What Does Backing Up an iPhone Mean?

By Aaron Parson

IPhone backups keep your personal data safe from crashes and device erasures. Learn what they include and how to use them.

Syncing your iPhone with iTunes transfers media and apps between the two systems, but doesn't save copies of your system settings or the data inside your apps. That's where backing up comes in. An iPhone backup saves a record of everything that makes your phone irreplaceable: the files in your apps, your progress in games, your photos and your text conversations. As of iOS 8, the iPhone supports two backup methods: iCloud backups and iTunes backups.


  • When you restore a backup to your phone after erasing its memory, you recover all of the data saved in the backup. However, restore an iPhone backup onto an iPad and you won't recover some types of data, including photos and texts.
  • Backups do not include media purchased from iTunes. To recover lost media, re-download your past purchases.

Back Up to iCloud

Backing up to iCloud is the best way to keep your data safe, because your iPhone updates the backup automatically while charging and connected to Wi-Fi. The iPhone setup process includes a step to turn on iCloud backups, so you probably already have them enabled. If not, turn them on in the Settings app.

Step 1

Open the iCloud page in the Settings app. If you've never used iCloud on your phone, you'll have to sign up or log in before continuing.


  • ICloud offers paid subscriptions, but the free plan includes everything you need for backups.
  • ICloud uses the same login info as your Apple ID and iTunes.

Step 2

ICloud backup settings.

Tap Backup to open the backup settings. If the line reads "On," your phone already creates iCloud backups automatically.

Step 3

Backup toggle.

Turn on iCloud Backup to back up your phone automatically, even if you never connect it to iTunes.


Tap Back Up Now to create a backup immediately. Use this button if you're planning to erase your phone, to guarantee you have everything backed up.

Back Up to iTunes

Backing up your phone to iTunes saves the backup data to your computer. If you don't use iCloud backups, turn on automatic iTunes backups to archive your data when you sync your iPhone. Whether you use iCloud or not, iTunes can also create backups on demand.

Step 1

IPhone Summary tab.

Connect your iPhone and click the iPhone icon on the menu bar to open the phone's Summary page.

Step 2

Backup settings.

Select This Computer to create backups in iTunes instead of with iCloud. To create a single local backup, regardless of the setting, click Back Up Now.


Check Encrypt iPhone Backup to lock your backup with a password. Encrypted backups also back up passwords saved on the phone, which aren't otherwise backed up.