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What Does iTunes Backup Include? 7 Things You Can and Cannot Backup

You know how important it is to back up your data; not just once and not just using one method. Did you know that you can use iTunes to back up the data on your iPad and iPhone? It can be one option for securing your data in case of a device failure or loss, which is certain to happen sooner or later. But before you get started with iTunes as a backup storage option, make sure you understand what does an iTunes backup include.


What Does an iTunes Backup Include?

Of course you know that iTunes can back up your music files. But there's so much more you should be backing up. iTunes can back up almost your entire iOS content: photos, text messages, app data, settings, and more. There are a lot of different choices and methods for making copies of your data. Is an iTunes backup the right choice for you, and what does an iTunes backup include?

You should know that when you perform an iTunes backup it will save copies of your content on your Mac computer, not in the cloud, which may be a more preferred option. Syncing your devices is not the same as backing up. Your Mac computer has a limited amount of storage space, so keep this in mind before you start your backup.

What You Can Back Up in iTunes

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Here are four categories of data you can back up in iTunes. You should know that when you do a backup
all of the data listed below will be included. You can't selectively pick and choose what you want to include in your iTunes backup, although there is other software available that you can download in order to be able to do that, if you choose.

1. Your Application Data and Settings

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No one wants to go through and adjust all the iPad or iPhone settings again after you've already made sure it runs just the way you want it. This can be one of the most tedious processes if you lose a device. So save yourself the trouble of having to adjust your preferences all over again. Here is what's included in an iTunes back up concerning your iPad or iPhone settings:

  • Settings for fitness and workout apps
  • Your home screen app arrangement and preferences
  • Network settings for your VPN, Wi-Fi, and other network preferences
  • Keychain passwords
  • Individual app settings, documents, data, preferences, and install profiles
  • Application data from app store purchases

2. Calendars, Memos, and Bookmarks

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Saving your calendars may not seem very important, but remember that they are a great record of your life. What year did you take that special vacation? When was your daughter's best ballet recital? If you back up your calendars, you won't have to guess about these important events in your life. Here are what's included in an iTunes backup when it comes to calendars, memos, and bookmarks:

  • Voice memos, notes, voicemail tokens
  • Calendar accounts, other subscribed calendars, and calendar events
  • Safari history, caches and temp files

3. Media and Photos

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Our own photos are probably our most personally valuable files we can back up. Don't risk losing those special photos from the most important events of your life like birthdays, vacations, and weddings. Remember that these files, including music and movies, include only the original ones that you create yourself, not copyrighted content that you have purchased. Here are the forms of media that are included in an iTunes back up:

  • Photos taken on your camera
  • Other saved images
  • Wallpapers
  • Screenshots
  • Music and other sound files
  • Videos from other apps and devices
  • RingtonesMovies

4. Call History and Messages

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These may be very important for you to save. They can include special, funny, or touching messages from friends and family. Of course, a lot of your text messages may be mundane, so delete those before you do a backup.

You should also be deleting unimportant voicemails that are taking up space on your phone. However, you may want to save a few from members of your family or good friends. After the death of a loved one, a voicemail might be the only recording we have of the sound of their voice. Many people have saved voicemails of loved ones in this case, and you want to be sure that you have these special voicemails backed up for the long term.

Your contacts info may also be one of the most important pieces of data you save. You might have hundreds, maybe even thousands of phone numbers and email addresses stored in your phone, which might be many years worth of people you have met in all different contexts. Who wants to collect and manually input all of that into a new phone again? Periodically review your contacts and delete ones you're sure you'll never need again before backing up.

Here's what's included in an iTunes backup for your call history and messages:

  • Carrier SMS text messages
  • iMessage
  • Contacts
  • Voice mail

Now you know what you know what does an iTunes backup include. Next, let's go over what you can't back up. If you want to back up the following formats, you'll have to find an alternate method.

What You Can't Back Up in iTunes

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It can be confusing to understand what you can't back up in iTunes and why. Remember that storage is limited, and this affects what Apple has decided to include in an iTunes backup. Here are the major categories of what's not included.

1. Content You Acquired From Apple

  • Content purchased or downloaded from iTunes
  • Content purchased or downloaded from App Stores
  • PDFs purchased from Apple Books
  • Content from imported photos, MP3s, CDs, videos, and books

2. Your Data Already in iCloud

  • iMessages
  • iCloud Photos
  • Text messages (SMS)
  • Multimedia messages (MMS)

3. Other Settings

  • Apple Pay settings (credit card info)
  • Apple Mail data
  • Face ID
  • Touch ID settings
  • Activity, Health, and Keychain data (To back up this content, you'll need to use Encrypted Backup in iTunes.)

A Few More Things You Should Know

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How to Start Your Backup

Open iTunes on your Mac computer. Then connect your device with a cord to your computer. You should be able to see it in iTunes. Click on File > Devices > Backup, and your backup should begin. Alternatively, you can click on "Backup Up Now" from Summary page under your device.

What Is an Encrypted iTunes Backup?

You may want to choose this option since it's necessary to save certain data in an iTunes backup. You'll need to create a password to retrieve your entire backup. You won't be able to retrieve it at all if you lose the password, so be sure to write it down and keep it in a safe place.

How to Retrieve Your Backup

What do you need to do when you lose data on a device and need to access your backup? You'll be able to restore your data from the backup on to your device. This may be a new device you'll be transferring your data to, or restoring data onto, an existing device where the data has been lost or corrupted.

Every time you do a backup, it will save a separate file. You can see a list of these in your Backups folder, which will be located within your Users folder. You can delete old backups if you no longer need them. To restore a backup, open iTunes and connect your device. Right click on the device when it appears in iTunes and then choose Restore from Backup.

How Often You Should Perform a Backup

There's no hard and fast rule about how often you should perform an iTunes backup. The answer to this question depends on what are you willing to risk losing, especially if an iTunes backup is your only method of saving your data (it shouldn't be). Anytime you create new data that is important to you, you should go ahead and perform a backup.


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You should now know what does an iTunes backup include. Don't wait to do an iTunes backup of your device if this storage option is a good one for you. You might think that your data is safe and you don't need to perform this task. Don't be caught off guard: electronic devices are easy to break and lose. And these days, we store so much personal and important information that it can be hugely upsetting to navigate life, even temporarily, without our most crucial data.

Remember that you don't have to pay any kind of fee or subscription to do an iTunes backup on your computer, so it may be a great choice if you are budget conscious. Just be sure that you understand the answer to the question what does an iTunes backup include. Once you perform this backup, you can be assured that your data is safe there as long as your computer is properly working.

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