Apple

Backups: iCloud isn't better than iTunes, and vice versa

Many users have opted to stop backing up their devices with iTunes in favor of storing everything in the cloud, but is this really the best option for iOS users? Let's take a look at the facts.

 

iTunes vs. iCloud
 

iCloud backups changed the iOS ecosystem. Instead of having to manually back up your iOS device to iTunes, you can simply sync it to Apple's iCloud service and it will back up automatically. However, many iOS users have never connected their device to their Mac or Windows machine to perform a backup, yet alone a sync. In this article, we'll discuss the two ways that you can restore iOS (iTunes and iCloud) to a new or existing device. Each has its pros and cons, so you'll have to decide which one is better for you.

Backing up and restoring with iCloud

iCloud provides an easy-to-use backup solution that is more or less "set it and forget it." Once you've enabled iCloud Backups, it'll do a nightly backup of your device, assuming that you have a Wi-Fi connection. All of your photos, videos, stored application data, and iOS settings are whisked to the cloud every day to ensure that if an emergency strikes, all of your information is easily accessible.

On the down side, there quite a few items that iCloud doesn't back up, including any media content on your device that wasn't purchased through the iTunes Store and photos that you've synced over from your computer.

iCloud also has space restrictions. Apple provides 5 GB of free storage (which is usually good enough to back up one or even two devices if you don't store many photos and videos), but the pricing can get a little costly as you need more storage. Only your application data and stored photos and videos will actually take up storage on iCloud, though. Apple doesn't count iTunes content against this limit.

To enable iCloud Backup, follow these steps:

  1. Open the Settings app
  2. Go to iCloud
  3. Go to Storage & Backup
  4. Enable the option for iCloud Backup (Figure A)

    In this same section, you can manually create a backup at any time by pressing the Back Up Now button. Under that button, you can also see the date of the last iCloud Backup.

    Figure A

     

    Figure B
     

    Enable the option for iCloud Backup.

    You can restore from your iCloud Backup only after you have reset all of the settings and are in the iOS setup view. When you get the options to either Set Up as New iPhone, Restore from iCloud Backup, or Restore from iTunes Backup, tap Restore from iCloud Backup (Figure B). Here you'll be able to select the backup to restore and begin the restore process. Note: The backup will load from Apple's servers, so you'll need to be connected online throughout the entire restore process.

    Figure B

     

    Figure B
     

    Restore from iCloud Backup.

    Backing up and restoring your iOS device with iTunes

    iTunes is an older way to back up your iOS device. You can do this by plugging in your device (using either a 30-pin or Lightning connector) or by connecting compatible devices to the same Wi-Fi network as your Mac or Windows machine that's running iTunes.

    It's important to note that where iCloud fails, iTunes takes over with the backup process. iTunes backs up everything: applications, application data, and all content stored on your device (including iTunes content). This is good for a few reasons, but mainly because it backs up all of your purchased content. This means that if an app or other iTunes purchase becomes unavailable in the iTunes Store, you'll still have a copy on your computer that can be loaded back to your device.

    You can back up your iOS device on iTunes by performing the following steps:

    1. Open iTunes and select your iOS device
    2. Click File | Devices | Back Up 
    3. The first time you begin a backup, you'll be prompted to select what kind of content -- like photos, music, or apps (Figure C) -- that you want to back up 
    If you're using iTunes 10.7 or earlier, or if you have the sidebar in iTunes 11 shown, then you can right-click on your device in the sidebar and select Back Up Now.

    Figure C

     

    Figure C
     

    Backing up apps to iTunes.

    If you visit the Summary tab in the device window, you can enable wireless syncing (and wireless backups) to iTunes (Figure D). As long as your iOS device is connected to the same wireless network as your opened iTunes installation, it'll start syncing and back up your device at regular intervals.

    Figure D

     

    Figure D
     

    Enable iTunes wireless syncing.

    Here's how you can restore iTunes backups to your iOS device:

    1. Open the latest version of iTunes, and connect your iOS device to your computer
    2. Choose File | Devices | Restore from Backup (Figure E)
    3. Choose the backup you want from the drop-down list, and click Restore 

    If you're using iTunes 10.7 or earlier, right-click on your device in the sidebar and choose Restore from Backup.

    Figure E

     

    Figure E
     

    Restoring a backup from  iTunes.

    While iTunes backups are an older form of technology and not as convenient as iCloud, they do provide immediate access to your data should something happen to your device (or iCloud account). iTunes restores are also faster than iCloud restores, because all of your data is stored locally on your computer running iTunes.

    Which method should you choose?

    We've talked about the two ways to backup and restore your iOS devices, but which should you use on a regular basis? Is one better than the other?

    iCloud and iTunes backups differ in two main ways: 1) iCloud backups won't restore items on your iOS device that have been moved to your device and not purchased through iTunes (music, videos, etc.); and 2) If your iCloud backups become corrupt or your account is compromised, you won't be able to restore your device's contents.

    Weekly iTunes backups, coupled with daily iCloud backups, can provide the best of both worlds. iTunes is a complete snapshot of your device at the time of backup, while iCloud captures snapshots of your device daily. This means that should iCloud or iTunes fail to restore properly, you can fall back to one or the other. iCloud can also take a while to restore (due to limitations of both your Internet connection and the speed of the iCloud servers) -- in comparison, iTunes can restore all of the content back to your iOS device very quickly.

    Many users run into issues by restoring backups when upgrading iOS hardware. iTunes and iCloud backups are very thorough (copying key user preferences and files), and they can copy corrupt settings between older and newer generations of devices when restoring, leading to degraded battery life, crashes, and other system-wide oddities. As such, it's generally a good idea to setup your devices as new each time you get new iOS hardware; only restore backups created on devices to the same generation of device to prevent these issues. 

    In the battle of iCloud vs. iTunes, do you prefer one method of backup over another, or have you had issues restoring from older generations of hardware to newer generations? Please share your thoughts and experience in the discussion thread below.

     

     

    About

    Cory Bohon is an indie developer specializing in iOS and OS X development. He runs a software company called Cocoa App and is also a developer at MartianCraft. He was introduced to technology at an early age and has been writing about his favorite te...

    8 comments
    terrymcspooner
    terrymcspooner

    Nice article for iTunes and iCloud backup and restore.

    If you do not want to wipe the data on your iPhone, how can you do that.

    You can also try to recover deleted data from iPhone, iPad using iPhone data recovery software.

    Here is an article to show you how to Recover Deleted Photos from iPhone 

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