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Backing up iPhones for other family members
By Jesse Hollington | 04.25.13

Q: My 13 year old daughter has the iPhone 4S with AT&T and yesterday she forgot her passcode on her phone and got locked out (and couldn’t remember it). I found an article on Google to help me with this. I had to get on iTunes and do a system restore of her phone but she lost everything she had on it as you know. My question is, she can purchase music and apps using my iTunes account, but am I able to backup all of her phone info using my iTunes account? If not, what would I have to do to avoid this happening to her phone again?

- Kevin

A: Yes, you definitely can—and should—backup her iPhone both to allow you to recover more easily if this happens again but also in case it ever gets lost or damaged. One of the great things about iOS is a comprehensive backup and restore system that allows you to get up and running after a restore in a matter of minutes—even on a brand new device.

There are actually two different ways that you can approach this—backing up to iTunes or iCloud. Note that regardless of which method you choose, there is no direct connection to the iTunes account that was used to purchase content, and you can store backups from multiple devices regardless of who uses those devices or where content was purchased. The iTunes Store account will only come into play when restoring the device, where you will either need to sync your media content and apps back on from an iTunes library that’s authorized for that content or provide the appropriate Apple ID and password if you’re restoring from iCloud.

Backing up to iTunes is the most straightforward really just requires plugging her iPhone into your computer on a semi-regular basis. If your iTunes library is the one that her iPhone was initially setup with, it should backup automatically each time it syncs with your computer with no additional action required on your part. This sync can be performed either by plugging it in directly via USB or configured to happen over a Wi-Fi connection as long as your daughter’s iPhone is on your home Wi-Fi network.

You can also manually make backups on-demand any time her iPhone is connected or available over Wi-Fi simply by selecting it from the Devices list in iTunes and clicking the “Back Up Now” button found on the Summary page for her iPhone.

From this screen you can also see when the last backup was made, choose to encrypt backups if you’re concerned about security, or switch to using iCloud instead for automatically backing up her iPhone.

Using iCloud is the other option you may want to consider, particularly if your daughter’s iPhone is rarely connected to your computer. In our experience, USB-based backups are generally more reliable than Wi-Fi based iTunes backups, and even Wi-Fi backups to iTunes of course require your computer to be on; so if you’re not plugging her iPhone in for regular syncs, using iCloud may be the better way to go. In this case, you could setup your own iCloud account on your daughter’s iPhone, but unless there’s some other reason to do so, it’s probably far easier just to create her own iCloud account. Apple gives away 5GB of free storage with every iCloud account, but if you backup her iPhone to your account, you’ll be sharing the same storage when she could get her own 5GB for free. Again, remember that the iCloud account has no direct connection to the iTunes Store account used to purchase content, so your daughter can still make and use purchases from your account while using her own iCloud account for backups and even other related iCloud services.

iCloud backups are made to Apple’s servers over the Internet and occur automatically once every 24 hours as long as a Wi-Fi connection is available and the iPhone is plugged in to a power source with the screen off. You can configure iCloud backups once you’ve signed into an iCloud account by going into Settings on the iPhone and choosing iCloud, Storage & Backup. Simply scroll down here and toggle on the “iCloud Backup” option.

You can also make a manual iCloud backup at any time simply by tapping the “Back Up Now” button on this screen. A Wi-Fi connection is still required to make a manual backup, however the iPhone does not need to be connected to a power source.

The main advantage of using iCloud is that backups will occur automatically regardless of whether the iPhone is ever synced with your iTunes library—the iPhone merely needs to be on Wi-Fi and plugged in at least once every 24 hours for regular backups to be made, and for most people this will end up happening overnight while charging the device anyway. Backups can also be made in this manner when travelling away from home, as long as Wi-Fi is available.

More importantly, iCloud backups also offer the ability to restore the device without relying on an iTunes library. While some media content may still need to be synced from iTunes, all purchased apps and music will be automatically re-downloaded from iCloud over Wi-Fi, even when away from home.

For more information on the specifics of iTunes and iCloud backup and restore procedures, see our article on Transferring your Content to a new iPhone, iPad or iPod touch.

 

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