With any mobile device, it's hugely important to make regular backups to prevent you from losing data such as photos, text messages, notes, voice memos, contacts and more should something happen to it. Here, we show you how to back up an iPhone using iTunes or iCloud so you don't find yourself without a way to retrieve that precious data. See also: iPhone 8 rumour round-up

How to back up an iPhone using iTunes

There are two main ways to make a backup of your iPhone. The first is through iTunes. All you need to do is connect your iPhone to the computer that you normally sync with using the USB cable, open up iTunes and then wait for your device to pop up in iTunes. See also: How to transfer your iTunes library to an Android smartphone or tablet.

In the 'Summary' field (which should be the default landing page when you click on your device), click Back Up Now. It might take a while, but when it's finished, you'll have a complete backup of your iPhone on the computer. It is well worth using the 'Encrypt backup' option because this will also save your passwords and other settings which aren't saved otherwise. You'll need to enter a password to encrypt the backup: don't forget this!

Now, if you happen to drop your iPhone down the loo tomorrow, or you lose it on the way home, you'll still have all of the data that was stored on that iPhone stored on your computer. You'll be able to plug in a new iPhone and restore all of that data onto the new device.

Backup your iPhone using iCloud

The second way to back up your iPhone uses Apple's iCloud feature. It will back up your device whenever you're connected to a Wi-Fi network, so there's no chance you'll forget to back up your iPhone, unlike the iTunes backup method. See: How to transfer photos from a computer to iPhone or iPad the easy way.

If you choose to use iCloud as your method of backing up your data, you'll need to go to Settings > iCloud > Storage & Backup and then toggle the iCloud Backup switch on. Your device will now automatically back up your camera roll, contacts, iMessages and settings content when it is charging, locked and connected to Wi-Fi.

You only get 5GB of free storage in iCloud, though, so you may find that you want to pay a the extra to get additional space. These are the current monthly prices:

  • 50GB: £0.79
  • 200GB: £2.49
  • 1TB: £6.99
  • 2TB: £13.99

iCloud automatically backs up the following:

  • Photos and videos in your Camera Roll
  • Device settings
  • App data
  • Home screen and app organisation
  • iMessage, text (SMS) and MMS messages
  • Ringtones
  • Visual Voicemail

Apple also stores the most recent 1,000 photos from your Photo Stream if you've turned on that feature. You can do so by going to Settings > iCloud > Photos and then toggle My Photo Stream. These photos don't count against your storage quota.

What isn't backed up with iCloud, though, is music and apps, though if you've purchased them from iTunes or the iOS App Store you'll be able to easily re-download them for free should you need to restore an iPhone from your backup.

If you find that you are running out of iCloud storage space, it's worth checking that you're not backing up anything you don't really need before you pay for more storage. Go to Settings > General > Usage on your iPhone and then scroll down to Manage Storage. This will tell you what's using the most space. Tap on your device, and go to Backup Options. Here, you can turn off backups for individual apps.

Backup an iPhone using Google Drive

Google has updated its Drive app for iOS so it can back up your iPhone data to the cloud in one go. This means you don't have to sync photos and videos to Google Photos, contacts to Contacts and calendar events to Calendar: it will do it all automatically for you. 

How to back up an iPhone

Obviously this is far from a full backup of your phone, but if your email, calendar and contacts are already online (such as if you use Gmail and Google Calendar for these things) then there is no need to back them up.

Google Drive cannot back up iMessages, nor can it save any of your phone's passwords or settings, which is why an encrypted iTunes backup is the best option for most people. However, if you're switching from iPhone to Android, Google Drive is a very useful option indeed.