How to back up data to icloud

With the ever-looming possibility of loosing data due to theft, data corruption, and various other threats of the day, its incredibly important to discuss backing up data on all devices regularly.  Backing up the data on your iPhone is no exception. It cannot only save you should unexpected events occur, but it can also aid in assisting you in restoring your data onto a second device.

This article will explain how to add various attributes to your iCloud backup option so that all desired data can be saved safety to your iCloud account on a nightly basis.  But first, a few basics:

When you sign up for iCloud, you automatically get 5 GB of free storage.  This can quickly get eaten up by music and picture files, so if you need to purchase more storage, you may find more information on how to do so here.

What is Automatically backed up by Default?

iCloud automatically backs up the information on your devices—iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch—over Wi-Fi every day when the device is turned on, locked, and connected to a power source. When your iOS device information is backed up in iCloud, you can easily set up a new device or restore information on one you already have.

Here’s what iCloud backs up:

  • Purchase history for music, movies, TV shows, apps, and booksYour iCloud backup includes information about the content you purchased, butnot the purchased content itself. When you restore from an iCloud backup, your purchased content is automatically downloaded from the iTunes Store, App Store, or iBooks Store. Some types of content aren’t downloaded automatically in all countries, and previous purchases may be unavailable if they have been refunded or are no longer available in the store. For more information, see the Apple Support article Availability of iTunes redownloads. Some types of content aren’t available in all countries. For more information, see the Apple Support article What can I buy from the iTunes Store in my country?.
  • Photos and videos on your iOS devicesHowever, if you turn on iCloud Photo Library on your iOS device (iOS 8.1 or later) or Mac (OS X v10.10.3 or later), your photos and videos are already stored in iCloud, so they aren’t included in your iCloud backup.
  • Device settings
  • App data
  • Home screen and app organization
  • iMessage, text (SMS), and MMS messages (requires the SIM card that was in use during backup)
  • Ringtones
  • Visual Voicemail password (requires the SIM card that was in use during backup)
  • Health data
  • HomeKit configuration

Select which iOS apps to back up

Many apps automatically back up to iCloud after you install them. But some applications take up more data than others, or may be just as important as those that are saved automatically.  Therefore, you can change which apps back up to iCloud and remove existing backups of that app’s data from your storage.

Use these steps on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch:

  1. Tap Settings > iCloud.
    • If you’re using iOS 8 or later, tap Storage > Manage Storage.
    • If you’re using an earlier version of iOS, tap Storage & Backup > Manage Storage.
  2. Tap the name of your iOS device.
  3. Under Backup Options, select the apps that you want to back up or turn off those that you no longer want to backup.

When you’re asked to confirm, choose Turn Off & Delete to turn off the option of Backing up for that app.  This will remove all of its data from iCloud.

** Please note that once you turn off the backing up of that application and confirm it, all data will be wiped from previous backups.  You will not have the ability to go back through your iCloud storage to find that data afterward.

You may also select the option to turn off all backups, although this is not recommended, as you will loose all ability to restore your device in the event of theft, damage or corruption.  Choose carefully when considering any changes to this area.

When was the last time you backed up your iPhone? Hopefully it wasn't too long ago — otherwise, you're one accident away from losing a lot of your data.

Experts recommend keeping all of your data backed up, and updating those backups often. And luckily, there are several ways to back up an iPhone and keep your data safe.

Here are the three best ways to back up your iPhone. 

How to back up your iPhone with iCloud

Backing up with iCloud is incredibly convenient. You can do it wirelessly over Wi-Fi, and even set it up so your iPhone backs up automatically, meaning you never have to worry.

1. Open the Settings app on your iPhone and tap your name at the top of the screen.

The Settings app on an iPhone, with the Apple ID tag highlighted at the top.

Open your Apple ID account menu.William Antonelli/Insider

2. In the Apple ID menu, tap iCloud and then iCloud Backup.

Quick tip: On this screen, also make sure that you've toggled on everything that you want to keep backed up.

The iCloud menu on an iPhone, with the iCloud Backup option highlighted.

Make sure to select what you want to back up beforehand.William Antonelli/Insider

3. Make sure that iCloud Backup is toggled on. This makes it so whenever your iPhone is charging and connected to Wi-Fi, but you're not using it, it'll back up your data. So plug your phone in at night before bed and your files should back up regularly.

You can also tap Back Up Now to manually create a backup right now.

The Backup page on an iPhone, where you can set up automatic backups or make a manual one.

