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How to Back Up an iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch Using iTunes

How to Back Up an iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch Using iTunes
Your iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch probably houses some pretty expensive data, when you think about everything that's on it and the time it took you to put it there and get it just right. I'm talking about not just apps, but also photos, address books, notes, documents, and more. What would it cost to replace all that data if your iOS device were lost, stolen, severely damaged, or just went kaput? And how much much of it would simply be irreplaceable?

If you own an Apple mobile device, you have no excuse for not backing it up, because Apple gives you two very simple and free ways for duplicating and storing a copy of your information. One option is to use iCloud and the other is to use iTunes. iTunes may be best known as Apple's music playing program, but the application can do much more in terms of helping you manage your mobile devices.

The benefit of backing up using iCloud is that it's largely automated and can happen wirelessly. The downside is Apple only gives you 5GB space for free, so if you need more, you have to pay for it.

Apple review, Apple commentary, Apple news... Everything AppleWith iTunes, on the other hand, you don't face quite the same space limitations. iTunes creates backups of your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch right on your computer. Therefore, the amount of space allotted to your backups is fully in your control. It's a slice of the free space on your PC or Mac.

If you back up using iTunes instead, which you can do either by connecting your iOS device to your computer or by turning on wireless syncing with iTunes over WiFi (complete instruction below), you'll still want to make an additional backup to another location. That's because don't want your only backup to be on a computer in the same home or office where you keep your iPhone or iPad. If one is subject to, say, a fire or theft, the other is likely to suffer the same harm, leaving you with no phone, no tablet, no computer, and no backups. If you already run regular backups of your computer, though, you have nothing to worry about. Additionally, you can backup your data to iCloud, too, but you have to turn off iCloud before making the iTunes backup.

You should be able to move through the following instructions for backing up using iTunes in less than five minutes. Below the step-by-step instructions, you'll also find a quick overview of how to restore your device using iTunes, should you need to, as well as a list of things that do and do not get backed up using this method.

How to Back Up iPhone or iPad Using iTunes

Before you make a backup of your iPhone or iPad using iTunes, it's a good idea to check whether you have the latest latest version of iTunes (go to Help > Check for Updates), but it's often not necessary.

Wireless sync: Make sure iCloud is turned off. Go to Settings > iCloud > Storage & Backup and toggle iCloud Backup to off. Then go to Settings > General > iTunes Wi-Fi Sync and select your computer from the list. You'll see an option to "Sync Now" but by default the iOS device will automatically sync when the device meets three conditions: 1) the screen is locked (i.e., you're not using the device), 2) the device is connected to Wi-Fi, and 3) the device is plugged into a power source.

With a cable:

  • Connect your iPhone or iPad to your computer and launch iTunes.
  • Make sure iCloud is turned off on your iPhone or iPad. You can't create backups using iTunes when iCloud is enabled. Go to Settings > iCloud > Storage & Backup and turn off the iCloud Backup switch.
  • In iTunes, right-click (or Ctrl-click) on your device, which appears in the leftmost pane under Devices.
  • Choose Back Up.
Now that you have a backup, you need to know where iTunes put it in case you need to restore your device from it, or are ready to back up your backup to a second location:

  • Mac: ~/Library/Application Support/MobileSync/Backup/
  • Windows XP: Documents and Settings(username)Application DataApple ComputerMobileSyncBackup
  • Windows Vista or 7: Users(username)AppDataRoamingApple ComputerMobileSyncBackup

 How to Restore iPhone, iPad Using iTunes

  • Launch iTunes.
  • Connect your iOS device to your computer.
  • In iTunes, right-click (or Ctrl-click) on your device, which appears in the leftmost pane under Devices.
  • Select the Summary tab and then Restore (or just Restore from Back Up if you see it).
  • Your iPad or iPhone will say "Restore in Progress" on the screen, and iTunes will show a progress bar. Then your iOS device will restart. Wait for the progress bar to finish and for the restart to complete before you try to use or disconnect the device.

What Is Backed Up Using iTunes

  • Contacts and Contact Favorites (iTunes will back up your recent calls and favorites, but Apple recommends backing up to iCloud or another contact manager to ensure you don't lose additional details about your contacts)
  • App Store Application data including in-app purchases (except the Application itself, its tmp and Caches folder)
  • Application settings, preferences, and data, including documents
  • Autofill information in Safari
  • CalDAV and subscribed calendar accounts
  • Calendar accounts
  • Calendar events
  • Call history
  • Camera Roll (Photos, screenshots, images saved, and videos taken. Videos larger than 2GB are backed up with iOS 4.0 and later; in devices without a camera, it's called Saved Photos)
  • Game Center account
  • Home screen arrangement
  • In-app purchases
  • Keychain (email passwords, Wi-Fi passwords, etc.)
  • List of external sync sources (Mobile Me, Exchange ActiveSync)
  • Location service preferences for apps and websites you have allowed to use your location
  • Mail accounts (messages are not backed up but will reload when you launch the mail app)
  • Managed configurations/profiles
  • Map bookmarks, recent searches, and the current location displayed in Maps
  • Microsoft Exchange account configurations
  • Network settings
  • Nike+ iPod saved workouts and settings
  • Notes
  • Offline web application cache/database
  • Paired Bluetooth devices (which can only be used if restored to the same device that did the backup)
  • Safari bookmarks, cookies, history, offline data, and currently open pages
  • Saved suggested corrections
  • Messages (iMessage and carrier SMS or MMS pictures and videos)
  • Trusted hosts that have certificates that cannot be verified
  • Voice memos
  • Voicemail token (for restored phones with the same phone number on the SIM card)
  • Wallpapers
  • Web clips
  • YouTube bookmarks and history
  • Additional information backed up varies by which version of iOS you have; see the section Additional Information on Apple's support page about iOS backups.

What's Not Backed Up

What's not backed up? Any content synced to—but not locally residing on—your iOS device, including:

  • movies
  • music
  • podcasts
  • apps
Those items will be backed up if they are currently on your iPhone, iPad touch, or iPad, though. So, if you purchase an app, then remove it from your iPhone, it's not included in the backup. The App Store will still have record of you buying the app, so you can download it again. It just won't be included if you restore from a backup.