How To Back Up iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch With Your Computer

Since I began supporting mobile technology more than 10 years ago I have advised clients to perform regular back ups of their iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch.

how to backup iPhone to your MacWhen you back up your Apple device, you will have a copy of your data safely stored on your computer. This is invaluable if your device is stolen, lost broken, or replaced. It is also a good option if you want to keep your personal data private and not store it on iCloud.

Backup is also useful if you get a new device and want to transfer your previous settings to it

With Apple products you have 2 choices when it comes to making a back up:

  • Save your information to a computer such as a MacBook or PC
  • Save your information to iCloud

In this guide, I explain all the back up methods that allow you to save your data to a computer including:

  • how to backup iPhone to Mac (using macOS Catalina, Big Sur, or earlier)
  • how to backup iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch to Windows
  • how to delete old iPhone or iPad backups from your computer
  • how to encrypt your backups
  • how to restore your backup

Back up your iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch to your computer

How to backup iPhone to MacBook (or any other Mac computer)

Method 1: If you use macOS Catalina 10.15 or newer

The major difference between macOS version 10.15, also known as Catalina, and the earlier versions is iTunes was replaced by separate MusicPodcastsTV, and Books apps. This means iOS device management is conducted via Finder instead of iTunes.

  1. Plug your iOS device into your Mac using a cable.
    connect iPhone to your Mac
  2. Open Finder on your Mac.
    open finder
  3. Click your device name in the sidebar.
  4. If this is the first time you have connected your device to your Mac click the trust button.
    trust iPhone
  5. Tap trust on your device when prompted and enter your device passcode to confirm.
  6. If you want to save sensitive information such as passwords then tick the ‘Encrypt Local Back Up’ checkbox in the Finder summary window.
  7. If this is the first time you have done a local backup then enter a password when prompted. Then click the ‘Set Password’ button.encrypted backup
  8. To start a back up click the ‘Back Up Now’ button near the bottom of the Finder summary window.
  9. Enter your device passcode to begin the back up. It should take around 5 minutes to complete but the exact time depends on what’s installed and stored on your device.
    Finder backup
  10. Once the backup is complete you will see the date and time it was made on the Finder summary screen.
    last backup
  11. Now you have a back up of your device on your Mac in case you ever need to use it.

Method 2: If you use macOS Mojave 10.14 or older

macOS Majave

  1. Connect your iOS device and your Mac with a cable.
  2. Open iTunes on your Mac.
  3. Click the device icon in the top left of iTunes, just below the play button.
  4. If this is the first time you have connected your device to your Mac click the trust button.
  5. Tap trust on your device when prompted and enter your device passcode to confirm.
  6. If you want to save sensitive information such as passwords then tick the ‘Encrypt Local Back Up’ checkbox in the iTunes summary window.
  7. If this is the first time you have done a local backup then enter a password when prompted. Then click the ‘Set Password’ button.
  8. To start a back up click the ‘Back Up Now’ button near the bottom of the iTunes summary window.
  9. Enter your device passcode to begin the back up. It should take around 5 minutes to complete but the exact time depends on what’s installed and stored on your device.
  10. Once the backup is complete you will see the date and time it was made on the iTunes summary screen.
  11. Now you have a back up of your device on your Mac in case you ever need to use it.

How to backup iPhone with your Windows PC

PC iTunes

  1. Plug your device into your PC with a USB or USB-C cable.
  2. Start iTunes on your PC.
  3. Click the device icon in the top left of iTunes, just below the play button.
  4. If this is the first time you have connected your device to your Mac click the trust button.
  5. Tap trust on your device when prompted and enter your device passcode to confirm.
  6. Click ‘Summary’ under the device setting in iTunes.
  7. If you want to save sensitive information such as passwords then tick the ‘Encrypt [device] Back Up’ checkbox in the iTunes summary window.
  8. If this is the first time you have done a local backup then enter a password when prompted. Then click the ‘Set Password’ button.
  9. To start a back up click the ‘Back Up Now’ button near the bottom of the iTunes summary window.
  10. Enter your device passcode to begin the back up. It should take around 5 minutes to complete but the exact time depends on what’s installed and stored on your device.
  11. Once the backup is complete you will see the date and time it was made on the iTunes summary screen.
  12. To see the backups stored on your PC, choose Edit > Preferences, then click Devices. Encrypted backups have a lock icon in the list of backups.
  13. Now you have a back up of your device on your PC in case you ever need to use it.