You can set up automatic backups or make a manual one.William Antonelli/Insider

What to do if you run out of iCloud storage

When you sign up for an Apple ID, you only get 5 GB of free space. If you have multiple Apple devices backed up to iCloud — or even one reasonably full iPhone — that space runs out quickly.

The good news is that iCloud storage is cheap and easy to upgrade. Here's what you can get:

  • 50 GB: $0.99 per month
  • 200 GB: $2.99 per month 
  • 2 TB: $9.99 per month

Quick tip: The latter two plans you can also choose to share with your entire family, making the price even better.

How to back up your iPhone to Mac or PC 

If you prefer to keep your data outside of the cloud, you can save it all to your computer. It'll all get stored into a single file that you can move and store however you like.

If you've got a PC, you'll do this using iTunes (so make sure you have it downloaded). If you've got a Mac, you'll use the Finder. But either way, the steps are similar.

1. Open iTunes or Finder on your computer, and then plug in your iPhone with its charging cable. On your iPhone, it'll ask you if you want to trust the computer — select Trust and enter your passcode.

2. In iTunes or Finder, select your iPhone. It'll appear as a tiny iPhone icon in the top-left in iTunes, and you'll see its name in the left sidebar in Finder.

3. Under Backups, choose to back up your data to the computer, then click Back Up Now.

The menu that lets you back up an iPhone to your Mac (top) or PC (bottom).

The options are named differently on Mac and PC, but perform the same functions.Apple; William Antonelli/Insider

Give your devices a few minutes to back up your data. Once it's all done, you can disconnect your iPhone.

Where to find your iPhone backups

For the majority of users, the steps above will more than suffice.

But if you're interested in keeping device backups on an external hard drive, or simply want the flexibility to move your backups to a different spot on your computer, you'll have to dig a little deeper.

On a Mac:

Click the Spotlight search button or press Command + Shift + G with a Finder window open and copy in the following text: ~/Library/Application Support/MobileSync/Backup/.

That will take you to the folder where your backups are stored.

Alternatively, connect your iPhone to the Mac again and open its menu, then click Manage Backups. You'll get a list of all your backups, which you can then right-click and select Show in Finder to locate.

The menu on a Mac that lets you see all of your backups, with the "Show in Finder" option highlighted.

You can find your backups by reconnecting the iPhone.William Antonelli/Insider

On a Windows PC: 

You'll use a similar process for Windows. Open your Search bar and type in: \Users\(username)\AppData\Roaming\Apple Computer\MobileSync\Backup\.

Substitute your user profile name for (username). This will take you to the folder with your backups.

Alternatively, open iTunes and click Edit at the top, then Preferences. In the pop-up that opens, click Devices. You'll see all your backups. You can delete your backups from this menu too.

Copy and move backups to an external hard drive

Now that you've found where your backups are hidden away, you can copy them to an external drive and delete the ones on your hard drive.

Apple advises users to copy the entire folder if you want to preserve the data without any chance of it becoming corrupted, so go ahead and make a copy of the folder (or compress it into a ZIP file) and drag that over to your external hard drive (or a different cloud service like Google Drive).

A folder being moved from one spot on a computer to another.

You can move the entire backup folder, or compress it into one file first.William Antonelli/Insider

Now you can delete the copy on your computer to save space, if you like. But it never hurts to have multiple copies.

Christopher Curley contributed to a previous version of this article.

William Antonelli

Tech Reporter for Insider Reviews

William Antonelli (he/she/they) is a writer, editor, and organizer based in New York City. As a founding member of the Reference team, he helped grow Tech Reference (now part of Insider Reviews) from humble beginnings into a juggernaut that attracts over 20 million visits a month. Outside of Insider, his writing has appeared in publications like Polygon, The Outline, Kotaku, and more. He's also a go-to source for tech analysis on channels like Newsy, Cheddar, and NewsNation.

How do I move data from iPhone to iCloud?

Go to Settings. Tap Get content from another phone or System > Get content from another phone. Tap iPhone > Import from iCloud backup. Follow the steps shown onscreen to back up your iPhone content to your iCloud storage.

How do I transfer everything from my old iPhone to a new iPhone?

Quick Start: Use your iPhone or iPad to automatically set up a new device. iCloud: Transfer your data and purchased content to your new device from your previous device's iCloud backup. iTunes or Finder: Transfer your data and purchased content to your new device from a backup you made with iTunes or Finder.