Restoring an iCloud backup to an older iPhone

Q: My iPhone 5 was stolen, so I erased the data, by connecting to iCloud from my computer. Now I have an old iPhone 4S and although I have an iTunes backup that is a month old, I would like to find out if I had a more recent iCloud backup for my iPhone, and if it would still work even if I erased my iPhone. How can I find this out and how can I restore my new iPhone using either the iCloud or the iTunes backup?

– Paula

A: The good news is that iTunes and iCloud backups don’t have device model restrictions, per se. In fact, not only can you restore a backup from an iPhone 5 onto an iPhone 4S, but you can even restore iCloud and iTunes backup from an iPhone onto an iPod touch, or vice-versa. In fact, this even includes iPad backups, subject to certain limitations.

The main thing to keep in mind when restoring backups between devices is that you cannot restore a backup made with a newer iOS version onto a device that is running an older iOS version. In most cases, however, this simply means that you need to update your other device to the latest iOS version, and should only be a problem if you’re moving back to a significantly older iOS device where the most recent iOS version is no longer supported. In the case of the iPhone, however, every model back to and including the iPhone 3GS from 2009 still supports iOS 6.1. Note as well that this restriction doesn’t apply to the minor “0.0.1” iOS updates, so even though the latest version of iOS for the iPhone 5 is 6.1.4 while only iOS 6.1.3 is available for the iPhone 4S, you shouldn’t have a problem.

You can easily check the date of your last iCloud backups if you have another iOS device or a Mac running OS X Lion or Mountain Lion. On a Mac, go to System Preferences and select the iCloud section and then click the “Manage” button in the bottom right corner. A list of all of your data stored in iCloud will be shown on the left hand side with Backups as the first entry; selecting this should show you the backups of all of your iOS devices and the date and time the last one was made.

To check this from another iOS device connected to the same iCloud account, go into the iCloud section of the iOS Settings app, choose Storage & Backups and Manage Storage. Tapping on an individual device will show you the date of the last backup for that device.


Restoring an iCloud backup to an older iPhone

If you don’t have another iOS device or a Mac, the only other way to do this will be to erase your iPhone by going into the Settings app and choosing the “Erase all Content and Settings” option found under General, Reset. When your iPhone restarts, you can go through the iOS Setup Assistant and choose to restore a backup from iCloud or iTunes when prompted.


Restoring an iCloud backup to an older iPhone

If you choose iCloud you will need to enter your iCloud Apple ID and password, after which you will be shown a list of backups available in your iCloud account, with the date and time shown for each. Note that iCloud stores the three most recent backups for each of your devices, so you may see two older backups listed here as well.


Restoring an iCloud backup to an older iPhone

If you find that the iCloud backups are older than the one you already have in iTunes, you can simply hit the “Back” button from here to return to the Set Up iPhone menu and choose to restore from an iTunes backup instead.

Our Guide to Transferring your Content to a new iPhone, iPad or iPod touch provides more extensive details on this procedure and some of the things to watch out for when doing so.


Latest News