Even with high-quality devices like Apple’s iPhone and iPad, it’s important to back up. No device works as expected all the time and there are many scenarios outside of device failure when a backup is crucial to have (upgrading, accidents, loss, or theft.) Follow along for how to back up your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch with or without iCloud.

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It’s best to have at least two copies of your important information (although three is better). Some people like to utilize the automatic iCloud option as well as iTunes. However, if you choose to pass on iCloud and use just iTunes, make sure you’re keeping a current backup of your Mac or PC (this will include your iPhone/iPad backup).

There are also other options that have automation features like SanDisk’s iXpand Flash Drive for $35 that plug directly into an iPhone/iPad as well as any computer.

How to back up iPhone, iPad and iPod touch with iCloud

This option will happen automatically by utilizing software built-in to iOS (the operating system that iPhones, iPads and iPod touches run). These backups are set up through iCloud on your device and stored on Apple’s servers. You can access almost any of your data (depending on your settings) at icloud.com or any Apple device on which you’re logged into iCloud.

Here’s what it looks like to make sure your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch has iCloud Backups turned on and will automatically continue to do so:

Navigate to iCloud settings by tapping Settings from the Home screen, scrolling down and tapping iCloud

Make sure you’re connected to Wi-Fi and then locate and select Settings on your device. Scroll down until you see iCloud and tap on it.

Scroll down in iCloud settings and tap on Backup, on iCloud Backup toggle to turn it on, tap Back Up Now to manually start a backup

Scroll down again until use see Backup and tap on it. Your screen should look like the image above. If the toggle to the right of iCloud Backup is not green, tap on it to turn it on. Below you have the option to start a backup manually by tapping Back Up Now and beneath that you’ll see a timestamp with your last successful backup.

Once iCloud Backup is turned on, your iPhone, iPad, or iPod will automatically backup any time it is charging and connected to Wi-Fi with the screen locked (your screen is locked when you press the sleep/wake/power button on the right side of your iPhone 6/6 Plus or later or on top of your device for iPhone 5s, iPad or iPod Touch).

Usually the only other thing to watch out for is running out of iCloud Storage. Apple includes 5 GB for free, but this often doesn’t last too long. They offer 50GB for $0.99/month and it’s definitely worth it (think about much your phone bill is, this is only $12/year to protect your information). Here’s how to check how much iCloud Storage you have and upgrade it if needed:

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Navigate back to Settings → iCloudStorage. Now you should see Change Storage Plan, tap on it and you’ll see the Current Plan that you’re on a the upgrade options. 50 GB will be perfect for most people, but they have larger plans if you have a large media collection.

How to back up iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch with iTunes (without iCloud)

This option is if you’d like to save your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch backups to your Mac or PC via iTunes.

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Plug your device in to your computer with the Lightning to USB cable. You’ll soon see this prompt, select Continue.

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If you haven’t synced or backed up with iTunes before you’ll need to tap Trust on your device.

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iTunes should launch automatically (if not, open it manually by clicking on Finder → Applications → iTunes). Click the device icon in the top left hand area. In some cases you may need to update your iTunes software (click iTunes → Check for Updates).

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Once you’ve made it to the Summary window of your device in iTunes like the image above, you have the option to Automatically sync when this iPhone is connected and Sync with this iPhone over Wi-Fi. To save, click Apply in the bottom right corner to save any changes.

If you’d like to manually start the backup click Back Up Now. If you have This Computer selected for Automatically Back Up your device anytime you plug it in to your computer. Alternately, you can leave iCloud as the primary backup option and use iTunes manually as needed/desired. When your backup to iTunes is complete you’ll see a timestamp in the middle right area of iTunes.

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Troubleshooting

  • I bought more storage and I’m still out of room. The option to buy more storage is only for iCloud Storage which is what will mirror (back up) your device. If you keep seeing Storage Almost Full, you’ve used up the storage of your device itself. Go to Settings → General → Storage & iCloud Usage → Storage → Manage Storage to see what’s using the most space. Remove what you can, if important, save content from your phone to a computer first, then delete. Read here for more help with freeing up storage on your device.
  • I’m out of iCloud Storage. There is a walkthrough on how to buy more storage space above. Alternately you could delete old backups (from old devices you may no longer have) by going to Settings → General → Storage & iCloud Usage → ICLOUD → Manage Storage → BACKUPS → Select a device that doesn’t show as This iPhone or This iPad. Check the date to make sure you’d like to delete it. Tap Delete Backup.
  • I have plenty of storage on my phone and in iCloud and it still won’t backup. In some cases iCloud may experience glitches and signing out of iCloud and signing back in will solve the problem. Go to Settings → iCloud → Sign Out (very bottom) → Sign Out → ‘All iCloud notes will be removed from your phone’ tap Delete from My iPhone → Keep on My iPhone. Following these steps won’t delete any information from your iCloud account but rather just remove (delete) it from this particular device until you sign back in. Once you’re signed out, sign back in and start an iCloud Backup. See walkthrough above if needed.