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12 Days of Backups: Day 10 – Mobile Backups to Your Mac or PC Using iTunes

Today in the 12 Days of Backups, we’ll show you how to back up an iPhone, iPod touch or iPad to a Mac or PC using iTunes. Yesterday’s post showed how to do a backup using macOS Finder for those who are running macOS Catalina, Big Sur, or Monterey. For those running Mac OS X or macOS versions 10.14 Mojave or earlier, iTunes is your tool for backing up a mobile device. It’s also the way to back up an Apple mobile device to a PC running Windows.

Why would I back up to my Mac or PC instead of iCloud?

Not everybody wants to back up their iPhone or iPad to iCloud, which is why backing up to your Mac or PC can be a good idea. For example, let’s say that you don’t want to spend the money for iCloud storage, or you’re on a very slow Internet connection that makes it impossible to back up to the cloud. Saving device data to a computer regularly ensures continuity if your mobile device must be reset.


To use iTunes to back up your iPhone or iPad, you must be running macOS 10.14 Mojave or earlier, or a Windows PC running iTunes. Older versions of macOS and Mac OS X use iTunes for a variety of purposes. The newer versions divided iTunes up into Music, Podcasts, and TV, while the mobile backup function moved to the macOS Finder.

You’ll also need a USB to Lightning (iPhone, iPod touch, iPad) or USB-C to USB-C (iPad Pro) cable to connect the device to your Mac or PC.

Connecting to the Mac or PC for an iTunes backup

Now we have the computer running an older version of Mac OS X or macOS, or it’s running Windows. Here we go!

1. Launch iTunes.
2. Connect the iOS or iPadOS device to the computer using a Lightning or Dock Connector cable.
3. Any content purchased downloaded from the iTunes or App Store on the iOS device should be transferred to the Mac or PC. To begin transferring, select File > Devices > Transfer Purchases from the menu bar (see image below). On PCs, a File menu may not be visible, in which case holding down the Ctrl and B keys simultaneously should help. Allow the purchased content to finish transferring to the Mac or PC.

Transferring purchases from iOS device to Mac or PC
Selecting Back Up from the iTunes File menu

Backing up health and activity data with iTunes

Next, we’ll back up Health and Activity data from the iOS device or a connected Apple Watch.

4. To begin, encrypt the data. Select This Computer, and then check the Encrypt Data box (see image below). If asked for a password, make it memorable. The backup will not be accessible without the password.

Encrypt a backup
Encrypting an iTunes backup ensures confidentiality of health data.

Begin the iTunes backup

If no Health or Activity data needs to be backed up, ignore step 4. Now you’re ready to start backing up your data.

5. Click Back Up Now, and the backup begins. Once again, if your running Windows and a File menu doesn’t appear, holding down Ctrl-B should fix the problem.

6. Once the device is done backing up, make sure the process was completed successfully. Open iTunes Preferences and click on the Devices button. You’ll see the name of the device along with the date and time of the backup. Encrypted backups show a lock icon to the right of the device name.

Making sure a backup is completed
Confirm your backup’s success in iTunes’ Devices Preferences tab.

Although these instructions show Mac screens, the Windows version of iTunes presents an almost identical user interface.

To delete any previous device backup, select it with a click, then click Delete Backup.

This article is part of our 12 Days of Backups series that began on December 27, 2021 and ends in January, 2022.

In addition, you may wish to check out these other articles about iTunes:

Steve Sande
the authorSteve Sande
Contributing Author
Steve has been writing about Apple products since 1986, starting on a bulletin board system, creating the first of his many Apple-related websites in 1994, joining the staff of The Unofficial Apple Weblog in 2008, and founding Apple World Today in 2015. He’s semi-retired, loves to camp and take photos, and is an FAA-licensed drone pilot.
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