Choosing an iOS backup method (Should I use iTunes or iCloud to back up my iOS device?)

Learn more about choosing an iOS backup method.

Curious about how to best back up your iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad? Is iTunes Backup or iCloud Backup the best solution for you? This article is designed to answer some of these questions, and help you choose the backup method that works best for you.

Each backup method has its own advantages. For most users, iCloud Backup is the recommended solution as described below.

When is iCloud Backup the best choice for me?

iCloud Backup provides an easy and reliable backup solution for users who want to back up their iOS devices wirelessly and automatically without tethering to a computer. iCloud Backup is best for you if:

  • You prefer that iCloud take care of backups for you automatically when your device is connected to Wi-Fi and power.
  • You want to restore data to your device from almost anywhere via a broadband Wi-Fi connection.
  • You don’t connect your iOS device to a Mac or PC very frequently.
  • You don’t own a Mac or PC.
  • You would like an automatic backup solution to use in conjunction with iTunes Backup (see below).

Note: iCloud Backup does not back up music, movies, and TV shows that you did not purchase from the iTunes Store, or any podcasts, audio books, or photos that you originally synced from your computer. iCloud Backup will restore your purchased music, movie, and app content from the iTunes and App Stores during the background restore process. Previous purchases may be unavailable if they are no longer in the iTunes Store, App Store, or iBooks Store.

When is iTunes Backup the best choice for me?

iTunes Backup is traditionally how users have backed up their iOS devices, and it continues to serve the needs of many users. iTunes Backup is best for you if:

  • You frequently use the computer that hosts your iTunes Backups.
  • You don't have an iCloud account or don't want to use iCloud.
  • The photos and videos saved in your device’s Camera Roll regularly exceed 1 GB in size or you tend to have very large backups.
  • You want on-site and networked backups.
  • You would like a manual or secondary backup solution to use in conjunction with iCloud Backup (see below).

Note: Keep in mind that iTunes Backup does not create a duplicate back up of your movies, music, podcasts, and apps. As noted in this article, your media content is synced from your primary computer via iTunes.

When to use iCloud and iTunes Backup together

For an extra level of backup for your data, you can use iCloud Backup and iTunes Backup together.

Using iCloud Backup doesn't disable iTunes Backup completely, it just turns off Automatic Backups via iTunes. You can trigger a manual iTunes Backup yourself whenever you want to create a new one.  

  1. Plug your iOS device into your primary computer via the provided cable.
  2. Open iTunes.
  3. For iTunes 11:
    1. In the iTunes window, click the iOS device button on the right.
    2. In the Backups section, click Back Up Now under "Manually Back Up and Restore."
  4. For iTunes 10.7:
    1. Right-click (or Control click) on your iOS device in the iTunes Source list.
    2. Choose Back Up from the iTunes device shortcut menu.
  5. Allow the backup to complete. You can monitor the status of the backup operation in the iTunes status screen.

For the best results, back up with iTunes on a weekly basis or more frequently if important data needs to be backed up. Learn about creating reminders.

Tip: If you are using iCloud and iTunes Backup together, and you simply want to speed up your iCloud Backup & Restore functions, you can save iCloud storage by turning off iCloud Backup for very large data types. For example, if you have a 15 GB Camera Roll on your iPhone, you may not wish to back it up to iCloud because it is already being manually backed up to iTunes. You can disable back up of any iCloud Backup item in Settings > iCloud > Storage & Backup > Manage Storage > Backups > Backup Options. After doing so, these items will only be backed up when you manually back up to iTunes.

Additional Information

For general information about:

Last Modified: Aug 14, 2013
Not helpful Somewhat helpful Helpful Very helpful Solved my problem
Print this page
  • Last Modified: Aug 14, 2013
  • Article: HT5262
  • Views:

  • Rating:
    • 77.0

    (15264 Responses)
Start a Discussion
in Apple Support Communities
See all questions on this article See all questions I have asked