Choosing whether to restore iTunes or iCloud backup

Q: I need to restore accidentally deleted notes. My most recent iCloud backup was a month ago, however, my most recent backup on my Mac is a year ago. I need the iCloud backup restored. When I go to restore via iTunes, it doesn’t specify whether to restore from the Mac backup or iCloud. How can I make sure it’s the iCloud?

– Kristina

A: Although iTunes will provide you information on the date and time of your last backups to both iTunes and iCloud, it actually doesn’t otherwise have anything to do with your iCloud backups—these are handled directly by iOS on your device via a Wi-Fi connection, rather than through iTunes.

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So in other words, restoring a backup from iTunes on your Mac will only restore the backup that was made by iTunes on your Mac, since iTunes doesn’t handle iCloud backups.

Unfortunately, to restore your iCloud backup, you will need to erase your device, as the only way to access an iCloud backup is through the iOS setup assistant. You can do this by going into the Settings app, and choosing the “Erase all Content and Settings” option found under General, Reset.

 

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Note that restoring the iCloud backup would overwrite everything on your device anyway, since iCloud and iOS don’t provide any partial restore functionality. Further, unlike with iTunes backups, there are no third-party tools readily available that can allow you to access your iCloud backup directly—you must restore it to an iOS device first.

 

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That said, if you have access to another iOS device that you can more easily erase, you may prefer to restore your iCloud backup onto that device and then extract the data from there. Note that this works even if the other device is a different model or class of device—from an iPhone to an iPad or iPod touch, for example, as long as it is running the same version of iOS that the original iCloud backup was made with.

If you need to use your only iOS device, then your best option is to make a backup directly to iTunes by connecting your device to your computer and clicking the “Back Up Now” button. You can then erase your device and restore it from iCloud, recover the missing data, and then restore your more current backup from your computer using iTunes.

For more information, see our articles on Restoring from a previous iCloud backup, Retrieving data from an old iCloud backup, and Transferring Content to a new iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch.