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How to back up your iPhone with iCloud or Mac

Backing up your videos, photos and text messages ensures your files are safe from being lost in the event you lose your phone, or it gets damaged.
Written by Maria Diaz, Staff Writer

Backing up your phone is essential to keep your photos, videos, and even your text messages safe. Our phones go everywhere with us, but just like our keys, they can get lost. Luckily losing your data along with your phone is avoidable. 

There are two easy ways to back up your iPhone: a cloud service, like iCloud or OneDrive, or your computer. Both methods have their pros and cons. The easier one may be backing up to a cloud service because it only requires one device: your phone. Backing up to the cloud, unfortunately, limits you to how much data you can store with that cloud. 

Using a computer to back up your phone won't cost you a monthly iCloud membership, but your data is stored on a hard drive, which means it's only safe while the computer is safe. 

Here's how to back up your iPhone with iCloud

Step 1: Go to settings and tap on your name at the top

iPhone screenshots showing Settings
Image: Maria Diaz / ZDNet

This option gives you access to your Apple ID, iCloud, and Purchases settings. 

Step 2: Tap on iCloud

Select iCloud
Image: Maria Diaz / ZDNet

Step 3: Go to iCloud Backup

Go to iCloud backup
Image: Maria Diaz / ZDNet

Step 4: Enable iCloud Backup and select Back up Now

Enable iCloud backup
Image: Maria Diaz / ZDNet

Tap on the toggle to enable iCloud backups, and Back Up Now will appear, select that, and your phone should start backing up to iCloud.

5GB is not enough for a lot of us, especially if you've never backed up your iPhone. But you can choose what gets backed up to reduce the amount of data to upload to iCloud or buy more storage. If you're still over the limit and don't want to pay for a membership, then you can back up to a computer.

Here's how to back up your iPhone on a Mac

Step 1: Connect your iPhone to the computer

Connecting iPhone to Mac with a cable
Image: Maria Diaz / ZDNet

Step 2: Open Finder to find your iPhone in Locations

Screenshot of Finder with iPhone information
Image: Maria Diaz / ZDNet

Gone are the days when iTunes was the go-to to get data out of your iPhone. Open Finder to view your iPhone in Locations, and there will be a snapshot of the current storage information, current iOS and any updates, and backup options.

Step 3: Select Back up to this Mac and click on Back Up Now

Select Backup to Mac and click on Back Up Now
Image: Maria Diaz / ZDNet

Be sure to select Back up all of the data on your iPhone to this Mac before clicking on Back Up Now.

Creating a backup could take a few minutes or a couple of hours, depending on how much data you have to back up. Mine took a little over an hour, but I hadn't backed up my iPhone in over a year. 

How much does iCloud cost?

Apple offers iCloud services to automatically back up your iPhone. 

Here are the different plans iCloud offers for its customers:

  • Free iCloud: 5GB 
  • iCloud+: 50GB of storage $0.99
  • iCloud+: 200GB of storage $2.99
  • iCloud+: 2TB of storage $9.99

Is it better to back up iPhone on a computer or iCloud?

Both options have their pros and cons, but I personally prefer a cloud service backup. I like having my photos and videos easily accessible through an app on my phone without occupying storage space. This beats having to get into a computer to find an old photo every time I want one. 

Do I need to back up iPhone apps?

Your purchased apps don't need to be backed up; that information is associated with your Apple ID, so they can be easily downloaded when you want them again. 

Is there another cloud service aside from iCloud?

There are a lot of cloud options, but it's important to make sure you're giving your data to a trustworthy and reliable company. Personally, I use and trust OneDrive instead of iCloud, since we have Office and get 1TB of OneDrive storage with our subscription.

Also: The 9 best cloud storage services: Cost, free storage, and features compared

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