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iPhone 5's Automated Backups on a Computer or iCloud

Whether you know it or not, your iPhone 5 backs up your settings, app data, and other information on your iPhone whenever you connect to a computer and use iTunes to:

  • Sync with your iPhone

  • Update your iPhone

  • Restore your iPhone

Every time you sync your iPhone and computer, most (but not all) of your iPhone content — photos in the camera roll, text messages, notes, contact favorites, sound settings, and more — is backed up to either your computer's hard drive or iCloud before the sync begins. Most of your media, including songs, TV shows, and movies, isn't backed up in this process. This shouldn't be a problem because these files are usually restored when you sync with iTunes again.

Backups are saved automatically and stored on your computer by default. You can instead choose to back up to iCloud by clicking the appropriate button in the iTunes Summary pane.

To switch to backing up to iCloud using iTunes on your computer (or vice versa), follow these steps:

  1. Connect the iPhone to the computer.

    If iTunes doesn't launch automatically when you connect the iPhone, launch it now.

  2. Click the iPhone button just below the Search field.

    If you use more than one iDevice with this computer, the button will say the number of devices (for example, 5 Devices) rather than iPhone. Click the button to display a drop-down list and select the device you want.

    You won't see the button if you've made the iTunes sidebar visible (View→Show Sidebar/Hide Sidebar or press Command+Option+S on a Mac or Alt+Ctrl+S on a PC). You can select your iPhone in the sidebar and follow along, but your screens may look different.

  3. Click the Summary tab.

  4. Under Automatically Back Up, click either iCloud or This Computer.

  5. If you want to encrypt your backups with a password, select the Encrypt iPhone Backup check box.

If anything goes wonky or you get a new iPhone, you can restore most (if not all) of your settings and files that aren't synced with iCloud or iTunes on your computer. If you've ever backed up an iPad, iPod touch, or iPhone, you can restore the new iPhone with the older device's backup.

If you're using an iPhone computer-free, here's how to enable backing up to iCloud from your iPhone, which we strongly suggest you do without further delay:

  1. Tap Settings→iCloud→Storage & Backup.

  2. Tap iCloud Backup to switch it on.

Choosing this option means your iPhone no longer backs up automatically if you connect it to a computer.

If you're a computer-free iPhone user, you don't care because you never connect your iPhone to a computer. But if you sync your iPhone with your computer, as many folks do, give some thought to which option suits your needs. Restoring from a computer backup requires physical or Wi-Fi access to that computer, but you don't need Internet access. Restoring from iCloud requires Internet access and can happen anywhere on Earth that has that access.

Backups are good; choose one or the other and move on.

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