How to backup iPhone, iPad, Mac w/ free and advanced options

Walkthrough to Backup iPhone, iPad, Mac - iCloud Backups

Today, March 31st is World Safeguarding Day – a good reminder to check what your device backups look like. Even with Apple’s high-quality products, it’s important to back up regularly. No device works perfectly all the time and there are many scenarios apart from a device failure when a backup is crucial like upgrade, crash, bug, loss or theft. Let’s take a look at various ways to backup iPhone, iPad, and Mac with built-in and third-party options, NAS, etc.

At a minimum, it’s essential to have at least one backup of your important information, but two or more is better. And to be fully protected, you want to have at least one backup of your data offsite (with a cloud service, in a bank safe, at a friend’s house, etc.).

Below, we’ll take a look at various ways to back up all of your Apple devices including free built-in options like iCloud and your Mac, as well as more advanced third-party hardware and services.

Tips and tricks to backup iPhone, iPad and Mac

IPhone, iPad, iPod touch backup options


The easiest way to backup iOS / iPadOS device is through iCloud. If something happens to your device or you upgrade, it’s easy to restore everything with your iCloud backup.

Here’s how to check your iCloud backup settings:

  • On iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch, go to Settings
  • Tap your name at the top> iCloud
  • Swipe down and tap iCloud Backup
  • Tap the toggle to turn on iCloud backups if you haven’t already
  • You can see the last successful iCloud backup under the “Back up now” button

After iCloud backup is on, your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch will be automatically backed up when it’s charging and connected to Wi-Fi with the screen locked. It’s also a good idea to review what you’ve backed up to iCloud with the buttons above.

One thing to watch out for is running out of iCloud storage. Apple includes 5GB free, but it doesn’t go far. Apple offers 50GB for $ 0.99 / month and up to 2TB for $ 9.99 / month. It may also be worth checking out if an Apple One bundle can save you money.

Under Settings> iCloud, tap Manage storage. Now you should see ‘Change storage plan’ choose it and you will see the current plan you are using and upgrade options.

Apple Watch backups

Apple Watch backups happen automatically with iCloud iPhone backups. It is also backed up when you unpair Apple Watch from iPhone. As of now, there is no way to manually do an Apple Watch backup like with iPhone. Learn more about Apple Watch backups here.

Back up iOS devices with Mac

Backing up your iPhone, iPad, iPod with your Mac is easy to do, but you’ll have to remember to plug it in. One of the benefits here is that your iOS backups will also be saved with your Mac backups (Time Machine, etc.) as well.

  • Connect your device to your computer with the Lightning to USB cable.
  • If prompted, choose “Trust this computer”.
  • In macOS Catalina and later, open a Finder window
    • On macOS Mojave and earlier, open iTunes (same for PCs)
  • Find your iPhone in the left sidebar and click on it (top left near the playback controls in iTunes)
  • In the middle of the screen, click Save now
    • You can check the status of your backup in the sidebar
  • Click the eject button next to your iPhone before unplugging it
  • You can also change the default backup settings in the middle of the screen (shown below) to always back up all your iPhone / iPad / iPod data to your Mac when plugged in.
How to backup iPhone, iPad, Mac - backups with Mac

Backup iPhone and iPad with third-party options

A popular alternative to backing up your iOS device with Finder / iTunes is iMazing for Mac / PC. You get advanced controls like the ability to save and export messages, manage ringtones, more detailed save settings, and more. iMazing offers a free trial and is available for $ 49.99 for a lifetime license.

External drives for iOS devices

Another convenient option for backing up iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch is Lightning / USB-C flash drives like the SanDisk iXpand devices.

How to Backup iPhone, iPad and iPod touch with SanDisk iXpand Luxe

IXpand devices use an iOS app that lets them automatically back up your photos, contacts, and more every time you plug them in. You can also manually manage your data with these devices. And if you have an iPad Air or Pro with a USB-C port, you can use them as external storage with the Files app.


Other options include apps from your mobile carrier and other third parties like Dropbox, Box, Google, etc. However, third-party apps usually don’t come with as comprehensive backups as using iCloud, Mac / PC, or the other options above.

Mac backup options

Time Machine

This is one of the easiest ways to make sure your Mac is backed up. Time Machine is integrated with macOS and with a drive connected, creates hourly backups for the last 24 hours, daily backups for the last month, and weekly backups for the last year.

You can find 1TB external drives from Seagate and Western digital less than $ 50. Faster SSDs often go for $ 100 +and the fastest external storage – Thunderbolt 3/4 drives are the most expensive.

If you have a problem with your Mac and need to recover your data, you can restore everything using a Time Machine backup or go to the Time Machine app on your Mac to restore individual files.

  • The first time you plug in an external drive, macOS should ask if you want to use it with Time Machine.
  • To manually adjust your Time Machine settings, go to System Preferences> Time Machine (use click on the icon in the menu bar)
  • Make sure the box is checked next to “Automatically back up” and that activating the Time Machine icon menu bar is handy for quick access if you haven’t already.
  • Click “Select Disk” to add a new backup drive (you can use more than one)
    • If you already have several connected, click on “Add or remove a backup disk …”
  • With the Time Machine Tool menu bar, you can manually start a backup, view your last backup, and more.
How to back up a Mac with Time Machine

Time Machine backups with NAS

Another way to automatically back up with Time Machine is to use a network attached storage (NAS) device. This can be handy because you can have a lot more flexibility with a NAS setup.

Third-party automatic Mac backups

Carbon copy cloner

If you are looking for an alternative to using Time Machine for backups that offers more control and advanced options, Carbon copy cloner is a good choice. You can create a range of backup jobs to run on a schedule automatically or manually. And you can choose to backup your Mac to external drives as well as other Macs.

Carbon Copy Cloner is a one-time purchase for $ 39.99 for all the Macs in your home. You can also test it for free with a 30 day trial.


Backblaze is probably the most popular automatic cloud backup service for Mac (other platforms as well). Plans start from $ 6 / month or $ 60 / year per device for unlimited data. It’s a simple way to make sure your Mac is backed up offsite.

Backblaze has a solid background and also offers a 15 day trial if you want to try before you pay for a plan.

Manual backups

Of course, you can always manually backup all your important data by dragging and dropping it to external drives or with cloud services like iCloud Drive, Dropbox, Google Drive, etc. But it’s usually not a great option to use as your primary backup strategy as you have to remember to do this regularly and it probably won’t include all of your data.

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