Whether you have the iOS 17 update or get a new iPhone 15 or 15 Plus (or even the iPhone 15 Pro or Pro Max), it’s probably wise to back up your current iPhone. Taking a few minutes to safeguard valuable memories like photos, videos, and text messages can save you future regrets. Even better, there are several ways you can do this.
The easiest way to back up your iPhone is through iCloud, but Apple’s online service does have its limitations. You may see the dreaded “insufficient iCloud storage” error preventing you from backing up, but don’t worry.
I also guide you on how to backup your iPhone to iCloud to both Mac and Windows, which doesn’t require cloud storage. And I’ll even show you how to troubleshoot and work around some iCloud limits.
Read more: Best iPhone for 2023
For more information, check out this checklist of things to do before updating to iOS 17 before it releases today. (Spoiler: Backing up is definitely one of them.)
iCloud: When everything works as it should
iCloud is a free service (more on that later) that is linked to your Apple ID and that you can use to back up your iPhone. However, not everything on your phone is backed up. Things you buy with your Apple ID, like apps or music, aren’t backed up because Apple has proof that you already bought them so you can redownload them for free. Email, contacts, and calendars are usually synced to your email account like Gmail, but in some cases you can also sync these things to iCloud.
You can check all this again by going to Settings and then going to Mail, Contacts, Calendar, Notes or Reminders. In each of these settings you can tap Bills to view your different accounts. Under each account you can see what’s being synced: email, contacts, calendars, and so on.
To start a backup to iCloud, connect your iPhone to Wi-Fi and go to Institutions and tap the Apple ID/iCloud tab at the top, which also has your name on it. If you’re not signed in, take a moment to do so and then tap iCloud. On the next page, scroll down and tap iCloud backupswitch iCloud backup, and then tap Back up now to start.
Depending on how much data you have, or if this is your first time backing up to iCloud, the backup process could take a few minutes or an hour. Look below Back up now to see the exact time and date your phone was last backed up. Every time your iPhone is plugged in, locked, and connected to Wi-Fi, any new data you have is automatically backed up to iCloud.
“This iPhone cannot be backed up because there is not enough iCloud storage”
If that iCloud backup worked fine, then you’re done. But I realize that many people can’t back up to iCloud without a little work. You may see this message on your iOS device: “This iPhone could not be backed up because there is not enough iCloud storage available.”
Each iCloud account gets 5 GB for free. But most people have more than 5 GB of data on their phone, or they have more than one iOS device that needs to be backed up. Therefore, 5 GB is simply not enough space. And maybe one day Apple will change its free version to give us more data and make backups easier for everyone. But until then, we need to do some calculations to optimize our iCloud accounts.
Find out the size of the iCloud backup
As I mentioned earlier, iCloud doesn’t back up everything on your phone. Instead, it takes a smart approach and doesn’t back up things synced to your internet accounts or purchased with your iTunes Apple ID. To find out exactly how much iCloud space your backup file takes up, visit Institutionstap your Apple ID and then go to iCloud > Manage account storage > Backups. There is a list of devices that are backing up or trying to back up with your account.
By the way, if you see multiple backups of the same phone, check how old each backup is. You may have an older iPhone backup that you can delete to free up iCloud space. Once you’re done cleaning up this list, tap the name of the device you’re currently using.
Give your phone a moment to sort everything out and then look at the top of the screen. You should see the following details: Last Backup, Backup Size and Next Backup Size. If you haven’t backed up your iPhone to iCloud in a long time, the Next backup size will be quite a large amount of data. If it’s more than 5GB, you’ll obviously need to buy or customize more storage space that you’re backing up.
Change what gets backed up to iCloud
Lower on the screen below Next backup size is a list where you can do that Choose Data to back up. This list includes apps and how much data each needs to back up. The list goes from what takes up the most space to the least. If you only need a slightly smaller backup file, uncheck larger data items from the list if you don’t care whether or not they are backed up.
If you only wanted to backup your camera roll, the only setting you would need to change would be iCloud Photos. In addition photos, there’s a list of all the other iCloud-enabled apps on your iPhone, starting with Apple’s own apps. In addition Photos, the two biggest data hogs using your iCloud storage usually are Mail And To inform. However, if you disable the iCloud backup settings for these two apps, old messages will not be restored when you get a new phone.
Buy more iCloud storage with iCloud Plus
This is the part that no one likes to do, but Apple offers four pricing tiers for storage: the free plans of 5 GB, $1 per month, 50 GB, $3 per month 200 GB or $10 per month, 2 TB. For even more space, iCloud Plus gets two more options that let you purchase a 6TB or 12TB storage plan for $30 per month and $60 per month, respectively. (Note: Apple does not have annual pricing.)
I realize that the idea of paying Apple more money on top of what we already spend on devices, accessories, and AppleCare may not sit well. But if you lost your iPhone and were told that for just $36 you could download a backup of all the data from your lost phone, you’d probably say yes. And that’s how much the 200 GB additional storage subscription on iCloud for a year costs. (If you need more space, it gets a little more expensive.)
Use your Mac
A few years ago, with the release of MacOS Catalina, Apple replaced and fragmented iTunes, the way you used to back up your iPhone. Now you have to use Finder, but the process of backing up your phone is still as simple as ever.
On your Mac, open one Finder window from the Dock. Then select your device from the sidebar below Devices. Then click on the right side General tab. Finally, click Back up now. Depending on how much data you have, this may take some time.
Use your Windows
If you’re on Windows, good old iTunes is still alive and kicking (you can download it here) and you can use it to backup your iPhone. According to Apple, all you have to do is connect your iPhone to your computer, give your devices permission to talk to each other, and then click the little iPhone icon at the top left of the iTunes window.
Click Resume and then scroll down to the Backup section, and under the Backup section click Back up now. After some time, your computer will have a backup file of your iPhone. To check the file again, go to the iTunes menu, select EditsThan Preferences and then choose the Devices tab. From there, you can view a list of all iPhone backups you’ve made through iTunes.
Please note that your backup is only as current as the last time you performed the process. Plus, your backup file is as safe as your computer.
For more information, here how to pre-order the iPhone 15 And how to pre-order the Apple Watch Series 9.