Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Back up your iPhone to your computer

Several weeks ago, I posted a tutorial about using the automatic Backup feature of your iPhone. If you want to review the post on how to set this up, it is located here.

At the same time, I made a lukewarm pledge to follow up with another way to backup your phone that doesn't require the services of the ethereal Apple iCloud. For most of us, this method is familiar--even old-fashioned--and harkens back to the first decade of the twenty-first century when a cloud was this puffy white thing that occasionally yielded rain and a phone was something you flipped open to order pizza. 

All you need is the lightning cable that came with your iPhone, the same white cable that you use to charge your phone each night. But instead of plugging the USB side of the cord into your power block, you plug it into a spare USB port on your computer. From here, the complete contents of your iPhone will be copied to the familiar confines of your own computer's hard drive. 

Safely aboard, your data is accessible at any time to restore your iPhone (or a replacement iPhone) in case you accidentally delete something valuable, drop your phone into the castle moat, or Apple loses your data somewhere in the celestial black hole of its signature iCloud.

But if it was this easy, I wouldn't bother you with the following indispensible details.   

After connecting your phone, the first thing to do is fire up iTunes on your computer. If you don’t already have iTunes installed, you’ll have to download it from Apple. It acts as the necessary conduit between your iPhone and your computer’s hard drive, and you'll be dead in the water without it. You’ll also need your Apple ID and password, two things that anyone with an iPhone will certainly have committed to memory—right? 

If this is the first time that you have accessed iTunes with your phone, you will see two windows pop up, one on your phone and the other on iTunes. On your computer, you will be asked if you want to allow your computer to access your iPhone. Your answer should be Continue.


The other window will open on your phone, asking you if you want to trust the computer that you are connected to. The answer should be Trust

When the iTunes window opens, an icon for your iPhone will appear in the upper left of the screen, along with your phone’s model, capacity, phone number, and serial number. If you see all this, then all is good and you are oh-so-close to being ready to backup your iPhone to your computer. 

In the middle of the screen, you’ll see an area titled Backups. iCloud is checked by default, because the automatic backup feature has already been enabled on your iPhone. The important box to check now is the one that says This Computer. After that, in the area below that says Options, be sure to clear all of the boxes of any checks—non are needed for this basic, all-inclusive backup.

Finally, you are ready to click Backup Now to start the backup process to your computer. Depending on the amount of data on your phone, the entire backup can take only five or ten minutes, maybe a little longer, depending on its size. Once completed, you have the peace of mind knowing that the entire contents of your phone are backup locally (on your computer hard drive) and in the iCloud.

One last thing to remember is that the backup file that you just created is meant to restore your iPhone in case of a catastrophe, but NOT to access your iPhone’s data on your computer. There is software than can read the backup file in a pinch (example, Wondershare), but forget about that and keep your life uncomplicated, knowing that all your iPhone’s data is being well taken care of. 

As always, Apple has the official documentation about how to do what I just described.



  1. Kim, great info, very complete. Thank you. ~Rim~

  2. Thanks, Rim. I left out some other details, like where the backup file is located and suggestions for moving it to an external hard drive, but I'll reserve that level of persnickityness for geeks like you and me.