How to backup iPad to your computer
iPad back up

  1. Plug in your device to your computer using a USB or USB-C lightning cable.
  2. On a Mac with macOS Catalina 10.15, open Finder. On a Mac with macOS Mojave 10.14 or earlier, or on a PC, open iTunes.
  3. If this is the first time you have connected your iPad to your computer click the trust button.
  4. Tap trust on your iPad when prompted and enter your device passcode to confirm.
  5. If you want to save Health and Activity data from your iPad, you need to encrypt your backup. Tick the box in iTunes called ‘Encrypt [device] backup’ and create a memorable password when prompted.
  6. Click Back Up Now to begin the backup process. It should only take a few minutes to finish.
  7. Once the backup is complete you will see the date and time it was made on the iTunes or Finder summary screen.

Back up your iPod Touch with your computer

iPod Touch

  1. Connect your iPod Touch to your computer using a USB or USB-C cable.
  2. On your Mac with macOS Catalina 10.15 or newer open Finder. On all other computers open iTunes.
  3. If this is the first time you have connected your iPod Touch to your computer then click the ‘Trust’ button.
  4. Tap trust on your iPod Touch when prompted and enter your device passcode to confirm.
  5. If you want to save sensitive information such as passwords then tick the ‘Encrypt [device] Back Up’ checkbox in the summary window.
  6. If this is the first time you have done a local backup then enter a password when prompted. Then click the ‘Set Password’ button.
  7. To start a back up click the ‘Back Up Now’ button near the bottom of the summary window.
  8. Click Back Up Now to begin the backup. It should only take 5 minutes to finish.

Deleting old iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch backups on Mac

You may want to remove your old back ups from your Mac:

  1. On a Mac with macOS Catalina 10.15, open Finder. On a Mac with macOS Mojave 10.14 or earlier, open iTunes.
  2. In Finder, under the General tab, click Manage Backups to see a list of your backups. You can right-click on the backup you want, then select Delete or Archive.
  3. In iTunes, choose Preferences, then click Devices. From here, you can right-click on the backup you want, then choose Delete or Archive it.

How to restore your iOS device backups on a Mac

How to restore iPhone

Restore your device from a backup on your Mac computer.

  1. Connect your device to your Mac using a lightning cable.
  2. If your Mac runs macOS Catalina 10.15 or later, open Finder. Otherwise open iTunes.
  3. Select your device from the sidebar in Finder, or from the toolbar in iTunes.
  4. Click the ‘Restore Backup’ button and follow the on-screen prompts.
  5. Keep your device connected until the process has completed.

If you want more detailed instructions I have written an in-depth guide on how to restore iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch from a backup and how to recover deleted photos from iPhone.

You can also see all our other useful backup guides or browse our other how-to articles.

Backup iPhone to MacBook FAQ’s

Having step-by-step instructions on how to backup an iPhone to a MacBook is great but there are other questions you may have when backing up your device to a computer.

Why can’t I backup my iPhone to my Mac?

This issue could be due to a problem on your iPhone, or on your Mac. To troubleshoot make sure your Mac is up to date and has the latest software installed. Do the same on your iPhone. Reboot both your iPhone and your computer and try again. It is also worth checking you have enough free space on your Mac for the new backup file. Also, try a backup to a different computer using a different lighting cable. If you don’t have another computer you can go to an Apple Store and have them try. Failing that do an iCloud backup.

How do I backup my iPhone without iCloud?

You don’t need iCloud enabled to do a backup to your computer. Simply plug your iPhone into your computer, open Finder or iTunes, select your iPhone, and click the ‘Back up Now’ button on the summary screen. Unlike an iCloud backup, a Mac backup saves all your photos, iTunes purchases, messages, call logs, application data, and more.

Can I backup my iPhone to my Mac wirelessly?

You can sync your iPhone to your Mac wirelessly. To do so: first, connect your iPhone to your Mac with a lightning cable. Open Finder and click the tickbox ‘Sync with this device over Wi-Fi’. on WiFi sync and click Apply. When you connect your device to a charger syncing begins automatically. Or on your Mac, you can select your iPhone in the sidebar and sync it manually.

How do I backup my iPhone to my computer?

Plugin your iPhone into your computer, on a Mac with macOS Catalina 10.15, open Finder. On a Mac with macOS Mojave 10.14 or earlier, or on a PC, open iTunes. Click ‘Back Up Now’ on the summary screen to begin the backup process.

Is it better to backup my device to iCloud or a computer?

Saving it to your computer means you have a local copy that is easy to access, private, needs no WiFi, and is fast to restore. A computer backup also holds more of your device’s contents such as photos. However, if your computer goes wrong then you have lost your backups. An iCloud backup needs no computer, is automatic, and is reliable. However, it is not as private and requires WiFi access to perform backups and restores making it slower. If you want to set and forget use iCloud backups. If you want more control then use a computer backup. Or better still, use both methods.

How do I backup my iPhone to my Mac without iTunes?

If your Mac runs macOS Catalina 10.15 you can perform the backup using Finder. Otherwise, use an iCloud backup on your iPhone. Tap Settings, your name, iCloud, iCloud Backup, Back Up Now. This will save your iPhone data to your iCloud account.

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