How to Restore an iPhone Without iTunes

Recover your phone's data quickly

A woman with an iPhone looking displeased

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The main way iPhone users have backed up and restored their devices has been by connecting their phone to iTunes and saving their data to the computer's hard drive. That method works fine, but plenty of reasons exist to use other options. Here's why you should learn to back up your iPhone and how to restore your iPhone without iTunes.

Instructions in this article apply to iPhones running iOS 10.3 and later.

Why Not Use iTunes?

The number of ways to restore an iPhone has expanded thanks to the rise of Apple's cloud storage service, iCloud. This platform makes it possible to access not only backup data, but functions like photos, calendars, and contacts on any device that's logged in to the same Apple ID.

Migration to iCloud has made physical storage in the Apple ecosystem less important. And with other functions like backups and music libraries heading for the cloud, it's increasingly unnecessary to connect your phone to iTunes.

Another benefit of cloud storage is it makes it possible to access the information you're keeping online wherever you are. If your phone has an issue you can't solve by restarting, and you're away from your computer, iCloud will help you solve the problem immediately instead of forcing you to wait until you can connect to iTunes again.

However, the more immediate reason is iTunes won't be around forever. As of macOS 10.15 (codenamed Catalina), the app no longer exists in Apple's operating system. Once you upgrade to the new operating system, syncing and backing up to iTunes won't be an option.

How to Restore an iPhone Without iTunes

To back up and restore an iOS device without connecting it to a computer, you'll head to your phone's Settings app. Here's what to do.

  1. Open your iPhone's settings.

  2. Tap your name at the top of the screen.

  3. Tap iCloud.

    Settings > account > iCloud on an iPhone
  4. Tap iCloud Backup.

  5. If the toggle next to iCloud Backup on the next screen isn't on, tap it to set it to on/green.

  6. Tap Back Up Now.

    iCloud Settings on an iPhone with the iCloud Backup item and Back Up Now button highlighted
  7. Your iPhone will create a backup of its data and store it in your iCloud account.

  8. Several reasons exist why you'd want to reset your iPhone, but most of them are because of a software issue restarting fails to resolve.

    To reset your phone to factory settings, return to the main Settings screen and tap General.

  9. Scroll down to the bottom of the screen and tap Reset.

  10. Tap Reset All Content and Settings. This command will delete everything from your iPhone and return it to the condition it was in when you first bought it.

    General > Reset > Erase All Content and Settings in iPhone settings
  11. A window will appear asking if you want to update your iCloud backup before you erase your phone. Since you just made a backup, tap Erase Now.

  12. Your iPhone will erase itself and restart, prompting the initial setup process.

  13. Sign in to your Apple ID when you receive the prompt to do so.

  14. iOS will ask how you want to set up your phone. When you reach the Apps & Data screen, tap Restore from iCloud Backup.

    Apps & Data screen during iPhone setup with the Restore from iCloud Backup option highlighted
    Apple
  15. If iCloud has several backups stored, it will show you a list of the available options. Each backup will include the date and time you created it. Use this information to choose the most recent file (i.e., the one you made earlier).

  16. Your iPhone will copy the data from that backup.

Depending on how much your phone needs to download, you may not have full access to your apps and information right away. That said, you can still use your phone while the process continues in the background.