How to Back Up Your iPhone to iCloud or Mac

Apple gives users 5 GB of iCloud storage for free, but that’s probably not enough to cover all of your data. You can buy more storage, but it adds up pretty fast. For data-heavy users, there’s a better way, and you can do it for free.

Backing Up to Your Mac …

If your phone is loaded with pictures, songs, apps, and years worth of text messages, a basic iCloud backup isn’t going to cut it. If you have a computer with some gigs to spare, previously all you needed to do was plug in your iPhone, install iTunes on your Mac or PC, and click a few buttons to make sure all your phone’s data is tucked away, safe and sound. That method still works for now, but it soon won’t.

When Apple launches its new Catalina OS in October, iTunes will be gone from that operating system. There’s still a backup option, though, which we’ll get to in a minute.

If you’re not sure which Apple operating system you have, just click the little Apple icon in the top left corner of your Mac desktop and select “About This Mac.” Another window will pop up, telling you in big bold letters what you’re running.

Backup to MacOS Mojave, or Earlier

iTunes is not dead just yet. The service will still be available on older OS versions, so you can still backup everything there.

Once your phone is plugged in, open iTunes and click on the name of your device, and hit “Back Up Now” under “Backup and Restore.” This creates a backup of everything on your phone, including all your app data so you don’t have to log into all your accounts again, plus your home screen arrangement to save you from dragging a bunch of icons around to get it just the way you like it.

Photograph: Apple
Pro tip: This method will let you create multiple backups, so don’t panic if you need to find some info from a few months back. Just dive into iTunes preferences, click on the Devices tab, and you’ll see a list of every backup for your devices. As long as the one you need is there, you can go back to your device’s page in iTunes and hit “Restore From Backup.” Pick the right one and you’ll be ready for a blast from the past.

Backup to MacOS Catalina

If you plan to upgrade to MacOS Catalina (or if you’re already on the beta version now), iTunes will be replaced—split into three apps for music, podcasts, and TV.

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