How to Back Up an iPhone Without iTunes

MacOS Catalina eliminates iTunes, but there are other backup methods

What to Know

  • Connect your iPhone to your Mac, open Finder and go to your iPhone, then select Back up all of the data on your iPhone to this Mac.
  • To back up your iPhone to your Mac over Wi-Fi, select the Show this iPhone when on Wi-Fi box and select Apply.
  • To use iCloud, tap Settings > your name > iCloud iCloud Backup, then move the iCloud Backup slider to on/green.

This article explains how to back up an iPhone without iTunes. Instructions apply to iPhones with iOS 12 or later and Macs with macOS Catalina (10.15) or later.

How to Back Up iPhone in macOS Catalina

For many years, you had to use iTunes to back up your iPhone. Since iTunes was retired starting with macOS Catalina (10.15), you might expect that Apple Music, the program that replaced it, is where you back up your iPhone. That's reasonable, but it's not right. Instead, in macOS Catalina, you back up your iPhone right in the Finder. Here's what to do:

  1. Connect your iPhone to your Mac using a USB cable and unlock the phone.

    You can also sync via Wi-Fi if you set up the right preferences. More on that in a minute.

  2. Open a new Finder window.

  3. In the left-hand sidebar of the Finder window, click your iPhone. If you don't see it, expand the Locations section.

    If a window pops up, click Trust.

  4. The iPhone management screen appears in the Finder window. This screen lets you control the sync and backup settings for your phone. In Backups, click Back up all of the data on your iPhone to this Mac.

    Ma Finder showing iPhone backup screen

    If you have an Apple Watch, make sure you check the Encrypt local backup box. This backs up your Health and Activity data. Without checking it, that data could be lost.

  5. Click Back Up Now.

    Back Up Now choice in Phone backup screen

You can also back up your iPhone to your Mac over Wi-Fi. To set up that option, follow steps 1-3 from the last section. On the iPhone management screen, check the box next to Show this iPhone when on Wi-Fi and then click Apply. From now, you can sync your iPhone to your Mac when both devices are on the same Wi-Fi network.

How to Back Up iPhone Using iCloud

Another way to back up your iPhone without iTunes is to use iCloud. With iCloud, all of your back ups are wireless, and can be done automatically when your iPhone is locked, connected to Wi-Fi, and plugged into a power source. Here's how to set up your iPhone to back up to iCloud:

  1. Make sure you're signed into your iCloud account on your iPhone. You likely did this when you set up your iPhone, but it's good to check.

  2. Connect your iPhone to Wi-Fi.

  3. Tap Settings.

  4. At the top of the Settings screen, tap your name.

  5. Tap iCloud.

    iPhone path to iCloud settings
  6. Tap iCloud Backup.

  7. Move the iCloud Backup slider to on/green.

    Screenshots showing how to turn on iCloud backup on iPhone.
  8. You're done. Your iPhone is set to automatically back up its data to iCloud whenever it's locked, connected to Wi-Fi, and plugged into power.

    Want to back up immediately? Tap Back Up Now to run a manual iCloud backup. Don't worry: This won't interfere with automatic backups.

How to Back Up iPhone Using Third-Party Programs

Not interested in using the Finder or iCloud for your iPhone backups without iTunes? There are third-party programs you can use instead. These paid programs let you back up your iPhone to a Mac or PC. They also often add additional features that other backup options don't have, such as letting you recover deleted files or access hidden files. Remember, you don't need them—the Finder and iCloud backup are good choices (and already included with your Mac).

There are dozens of third-party iPhone backup programs and we haven't reviewed them all, so we don't have a recommendation for which to use.

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