By now, most iPhone users take for granted that the contents of their iPhone is backed up wirelessly to their iCloud 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). 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.
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.
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.
To manually back up your iPhone to your computer, connect your iPhone to your computer via USB cable. When you open up iTunes 11 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.