How to Backup Your iPhone and iPad with and without iTunes

BY Khamosh Pathak

Published 16 Mar 2017

backup iphone with and without itunes

The worst thing about backups is that you only really think about them when it’s too late. When your iPhone is already dead, or stolen. So here’s your reminder – back the hell up.

Your entire life is encapsulated in this device you hold in the palm of your hands. The messages exchanged with loved ones, cherished photos, your work documents, work communication, project details – they all live on your iPhone or iPad. And most of us never ever think about backing up.

There are multiple ways to do it. Ranging from mildly annoying to set-it-and-forget-it. Pick your poison from the list below.

1. How to Backup iPhone and iPad Using iTunes

Using iTunes for back and sync is the both the easiest and the most complicated. If you sync periodically, and you have the same Mac or PC and the same iTunes library over the years, everything will work fine.

Just connect your iPhone to the PC, and it starts to sync and backup (everything from your contacts, SMS, app data, music, photo, and videos). iTunes gives you control over what exactly you want to sync. Here’s a pro tip: Enable Wi-Fi sync from your device screen in iTunes. This means you won’t need to connect your iPhone to back it up. Just periodically hit the backup button on iTunes when you’re working, and the iPhone will do the rest.

itunes backup

The problem is that iTunes is complicated and troublesome. You can sync your iOS device with only one iTunes library. And for some reason, if it gets corrupted or you lose your Mac, you’ll basically need to start over again. This could mean wiping your entire iPhone or iPad. That just doesn’t make sense.

Still, iTunes is the best and only way to make periodic, full scale encrypted backups locally.

2. How to Backup iPhone and iPad Using iCloud

So here’s what you should do: pay for iCloud storage. The 5 GB you get for free just isn’t enough to even back up your phone data, forget about the photos. You can get 50 GB of space for just $0.99/month and that’s enough to back up your entire device, with photos, for most people.

Another reason you should use iCloud backups is because it’s so seamless. Once enabled, your iPhone or iPad will back itself up to the cloud every night, as long as your device is charging. This means, if you lose your phone on Saturday afternoon, your life’s work until Friday night is backed up and ready to be restored.

icloud backup

Here’s all that iCloud can back up:

  • Purchase history from App Store and iTunes.
  • Photos and videos (unless you already have iCloud Photo Library turned on).
  • Device settings.
  • App data.
  • Home screen and app organization.
  • iMessages and text messages.
  • Ringtones.
  • Health data.
  • HomeKit configuration.

To set up iCloud sync, open the Settings app, select iCloud and from Backup, turn on iCloud Backup. From Photos section, also turn on iCloud Photo Library.

Having an iCloud backup ensures that important details in your iPhone or iPad are never lost. Plus, iCloud will automatically back up new data when it’s charging at night.

If you think iTunes is too much of a hassle but you still want an official way of backing up, iCloud Backup is your best option.

3. How to Backup iPhone and iPad using Alternative Apps to iTunes

You might be used to Android’s manual approach to data sync and backup. You’ll find apps for Mac and PC that do something similar for the iPhone and iPad.

Using an app like iMazing or AnyTrans, you can export or import data like music or photos any time you want. You can also export individual iMessage threads and back them up using a third source. iTunes doesn’t allow for things like this.


But in other things, iMazing hits it right out of the park. Just like iTunes, you can backup apps and app data.

If you don’t want to use iTunes and you can’t back up to iCloud because of internet issues, just buy one of these apps for around $30. Periodic, reliable backups are worth the price. Plus, these apps let you do nerdy things that iTunes just won’t – things like individually exporting and importing iMessage or WhatsApp chats, and exporting media from your iOS device.

Imazing 2: Download link (Don’t miss the 25% discount on iMazing 2 exclusively for iPhoneHacks readers)

4. Individual Backups For Different Things

It’s possible that you’re fed up of iTunes and you don’t want a singular backup that’s too big to move around.

If you don’t mind manually downloading the apps and setting them up (including logging in and so on) every time you get a new iPhone or iPad, you can try backing on different kinds of content to different places.

Content like Health data and iMessages will have to go to iCloud because there’s no other alternative.

But when it comes to things like photos you can take a different approach. Use Google Photos or Dropbox to automatically backup all your photos. If you’re using Apple Music or Spotify, you’ll be able to download all your music instantly on your newly restored device.

Keep your files and other documents in Dropbox so they’re not backed up. Documents in Office app will be backed up to Microsoft OneDrive automatically.

dropbox backup

Do the same for every other important app that you use. And you’ll never have to sync via iTunes ever again.

When you start using new apps for productivity – like a new text editor, note-taking app or a task management app, make sure they offer some kind of reliable cloud sync, backup and manual export option.

But Do Have a Backup

No matter which path you choose, you really should have a backup. Your life is in this device and it’d be a shame to even lose a part of it.

How do you back up your devices like the iPhone or the Mac? Share with us in the comments below.

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