How to backup your iPad or iPhone

There has been a slow transition from directly backing up and syncing iPhones, iPods or iPads with a computer, to backing up or syncing to the Cloud, (or iCloud). The two are not entirely mutually exclusive, although iTunes will only let you backup to one or the other.

iTunes iconiOS backup with iTunes

iTunes: About iOS backups

Note, iTunes backups can either go on your computer, or to iCloud. You probably have more room on your computer for backups of your iPhone, iPad or iPod, but then again iCloud will turn out to be a safer place if your computer and device are both stolen. But remember iCloud storage runs short easily, and you will pay for more. Also, Apple may remove iCloud iOS backups if not updated or used for 180 days.

iCloud iconiOS backup with iCloud

iCloud: Back up your iOS device to iCloud

An iCloud backup differs from the full backup to computer that you get when using iTunes. It does not backup purchased items (apps & music) as these will be re-downloadable using your Apple ID, and it does not include music you have added yourself, see:

iCloud: iCloud storage and backup overview

Where is my iOS backup?

If you are having problems with your iOS device, and if iTunes does not respond when you plug it in, you may want to be reassured that you do have a backup on your computer, so that you can restore it. You can check for backups on your computer in these places:

  • Mac: ~/Library/Application Support/MobileSync/Backup/
    The “~” represents your Home folder. If you don’t see Library in your Home folder, hold Option and click the Go menu.
  • Windows XP: Documents and Settings(username)Application DataApple ComputerMobileSyncBackup
    To quickly access the Application Data folder, click Start, and choose Run. Type %appdata% and click OK.
  • Windows Vista, Windows 7, and Windows 8: Users(username)AppDataRoamingApple ComputerMobileSyncBackup
    To quickly access the AppData folder, click Start. In the search bar, type %appdata% and press Return.

If you want to know about your backup to iCloud, you can check from your iOS device, your Mac or your Windows PC, as long as you link it to your Apple ID:

  • On your iOS device, go to Settings > iCloud > Storage & Backup.
  • On your Mac, go to Apple () menu > System Preferences, click iCloud, then click Manage.
  • On your Windows computer:
      • Windows 8.1: Go to the Start screen and click the down arrow Down arrow in a circle icon in the lower-left corner. Click the iCloud app, then click Manage.
      • Windows 8: Go to the Start screen and click the iCloud tile, then click Manage.
      • Windows 7: Choose Start menu > All Programs > iCloud > iCloud, then click Manage.

Annoyingly, the iCloud preference pane in Mac OS X only appears in recent versions of the Mac.