Upgrading the iPhone to iOS 7 may wipe clean all data from the iDevice. Fear not, for there are at least two known ways to back up iPhone data before you upgrade: iTunes and iCloud. Which backup method is best and what exactly gets backed up?
Chances are that you already have a backup of the iPhone stored either on your computer or in iCloud. As we found out, however, not all iPhone data is backed up by either iTunes or iCloud and this should come as no surprise. In short – restoring from iOS backup does not restore everything back to the iPhone. Be sure to back up all your needed iPhone data in advance:
Read on as we examine how to make a complete backup of the iPhone and not lose data during the upgrade to iOS 7. If you still haven’t made your mind up, be sure to check our 6 reasons to upgrade to iOS 7.
iTunes backup vs. iCloud backup
Both iTunes and iCloud are designed to back up the iOS data from your iPhone. If you wish, you can use both iTunes and iCloud backup methods at the same time. One key difference between the two is that iOS backups made via iCloud, do not require a physical connection between the iPhone and the computer. iCloud backup effectuates wirelessly. Therefore, you’d need to have the iPhone connected to the Internet instead.
Familiar with the major distinctions between iTunes and iCloud backup? Scroll down to the next section: What iPhone data do iTunes and iCloud back up?
Needless to say, iDevices running version iOS 4 and earlier do not support iCloud. If you are one of those rare exceptions and you have an iPhone 4 still running iOS 4, you are out of luck and iCloud backup is not an option for you.
Backing up via iTunes
iTunes backup is recommended ONLY if you are actively using iTunes on your computer and if you have already synced the iPhone with the iTunes library on that PC. If you never synced with iTunes before, use iCloud backup instead. Else, you run the risk of iTunes wiping clean your iPhone music and movies as well as deleting apps from the iPhone and this is definitely no fun.
In addition, each time you sync the device with the computer, iTunes automatically backs up the iPhone. The next time you sync the iPhone with iTunes, notice the backup stage at Step 2.
NOTE: If you enable iCloud backup, iTunes will not pass through “Step 2” and will not automatically back up the iPhone. In this case, you are still able to use iTunes and manually backup the iPhone.
Saving iOS data with iCloud backup
If you decide to back up the iPhone via iCloud, be sure to set up iCloud backup on the device. If you previously set up an iCloud account, chances are that you already have an existing backup of your iPhone settings, contacts, text messages apps and more.
To setup iCloud backup, navigate to Settings > iCloud > Storage and backup.
NOTE: iCloud backup is not the same as iCloud sync. Read more here: iCloud sync vs. iCloud backup.
Next, place the “iCloud Backup” switch to ON and tap “Back Up Now”
NOTE: iCloud space is limited to 5.0 GB. Any devouring pleasure from backing up with iCloud before upgrading to iOS 7 literally fades away once you see the below message displayed on the iPhone.
If you are like me and have more than 4GB of Camera Roll photos and videos, you are likely to be asked to diminish the size of your iPhone backup footprint. You can of course do so by opting out from backing up iPhone photos but this defeats the purpose of backing-up. And for a fee you can increase iCloud storage to 15 GB or more but that’s another story…
There is another chief drawback valid for both iTunes- and iCloud-backup methods: only some- and not all iPhone data is backed up and there are a number of limitations. Read on to find out exactly what iPhone information is saved.
What iPhone data do iTunes and iCloud back up?
Passwords you saved for WiFi networks and email accounts (although NOT email messages) as well as passwords saved for external sync sources (i.e. Exchange, Gmail or Yahoo account credentials for accounts found under “Settings > Mail, Contacts, Calendars”
iPhone preferences including: network settings, VPN preferences, location service preferences for apps and list of paired Bluetooth devices
LIMITATION: list of paired devices will only be restored if you use one and the same iPhone during both the backup and the restore
Safari browser autofill data and cache as well as history, open pages and bookmarks
iCloud backup includes the following
Music purchased off the iTunes store as well as purchased movies, TV shows, apps and books
LIMITATION: purchased music is not backed up in all countries. Apple does not provide a specific list but you can refer to this page for a complete list of countries where iTunes Store is available for music.
Apps and app data
Photos and videos taken with your iPhone (this means ONLY the photos/videos in the Camera Roll)
LIMITATION: Camera Roll photos and videos will NOT be restored if you restore an iPhone backup to iPad
The same iPhone data which iTunes backs up
iCloud will NOT back up the below
iPhone music, videos and movies not purchased from the iTunes Store
iPhone podcasts/audiobooks stored in the Music or Podcasts apps
Find out how to back up iPhone music videos and podcasts, by scrolling down to the next section: “What about iPhone music, videos, apps and podcasts?”
iPhone photos and videos outside the Camera Roll (i.e. the ones synced from your computer). Learn how to back up thoseа>
iCloud sync vs. iCloud backup
Syncing iPhone data with iCloud provides a means of pushing Contacts, Calendars, Notes etc. to other iOS devices. Syncing alone will not prevent loss of data. If for example you enabled iCloud contact sync and accidentally delete a number of contacts on the iPhone, these contacts will also be removed from your iCloud account.
A word about iPhone contacts, calendars and notes
One can never be absolutely sure about what an iPhone backup stored in iCloud contains. Users seeking to upgrade their iOS in the past have reported iPhone data loss upon restoring from iCloud or iTunes backups after the upgrade.
We therefore recommend that you always make a secure extra back up of iPhone essential data – such as contacts, calendars, notes and text messages – in addition to the backup made by iCloud or iTunes. Learn more about alternative methods for backing-up iPhone data or have a look at the YouTube video below:
What about iPhone music, videos, apps and podcasts?
iTunes does not backup iPhone music and movies. The sound Apple logic behind is that all music and videos on the iPhone should already be stored within the iTunes library on your computer. This is not always the case as we find out. Music, videos, podcasts and apps purchased off the iTunes store directly on the iPhone are not necessarily present in iTunes on the PC.
You need to make sure that all iPhone audio/video tracks and apps are already backed up to your computer before upgrading to iOS 7.
You can transfer purchases such as music, movies and apps from the iPhone to iTunes in the following way:
Run iTunes and connect the iPhone to the computer
WARNING: never connect the iPhone to an empty iTunes library. This will wipe out the iPhone. If the iTunes library on your PC is empty or if you didn’t recently sync the iPhone with iTunes, follow these steps to backup iPhone music, videos, apps and podcasts instead.
iCloud also allows backup of – beware: only purchased music and videos.
If you are ready to pay USD 25/year, you can keep personal music in the cloud with iTunes Match. iTunes Match is a service which allows to load songs (purchased or not) from your iTunes library to iCloud (note up to 25,000 songs). iTunes Match is not available in all countries so make sure to check the service availability country list.
How to backup iPhone photos outside the Camera Roll?
iTunes and iCloud backups include photos and videos from the iPhone’s Camera Roll. This consists of all the photos you took and videos you shot with the iPhone.
Photos which you previously synced with your computer (via iTunes or else) are not part of the backed-up material. You can bring these photos back to the iPhone after syncing your computer photo folders with iTunes.
If you no longer have access to the photos on the computer, you can always back up the entire iPhone photo library without the need for iTunes or iCloud. Read more here: How to transfer iPhone photos to PC.
Backing up iPhone data is not always straight-forward as it seems. With the iOS 7 around the corner, preventing iPhone data before you upgrade is essential. Backing up with iCloud and iTunes is easy but as we have found, there are limitations as to what gets backed up. Neither iTunes, nor iCloud are holistic methods of backing up and restoring all iPhone data. Before setting out to upgrade to iOS 7, back up as much of your important iPhone information as possible.