How to back up your iPhone to your Mac

We all have really important and sometimes irreplaceable stuff on our iPhones. From pictures to text conversations, there are things you’d be devastated to lose. So what do you do? You look for a simple backup solution like iCloud to keep things on your iPhones safe. But then in a couple of months, you get that dreaded notification that says you need to upgrade your iCloud account because there’s not enough storage to back up your phone.

Well, obviously upgrading your iCloud account is an option, but it comes at a monthly cost. Alternatively, there’s the free option of backing up your iPhone to your Mac. That latter option is a little less automatic, but keep reading, and we’ll help you understand how to make it as seamless as possible.

How to back up an iPhone to a Mac using iTunes

To back up your iPhone to a Mac, you first need to make sure iTunes is up-to-date on your Mac. iTunes is the default Apple software for syncing and backing up iPhones. And thankfully, it couldn't be any more straightforward, to back up your iPhone:

  1. Open iTunes and connect your iPhone to the Mac with the lightning cable.
  2. If a message asks for your device passcode or whether you Trust This Computer, follow the onscreen instructions.
  3. Select your iPhone from the sidebar when it appears in iTunes.
  4. Then, just click Back Up Now.

To verify that the backup finished successfully, click on the Summary Tab in iTunes and look under Latest Backup to find the current date and time.

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If you run into any issues while you’re trying to back up, here are some troubleshooting steps you can try:

  • Make sure you’re running the latest version of iTunes on your Mac.
  • Try using a different lightning cable.
  • If possible, try connecting your iPhone to a different Mac and see if the issues persist.

How do I find iPhone backups on Mac?

Whether you’re trying to restore your iPhone from a specific backup or want to save space by cleaning up old iPhone backups on your Mac, there’s a couple of things to keep in mind.

iTunes saves all of the backups as self-contained files, meaning once you find the backup, there’s not much you can do with it. You can’t view any of the contents of the backup just by locating the file.

While you can copy the backup files to another location, DO NOT move, rename, or edit them in any way. Doing anything other than copying the file can cause you trouble later.

To find the actual iTunes backup files on your Mac:

  1. On your Mac, click the Search icon in the top-right corner of the menu bar.
  2. Copy and paste this: ~/Library/Application Support/MobileSync/Backup/.
  3. Press Enter.

To see a list of backups and/or find a specific backup:

  1. Open iTunes on your Mac.
  2. Click iTunes in the menu bar, then choose Preferences.
  3. Click Devices.
  4. Hold down Control on your keyboard and click the backup that you want, then choose Show in Finder.

Note: Once you click on the backup, you’ll also be given options to delete or archive it.

How to back up your iPhone to a Mac with AnyTrans

Using iTunes to backup your iPhone to your Mac is a great default option, but it does come with a few limitations. If you were hoping to back up your iPhone to an external hard drive or to schedule backups, you’ll need to use a third-party app like AnyTrans.

Once you have AnyTrans downloaded and installed on your Mac:

  1. Launch AnyTrans and connect your iPhone to a USB port on Mac. The first time you use AnyTrans with your iPhone you’ll need to follow the onscreen prompts to trust the Mac.
  2. Select Air Manager Backup in the middle panel.
  3. Review the backup options, selecting the ones you want, and click Next. This is where you can choose things like where to save your backup and schedule future backups.

How to back up photos from iPhone to Mac

Backing up your iPhone with iTunes does save the pictures in your Camera Roll, but the big drawback is that you’re not able to view those pictures in the backup file.

If you want to save your photos from your iPhone to your Mac and still be able to view them on your Mac, then you’ll need to import them into the Photos app.

  1. Connect your iPhone to your Mac via the lightning cable.
  2. On your Mac, the Photos app will automatically open. If it doesn’t, open the Photos app.
  3. Click the Import tab at the top of the Photos app, or click on the iPhone in the sidebar if the Import screen doesn’t automatically open.
  4. Select the photos you want to import/back up, then click Import Selected. Or, just click Import All New Photos to import all the pictures you don’t have backed up.

Can I back up an iPhone to an external drive?

Unfortunately, due to the automated nature of the iTunes backup, you can’t directly backup your iPhone to an external hard drive. A few workarounds we mentioned earlier in the article include:

  • Set up Time Machine with the Mac you’re backing up to so it will save a copy of your iPhone backup on your Mac and on your Time Machine.
  • Back up your iPhone with iTunes, find the backup files and then copy those onto an external hard drive.
  • Use a third-party app like iMazing that allows you to choose your backup location.

One of the most important habits to develop regarding your iPhone is regularly backing it up. And thanks to iTunes and other apps it’s never been easier to back up all of the contents of your iPhone. So if you’re not already backing up your iPhone somewhere, now’s a good time to start. Your future self will thank you.

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