Back up your iPhone for free

Lynn Wright / 02 February 2016

Making regular backups of your iPhone means you’ll always have a copy of your personal data should your phone be lost or damaged. Here’s our guide to backing up your iPhone using Apple iCloud and iTunes.

Apple iPhones can store huge amounts of data – from photos and videos, to vital contacts, email, documents and information. 

Carrying all that data around can be a risk – lose your iPhone or accidently drop it, and it may be impossible to get that data back.

Luckily, Apple offers two ways to back up your data – iCloud and iTunes.

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Apple iCloud is a free online service that backs up your data safely on Apple’s servers. Backups happen automatically when you switch iCloud on. Once backed up, you can restore this saved data to another iPhone should you lose or damage yours.

You can also back up your iPhone to your Mac or Windows PC using Apple iTunes.

Back up your iPhone with iCloud

The easiest way to back up your iPhone is to copy everything to Apple’s iCloud servers using a wi-fi connection. 

You’ll need an iCloud account first – this is normally created when you first set up your iPhone. If not, it’s easy to set one up and you get 5GB of storage for free with the option to buy more if necessary.

On your iPhone, tap Settings > iCloud > Backup and then toggle on 'iCloud Backup'. Tap 'Back Up Now'. 

When the process is complete, tap Settings > iCloud > Storage > Manage Storage to see the time and size details of the backup.

Apple iCloud will back up data, such as your photo library, messages, accounts, documents, settings and Health data – but it won’t back up all your purchased apps.

Once you’ve turned on iCloud Backup, your iPhone will be automatically backed up each day when it’s turned on, connected to a power source and locked.

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Back up your iPhone with iTunes

You can make a local backup on your computer by attaching your iPhone using a USB cable and opening iTunes. 

First, save any content that you’ve downloaded on your phone from the iTunes Store or App Store by clicking File > Devices > Transfer Purchases.

Then right-click (or Ctrl-click) on your iPhone under Devices in iTunes, and click Back Up Now from the pop-up window. Alternatively, click File > Devices > Back up.

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Encrypting sensitive information

If you’ve sensitive information on your phone, such as the Health app data and account passwords, you can choose to encrypt the backups made in iTunes. 

Click 'Encrypt iPhone backup' and create a password. Make a note of this and keep it somewhere safe, as you’ll need it to recover your iTunes backups. 

Once the backup is finished, click iTunes Preferences > Devices to see time and size details of your backup. 

If you encrypted your backup, you’ll see a padlock symbol next to your iPhone’s name.

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What gets backed up in iTunes?

Pretty much everything on your phone, including apps and data, and extras, such as call history. 

Information from non-Apple services – such as other email accounts – won’t be backed up, however.

For more tips and useful information, browse our technology articles.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.