How to Back Up Your Apple iPhone

Watch our step-by-step guide to backing up your iPhone.

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Tshaka Armstrong
May 19, 2021
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Today I'm going to show you how to create local backups for your Apple iPhone.

Backing up your iPhone is something you want to do when you're updating or upgrading your phone. That way you can take that information and put it onto the new phone without having to worry about whether or not it all got copied over. And you're going to be all the better for it.

Here's how to back up your iPhone.

Connect your iPhone to your computer via lightning cable

So, let's hop onto the computer over here and I'm going to show you how to back that thing up. Let's get into it.

First thing, obviously, you're going to need that lightning cable so that you can connect your iPhone or iPad to the computer. You'll have to unlock the iPhone.

Now, you may get a message on your iPhone, if it's your first time connecting to the computer, that says, "Do you want to trust the computer?" Obviously, go ahead and click Trust the Computer.

And once you do, you can go ahead and launch iTunes (if it's not already set to auto-launch when you're using it).

Now the computer has found my iPhone, it's recognized my iPhone. I'm going to go ahead and click on that.

Create a local backup of your iPhone on your computer

If you've been syncing with the computer, connecting your iPhone will show you all the music and everything you have on the iPhone.

Click Sync Settings in the upper right-hand corner. The General tab is where you're going to do the backup. The options you're going to worry about are right here, backups.

Right now, it's set up to back up your most important data on your iPhone to iCloud. Obviously that's not what we want to do in this case. We want to choose the second option, which is to back up all of the data on your iPhone to this Mac. And you want to go ahead and encrypt your local backup.

If your laptop ever gets stolen, somebody breaks in your house, steals your computer, your data will be backed up and locked up.

This process works for your iPhone or iPad, and if you have an Apple Watch connected to your iPhone, it's also going to create a backup of your Apple Watch.

Once you click Back Up Now, you're just going to wait for it to complete the backup process. You'll see this little wheel—that's the progress pie—that shows you how far along you are in the backup process. It'll give you prompts letting you know the process is done.

How to back up your photos and videos

I want to note here that when backing up your iPhone, the one thing that won't be backed up is your photos and video if you have iCloud photo sync turned on. If you have that turned on, all your pictures and videos are getting backed up to the cloud automatically. And when you plug up your phone, you won't have the option to sync the phone with iPhoto on your desktop.

What you can do if you want to get that is turn off iCloud photo, but you're going to have to go through a bunch of other steps.

Use a flash drive for direct download

The simplest way, the way I recommend to back up photos and videos, is just to use Sandisk's iXpand Flash Go flash drive. It's a small flash drive that plugs directly into the lightning port of your iPhone or your iPad. Through its software, it allows you to download, copy all your photos and videos directly to that flash drive. It is no muss, no fuss, really simple, really easy.

If you have iCloud photo backup turned on, you're going to have to go through a few different steps to get those photos onto your phone, and then to actually sync them with the computer. I just think the flash drive is a much simpler way to go. So definitely check that out and give that a look.

Using and managing stored backups

With these backups, now you're prepared if you ever run into an issue where your iPhone is frozen, if it locks up, if you have to wipe your iPhone. With a local backup on your laptop, you can come directly to your computer and click on Restore Backup after you've wiped your iPhone, and it's back up and running.

Just click Restore Backup, and you'll be able to replace and put everything back on your iPhone exactly as it was before you had to wipe your iPhone.

You also have an option here to manage backups. So if you have multiple device backups—because they actually can be pretty big, I've had some that are up to almost 200 GB—you can manage or delete them if you're running low on space on your computer.

Further reading

Tshaka Armstrong
Written by
Tshaka Armstrong
Tshaka is a nerd and Griot. Founder of the non-profit digital literacy organization Digital Shepherds, he’s also been a broadcast technology reporter, writer, and producer. In addition to being an award-winning broadcast storyteller, he’s also covered tech online and in print for everything from paintball gear technology, to parenting gadgets. He blathers on about his many curiosities on social media everywhere as @tshakaarmstrong.

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