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How to back up your iOS device in five minutes via iCloud

If you've invested in an iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch, you probably keep some very important information on your device that you won't want to lose. What would happen to your files, photos, and everything else on your iOS device if it were lost, stolen, or severely damaged?

The best way to safeguard your Apple mobile device is to back up your data. With iOS, you have two simple options for backing up: Use iCloud or use iTunes. This article explains how to back up using iCloud.

iCloud is Apple's own cloud-based storage and backup solution. It comes included with your device, so it's free to use (for up to 5GB worth of data, as I'll explain in more detail below).

You should be able to progress through the following instructions for backing up using iCloud in about five minutes. Below the step-by-step instructions, you'll also find a quick overview of how to restore your device using iCloud, should you need to. As well as that, I've included a list of things that do get backed up using this method, along with a list of things that don't.

How to back up iPhone and iPad using iCloud

  • Go to Settings > iCloud > Storage & Backup.
  • Under Backup, turn on the switch for iCloud Backup.
  • Go back one screen and turn on or off the data you want backed up from the selections. You'll notice that not all your apps appear here, only the pre-installed Apple apps. At this stage, you can consider yourself finished with the backup if don't want to back up anything else on your phone. If you're finished, skip ahead to the final step in this section (“Connect your iPhone or iPad to a Wi-Fi signal”). If you do want to back up more of your non-Apple apps, continue through the rest of the following steps.
  • Scroll all the way down to Storage & Backup, and tap it.
  • Choose the third choice shown, Manage Storage.
  • Under the heading Backups, select the entry for your phone. Mine is simply named "Jill's Phone." The resulting page may take a moment or two to load.
  • You should now be on a page called Info. Under the heading Backup Options, you'll see a list of the top five storage-using apps, plus another button labelled "Show All Apps." Press Show All Apps, and you can now choose which items you want to back up. You should back up apps that contain important information or files, as well as apps that you have taken a lot of time to customise. I personally wouldn't back up most apps that use a cloud service because all the app data you care about is already being hosted by the provider – not locally on your phone.
  • As you decide which of your apps you don't want to back up, toggle those to "off." A red button reading "Turn Off & Delete" will appear. If you click it, you'll still have the app and its data locally on your iPhone. All you're "deleting" is the data from iCloud's backup. At the bottom of the screen, you'll see how much space you have available. Apple gives you 5GB of iCloud storage free. Of course, if you want to back up more, you can pay Apple for extra storage space, starting at £14 a year for an additional 10GB.
  • Connect your iPhone or iPad to a Wi-Fi signal, plug it into a power outlet, and leave the screen locked (in other words, don't use the device). Your iPhone or iPad will automatically backup once a day when it meets these three conditions. You can also manually initiate a backup to iCloud by connecting your iPhone or iPad to a Wi-Fi signal, and selecting Back Up Now under Settings > iCloud > Storage & Backup.

How to restore iPhone and iPad using iCloud

  • When launching a new (or newly wiped) iOS device, a Setup Assistant will automatically ask if you want to "Restore from iCloud Backup." Choose this option to restore your old iPhone or iPad's data, apps and settings.
  • Enter your iCloud username and password.
  • You'll see the three most recent backups to choose from. In most cases, you'll want the latest one.
  • From this point, the iPhone or iPad will pretty much do the rest. Enter passwords when prompted, and don't mess with your phone while that progress bar is still doing its thing. iCloud will restore your apps to the version you had rather than the most up-to-date version, unless the previously stored version is no longer available, in which case it defaults to the most recent.

What will be backed up

  • Music purchased through iTunes (but not in all countries).
  • Apps.
  • Books purchased through iTunes.
  • Photos in the Camera Roll.
  • Videos in the Camera Roll.
  • Notes in the Notes app.
  • Device settings (for example, Phone Favourites, Wallpaper, and Mail, Contacts, Calendar accounts).
  • App data.
  • Home screen and app organisation.
  • Messages (iMessage, SMS, and MMS).
  • Ringtones.

What won't be backed up

  • Media files synced from your computer aren't backed up, but can be restored by syncing with iTunes.
  • Apps, books, and music that have subsequently been removed from the App Store, iTunes Store, and iBookstore since you downloaded or purchased them.