Q: I have just bought an iPhone 4 and want to use iCloud to back my phone numbers up every time I connect to my Wi-Fi network. The problem is we have a Windows XP desktop which we bought in 2001. It does say we are using iCloud but how do I know that my numbers have been backed up, and if I lose my iPhone how can I get them back? Also my daughter has an iPhone so that is also causing some confusion in the process.
A: Your phone numbers are stored in an app named Contacts and can be backed up to iCloud in one (or both) of two different ways.
Firstly, if you’ve enabled iCloud Backups on your device, ALL of your settings and data—including your phone numbers—will be backed up to iCloud once every 24 hours as long as your device is plugged in and connected to a Wi-Fi network. If your device is not plugged in and connected to Wi-Fi at the 24-hour interval, the backup will be performed at the first available opportunity after that—that is, as soon as the device is plugged in and connected to Wi-Fi. You can confirm that your iCloud Backups are enabled and check the time of the last backup by going into your iPhone Settings app and choosing iCloud and then Storage & Backup.
Ensure that the “iCloud Backup” option is set to “ON” and if you scroll down, the time of your last backup to iCloud will be displayed at the bottom of the screen. Note that you can also manually initiate an iCloud backup by tapping the “Back Up Now” button displayed here; you can perform a manual backup as long as you’re connected to a Wi-Fi network regardless of whether your device is connected to a power source or not.
Note that there is no way to access your phone numbers or other data from the iCloud backup directly; however should your iPhone be lost or damaged, you can restore your iCloud backup onto a new iPhone during the setup process simply by signing in with your iCloud account, which will find the available backups and prompt you to restore one. An iCloud restore must also be done over Wi-Fi, and will restore all of your settings and data from the backup, and then proceed to resync any apps or music that was on your device from iTunes in the Cloud.
A better option is actually synchronizing your Contacts to iCloud by enabling the “Contacts” option in your iCloud Settings on your iPhone. If you already have contacts locally stored on your iPhone when you first enable this option, you will be prompted to either Replace or Merge the existing contacts with the ones in your iCloud account. Simply choose the “Merge” option and your existing contacts will be automatically uploaded to iCloud.
You can then access these contacts by logging into your iCloud account using a web browser at http://www.icloud.com. Unfortunately, synchronizing them with your Windows PC via iCloud requires Windows Vista or Windows 7 and Outlook 2007 or later—Windows XP is no longer supported for iCloud sync.
If you do need to synchronize your contacts with your Windows XP PC, you do this by synchronizing them via iTunes rather than iCloud, using either a USB or local Wi-Fi network connection with iTunes. To do this, simply connect your iPhone to your computer, select it in the iTunes Devices list and select your Contacts for synchronization on the “Info” tab.
This will allow you to synchronize your contacts with Windows Address Book or Microsoft Outlook on your Windows PC, providing you with not only a backup, but also a synchronized copy. Note that you can continue to also sync your contacts to iCloud when using method as well as using iCloud Backups to backup your entire device.