iPhone Backups | How Do I Backup My iPhone Data?

Those who do not back up the contents of their iPhone will sooner or later mourn their data afterwards. A starting aid for everyone who has previously avoided it.

Flopped in the sink. Rolled over by the car. Slipped out of pocket unnoticed in the subway. Losing your smartphone or knowing it has been destroyed is a horror for many people - because they have already saved half their lives on it. Only backups, backups, backups can help against the loss of souvenir photos or messenger conversations.

Users only have direct access to certain iPhone data via apps. Therefore, it is not enough to simply connect the cell phone to a computer and copy everything. In order to find apps and settings as usual on a new device, you almost always need the support of a backup software.

But: what's the best way to do it on the iPhone ? An overview. 

The no-brainer: Complete backup via iCloud

The easiest way is to simply back up everything completely - automatically and in the cloud. And with everything complete, Apple really means pretty much everything: from the device settings, to photos and video recordings that are not already in the iCloud, to the addresses stored in the navigation app and many other app data. Device settings and details such as the arrangement of apps on the home screen are also backed up in this way. If data from an Apple Watch is on the device, these are also loaded into the backup. Important: The content of external messenger apps may not be included here; there are separate backup options for this (see below).

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The automatic backup function in iPhones saves all iPhone data in the iCloud once a day if the device is connected to a WiFi network. You can also start the backup process manually at any time. The backup options can be found under Settings> [Profile name]> iCloud> iCloud Backup.

Such a complete backup is a bundled package that is stored in the iCloud account. This means: Access to individual backup data, such as only the address book or only a specific photo, is not possible. There are other options for these cases (see partial backup). Instead, you can download the iCloud data package from the Internet if you want to set up a new iPhone or Android device and find your apps and settings as on the previous device.

If you then want to import the data on a new device, you have to select data recovery during the setup process and then log into the iCloud with the same Apple ID that he or she used to create the backup. Even users who switch from an iPhone to an Android device can import most of the data from the iPhone backup, but there are iPhone-specific data types that cannot be restored on Android. How exactly the change from iOS to Android works can be found on the websites of manufacturers such as Sony and Samsung.

The advantage of such an iCloud backup: It is unbeatable in terms of convenience. A new iPhone or Android device is ready to use in no time and you save a lot of fuss when setting up the system and apps.

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However, the iCloud backup is not necessarily the most privacy-friendly option. Currently, Apple does not encrypt backup data end-to-end . This means that the company can theoretically decrypt and view this data. Even attackers can read user data if they manage to break into Apple systems. If there is a corresponding court order, Apple - like every software operator - must also release data to authorities . And: iCloud only has five gigabytes of free storage space. If you need more, you have to pay Apple.

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For control freaks: locally stored complete backup

If you are scared of Apple's iCloud, you can also save the entire interior of the iPhone locally on your computer. To create the backup, connect the iPhone to the computer with a cable and start the copying process with just a few clicks. Depending on the version, either the Finder (from MacOS Catalina) or the pre-installed iTunes app (up to and including MacOS Mojave) is used on the Mac . On Windows computers , iTunes must first be downloaded and then used for backup as well.

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Both the Finder and iTunes offer a function for encrypting the backup data on your own computer. If sensitive data such as passwords or health data are part of the backup, encryption is even mandatory . In order to retrieve the data later, you have to enter the password you defined yourself beforehand. But you must not forget that, otherwise the backup data will be irretrievably lost.

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As with iCloud backup, you cannot extract individual files from the locally stored full backup, it can only be uploaded to a new iPhone as a package . Local iPhone backups can also sometimes be restored to Android; instructions on whether to do so can be found on the manufacturers' websites. There are also Android apps that make it easier to import iPhone data. However, the differences to the Android system are sometimes quite large, so it is better to be prepared for the fact that when you leave the Apple universe, a certain amount of collateral damage occurs and data falls by the wayside.

The clear advantage of such a locally stored backup: Nobody except you have access to the backup data and the option for encryption offers additional security. And unlike the cloud solution, backing up on your own computer costs nothing, even with larger amounts of data, as long as you have enough space on the computer - or on a USB stick or external hard drive connected to it.

But it is a bit impractical: The copying process itself is simple, but has to be started manually - regularly so that the data in the backup is up-to-date and complete. If you opt for this variant, it is best to enter a fixed backup date in the calendar so as not to forget the unpleasant task. And then there are the disadvantages of all local backups: If the storage medium is broken or lost, the backup is gone too.

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Slim and practical: Partial backup on iOS

But sometimes you also want to access your backup data. Of this holiday video, that photo in which the niece looks so funny - and so on. In order not only to back up such data, but also to be able to call them up separately, you can either use a cloud service or transfer the data regularly to an external storage medium.

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You can use Apple's iCloud for this - not only the content from the Photos app, but also the data from standard apps such as the address book and calendar can be saved there. Which app content should be synchronized with the iCloud can be set on iPhones under Settings> [Profile name]> iCloud . The data can then also be accessed from other devices that are linked to the same iCloud account, or via a web browser. But be careful: they are just as imperfectly encrypted in the iCloud as all other Apple backups. 

Alternatively, you can set up another cloud service for backing up photos and files. It works like this: Select a cloud app, for example Dropbox or an end-to-end encrypted alternative such as tresorit , install it on the iPhone, select the data to be backed up and move it to this app. From then on there is an automatic synchronization with the servers of the cloud provider - assuming an internet connection. 

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In practical terms, this means that every new photo, every new file in a certain folder is continuously backed up from there, without you having to worry. Then you can access your data at any time via the Internet by calling up the website of the cloud service and logging into your account. Or you can install the cloud service on a second device, for example on a computer, and from there you can access exactly the same folders and files that you see on your mobile phone.

For messenger services such as WhatsApp or Threema, the respective manufacturers have their own backup instructions. The Messenger Signal, on the other hand, does not allow iPhone users to make backups in this sense - if you want to transfer old chat histories to your new device, you still need access to your old iPhone.

The general rule is: Simply drag data onto a USB stick or SD card, unfortunately that is not possible with the iPhone, because - well, because it is Apple. The company likes to retain sole sovereignty over its systems - and prefers to produce compatible hardware itself.

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