How to Backup Your iPhone to iCloud

By Mauricio PrinzlauCEO & Co-Founder
— Last Updated:

Losing your phone is a nightmare scenario for many people: in one fell swoop your pictures, contact information for friends and message history are just gone. Backing up your data securely beforehand is therefore something we here at always recommend you do.

Luckily, if you have an iPhone, Apple has you covered: it’s handy online backup service iCloud is easy to install and gives you 5GB of free storage, to boot. In this article, we’ll take you through the four steps necessary to backup your iPhone. Note that iPhone users have other options besides iCloud, check out our five best cloud backup for iPhone.

iCloud shouldn’t be confused with Apple’s other service, iCloud Drive. iCloud is a cloud storage and backup service, while iCloud Drive is more like Dropbox and lets you share documents and the like. We’ve compared iCloud Drive to one of our favorite providers IDrive in another article.

If you’d like to know more about iCloud before we get started, either check out our showdown of the best cloud services or our video review below.

iCloud Video Review

Backup Your iPhone to iCloud

Now, without further ado, let’s get started on backing up your iPhone. You’ll need to have three things ready before we start:

  • An iPhone running at least iOS 5.0
  • A Wi-Fi connection
  • The password to your Apple ID

The same process can be used to backup and restore iPads and iPad minis. If you need more than the free 5GB Apple gives you, an extra 50GB of space comes to you for only $0.99 a month and isn’t really a bad option if you’re actually planning to use all of it. If that isn’t enough you also have the option of buying 200GB for $2.99/month or 1TB for $9.99/month.

Step 1 : Take Out the Trash

It isn’t possible for the average person to do a successful 5GB backup without getting rid of some stuff. An easy way to tell how much storage you’re going to need is by clicking on “general” under “settings” and then clicking on “usage.”

Your backup is going to be approximately the size of your camera roll plus all your apps, the “total storage” bracket can be ignored as it includes a lot of other things, like the OS itself, that aren’t backed up. Another thing you can do now is connect to a Wi-Fi connection and check your battery or connect to a power source if required.

Pro Tip: in the settings menu, you can choose which apps use iCloud. If you turn photos off, pictures you take will still be stored on your phone but they won’t automatically backup to iCloud.

Step 2: Find the Backup Button

This step is pretty straightforward: on an iPhone 4, go to the settings menu (it looks like a cog) and scroll down till you see iCloud; select it and then select “storage and backup,” just above “delete my account” in red. On an iPhone 5 it’s slightly different and you need to first tap “settings,” then your user ID at the top, and then tap “iCloud” and “iCloud backup.”

Step 3: Turn on Backup

A single click is really all there is to this step: all you have to do is hit the on/off button to the right of where it says “iCloud backup.” Once you turn it on, a message pops up asking for the password to your Apple ID.

Step 4: Wait for Backup to Complete

This is by far the easiest step and can involve anything from grabbing a snack to taking the dog for a walk. Once you turn on the iCloud backup option, it’s going to backup your phone every time it’s locked, plugged into a power source and connected to Wi-Fi.

If you’d rather not wait for all those criteria to be met, another option is to click where it says “backup now” in blue.

Once the backup is done, your data is now safe from harm in the cloud and you can go about your business without a worry.

Extra Step: Restoring Your Backup

So, imagine the worst has happened and you’ve lost your iPhone or it has been stolen. Since you’ve been keeping up with your backups, all you need to do once you have your new iPhone is switch it on, enter your Apple ID and you’ll be prompted to either use the phone as an entirely new device or if you want to backup from iCloud.

Once you choose iCloud, it will ask you for your name and password and will show you your last two backups and the time they were done. Pick whichever you think is best and your iPhone will look like you never lost it, even your wallpapers will pop up where you like them best.

Final Thoughts

Backing up your iPhone is one of the easiest things you’ll ever do; all you need to do is follow the few easy steps as outlined above and you’re good to go. Your data can be safe with just a few taps of your finger and since iCloud is free for the first 5GB, you have nothing to lose.

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Though we here at like iCloud well enough, we do feel it could use some work here and there, like you can read in our iCloud vs Dropbox comparison article. If you’re not sure if iCloud is the way to go for you, also make sure to check out our online storage comparison.

That’s it for this how-to on how to backup your iPhone to iCloud, let us know if you have any suggestions or questions in the comments below. Thank you for reading.