How to Back Up Your iPhone to Your Computer

* This post is part of iPhone Life's Tip of the Day newsletter. . *

There are two ways to back up your iPhone. You can back up your iPhone to iCloud or back up your iPhone to your computer (a local backup). You can even back up your iPhone to your Windows computer by using iTunes. Apple recommends having both an iCloud backup and a local backup, and we agree! Backing up your iPhone is incredibly easy, and having both makes it more convenient and more secure. Here’s how to back up your iPhone to your computer.

Related: How to Encrypt Your iTunes iPhone Backup

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How to Back Up Your iPhone to Your Computer

A local backup, kept on your computer, is available when you don't have an internet connection, but could be lost if you lose your computer. For comparison, an iCloud backup is kept in the cloud where it is safe from hard drive failures or lightning strikes, but where you need an internet connection to access it. You can create iCloud backups automatically, while you sleep, by enabling iCloud Backup. By contrast, you don’t need an internet connection to back up your iPhone to your computer. You just need your charging cable, your computer, enough storage space, and a little time.

What's in this article:

How to Back Up Your iPhone to Your Mac

  1. Connect your iPhone to your computer using the charging cable.
  2. Unlock your iPhone using face ID or your device passcode.
  3. Open a Finder window.
  4. Under Locations in your sidebar, click on your iPhone.


     
  5. If you have previously backed up a different iPhone to your computer, but not the iPhone you are currently using, you may see a special screen welcoming you to your new iPhone. Select Set up as new device and then click Continue. If you don't see this screen, skip to step six.


     
  6. You'll be presented with an interface for browsing the contents of your iPhone and changing some of its settings. Make sure you are on the General tab.


     
  7. In the section titled Backups you will see two options: Back up your most important data on your iPhone to iCloud, and Back up all of the data on your iPhone to this Mac. This changes the automatic backup procedure:
    • The iCloud option automatically backs up your data at regular intervals to the iCloud, using your iPhone's internet connection. It's pretty much hands-off, usually working when you're asleep. 
    • The Mac option will automatically begin a backup of your iPhone whenever it is connected to the Mac computer.
  8. Selecting the Mac option disables the iCloud option, and vise versa. You can do it either way; but if you aren't sure, I'd recommend keeping it set to the iCloud option. You don't need to change this setting to do a manual local back up, for that, keep following this guide.


     
  9. Your iPhone backup will not include the Health and Activity data unless you check Encrypt local backup. If you do, then a popup will immediately ask you to set a password for your backup. Be sure to set one you can remember, because there is no way to recover a lost password for one of your iPhone backups. If you don't need or want to include your Health and Activity data, then you can skip this step, and create a local backup that is not encrypted.


     
  10. Click Back Up Now to initiate a manual local back up of your iPhone to your Mac. This will not interfere with your automatic back up settings, or change them.


     
  11. Watch the status indicator next to your iPhone in the side bar. Don't unplug your iPhone until the process is complete!


     
  12. When you need to restore your iPhone from a local backup, simply click the Restore Backup button on this screen.


     
  13. When the status indicator finishes, you'll see that you can safely eject your iPhone. You're finished!

How to Back Up Your iPhone to Your Windows PC using iTunes

To back up your iPhone or iPad to your Windows PC, you first need to have the iTunes software installed. Windows users can download iTunes here.

To back up your device with iTunes:

  1. Connect your iPhone to your computer using the charging cord.
  2. You'll be asked on both your computer and on your Apple device whether you want to trust the computer to access the device. Click or tap yes, and then enter any device passcodes or passwords required.
  3. Open iTunes.
  4. In iTunes, locate the tiny icon for your iPhone or iPad, found in the upper left section of iTunes. Click the icon.


     
  5. Here you’ll see options for backing up your iPhone. In the section titled Automatically Back Up you will see two options: iCloud, and This Computer. This changes the automatic backup proceedure:
    • The iCloud option automatically backs up your data at regular intervals to the iCloud, using your iPhone's internet connection. It's pretty much hands-off, usually working when you're asleep. 
    • The This Computer option will automatically begin a backup of your iPhone only when it is plugged in to the Windows computer with a cable. 
  6. Selecting the This Computer option disables the iCloud option, and vise versa. You can do it either way, but if you aren't sure, I'd recommend keeping it set to the iCloud option. You don't need to change this setting to do a manual local back up. For that, read on!


     
  7. If you want your local backup to include your Health & Activity data, as well as sensitive data like passwords and HomeKit settings, you'll need to check the Encrypt local backup option. If you do, then a popup will immediately ask you to set a password for the backup. Choose a password you can remember, or make note of your password in a secure location, because there is no way to recover the password for an iPhone backup, should you lose it.


     
  8. Click Back Up Now to initiate a manual local backup of your iPhone on your Windows PC. This will not interfere with your automatic back up settings.

  9. Note the progress indicator at the top of the iTunes window. Don't unplug your iPhone until the process is complete!

    backing up iphone
     
  10. When you're finished, you'll see the icon to safely eject your iPhone.
  11. In the future, if you need to restore a backup, navigate back to this screen and click on Restore Backup.

    restore iphone backup itunes

Top Image Credit: JKstock / Shutterstock.com

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Jim Karpen's picture

Jim Karpen holds a Ph.D. in literature and writing, and has a love of gizmos. His doctoral dissertation focused on the revolutionary consequences of digital technologies and anticipated some of the developments taking place in the industry today. Jim has been writing about the Internet and technology since 1994 and has been using Apple's visionary products for decades.