How to Back Up Your iPhone to iTunes

Works for iPad backups, too

Regular backups of the data on your iPhone are crucial to ensure you don't lose any important information in the event of a software failure or losing or breaking your device. Your photos, contacts, and Apple Pay information can all go away if you're caught without a backup, so it's good to be proactive in preserving everything. Here's how to back up an iPhone using iTunes, plus information on backing up other iOS devices, too.

These instructions apply to devices running iOS 5 and later.

A Note About iTunes Availability

Starting with macOS 10.15 (Catalina), iTunes has been deprecated and is no longer included in any Catalina-based Mac system. If you've upgraded to Catalina, you can still back up your iPhone to your computer; you'll just do it through the Finder instead of iTunes. If you're using macOS 10.14 or earlier or a Windows-based PC, however, you can use either iTunes or an iCloud backup to save your data.

Why Use iTunes?

Starting with iOS 5, iOS users could skip iTunes for backups and store their data in iCloud, instead. Because of this change, you might wonder why you should keep using the software on your Mac at all.

You may have several reasons to stick with the software solution, however. For example, you may not pay for extra iCloud storage, and the free 5 GB isn't enough to hold everything you want to preserve.

Even if you have all the space you need in iCloud, you still might want to double up by also using iTunes. Doing so gives you the option to save your backup to an external drive, which will let you access it even in the event of a hardware failure or (unlikely) iCloud outage.

Either way, having too many backups can't be a bad thing.

How to Back Up Your iPhone to iTunes

Backing up your iPhone only takes a couple of clicks. Here's how to do it.

These instructions apply to all iOS devices, including iPad and iPod Touch.

  1. Open iTunes.

  2. Connect your device to the computer using a USB cable.

  3. Click the device icon in the upper-left corner of iTunes.

    iTunes with an iPhone device icon highlighted
  4. The next screen will show information about your iPhone or iPad, including the version of iOS it's running and how much storage it's using.

    Scroll down to the Backups section for more options.

    iTunes on a Mac with the Backups header highlighted
  5. The Latest Backups section tells you when you last saved your data. It provides the date and time of your last backups both to iCloud and to the computer you're using.

    iTunes on a Mac with the Latest Backups section highlighted
  6. This section also lets you customize the settings for backups. Click the button next to This computer under the Automatically Back Up heading to store your information locally.

    Backups section in iTunes with the
  7. Click the box next to Encrypt local backup to add another layer of protection to your data.

    Encrypting local backups also lets you include passwords, HomeKit information, and Health data to your file. You can't back up these files unless you choose this option.

    iTunes on a Mac with the
  8. Click Change Password to set or update the code protecting your backup.

    iTunes on a Mac with the
  9. Check the box next to Remember this password in my keychain to keep from having to enter the code to restore your device from a backup.

    Leaving this box unchecked will keep your backups more secure. With the password saved, anyone with access to your computer will be able to use your backup.

    iTunes with the box next to
  10. Enter and confirm your password, and then click Change Password to save it.

    iTunes with the Change Password button highlighted
  11. Two buttons will create a backup of your device.

    • Back Up Now saves all of your data to the computer.
    • Sync creates a backup and updates your iPhone or other iOS device with any changes that you've made to your iTunes library.
    iPhone summary page in iTunes with the Back Up Now and Sync buttons highlighted
  12. You can use your device during the backup as long as you keep it plugged into the computer.