have enough storage for my iCloud. Do I need to do turn off my icloud backup and then backup to my itunes? Then once it's backed up, I then do an update to the new version? Please help...My dad recently passed away so there are some voicemails & pictures I DO NOT want to lose!!!!

    • Bakari Chavanu
      May 1, 2015 at 8:08 pm

      Christina, sorry to hear about your dad. Yes, I would definitely do a backup to your computer hard or external drive. As I note in the article, some iOS apps and services have their own backup, like Evernote and Dropbox, so you don't need to backup those files to iCloud. You could also try manually exporting the voicemails and pictures before you do the backup and update. I'm pretty sure there's some solution that allows for exporting voicemails. Just do a search.

  24. David Jones
    April 3, 2015 at 12:16 pm

    What happens to the data since your last back up? Say for example I backed up last Friday and then my phone broke and I restored from the last back up... Do I lose everything since the last back up?

    • Bakari Chavanu
      April 7, 2015 at 5:12 pm

      David, I typically like advise about technical issues, but whatever you back up in the cloud or to another drive should restore to your device. However, if you broke your phone, I'm not sure how that might impact what you restore.

      • Mechelle Vaughan
        December 3, 2015 at 1:33 am

        Bakari Chavanu .. Thanks for All the Great ideas and help!! Tcare

  25. NaJath
    December 23, 2014 at 8:12 pm

    Can restore to iphone 5s 64GB that backuped from iphone 5s 16GB???

    • Bakari Chavanu
      December 30, 2014 at 1:02 am

      NaJath, sorry, I don't quite understand your question.

    • Phil manley
      November 3, 2016 at 10:01 pm

      If you are restoring back to a iPhone with larger storage ie 64gb, that should be no problem.