How to back up your iPhone and iPad before you install iOS 8

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So you’ve read the iOS 8 overview on Apple’s website. You’ve made excited noises about all the cool new stuff, such as the revamped keyboard, iCloud Drive, HealthKit and the improved Spotlight. And now, we’re counting down the hours until it’s released to the masses on 17 September. Hey, that’s today.

But before you dive in, secure your data, in case iOS 8 becomes iOS ate all my data.

Such disasters are rare, but that will be of little consolation if it happens to you. Don’t blindly tap install. Back-up your iOS data. Twice.

SET UP ICLOUD

BackUp 1You get 5 GB of space on iCloud for free. Use it. Ensure you’re on Wi-Fi, open the Settings app and select iCloud. Turn on relevant options that aren’t already activated, to send important data (calendars, reminders, browser bookmarks, and so on) to the cloud. At that point, these are all safe, and can be retrieved elsewhere should iOS 8 fire your iPhone into orbit.

Now scroll down to and select Storage & Backup. Tap ‘Back Up Now’. You might have to enter your password, and then you’ll either get a progress bar indicating how long the back-up will take, or you’ll see a ‘Not Enough Storage’ warning. In the latter case, tap Manage Storage, select your device, and under Backup Options, deselect any items you can easily restore from elsewhere. (For example, if you back-up your photos to your PC or Mac, disable Camera Roll, which is usually the biggest block of data.)

Your iCloud back-up will include app data, Camera Roll content, iTunes Store purchases, contacts and messages, notes and calendars, network and email account passwords, preferences, and Safari autofill data. It will also take ages, so don’t leave this until the last minute.

BACK-UP TO ITUNES

BackUp 2Yes, we know: iTunes is horrible. Tough — deal with it. Hold your nose, launch the app, select your device and click the Summary tab. (Depending on your existing setup, you may need to, like some kind of techie throwback, first plug your device in via its USB cable for your computer to see it.)

Under Backups, click Back Up Now. This will back up your iOS device’s data to your PC or Mac, and you can recover from this back-up in the event of a disaster. (If you use the iTunes sidebar, you can right/Ctrl-click your device and select Back Up.)

Again, this will take ages, and so do it sooner rather than later.

SAFEGUARD YOUR PHOTOS

BackUp 3Photos are often records of precious memories (or precious drunken selfies) and losing them can be painful. Therefore, if you’re not using Photo Stream, consider using it (it can be activated in the aforementioned iCloud section of Settings); this stores shots from your last 30 days, from which iOS devices will show the most recent 1,000. This does not count towards your iCloud storage limit.

Next, plug your device into your computer. If you’re using a Mac, use iPhoto, Image Capture or Aperture to make copies of your photos. If you’re using a PC, select your device from the Portable Devices section, right-click, select “Import pictures and videos”, and follow the wizard.

DO MORE THINGS!

BackUp 4Post-install (or pre-install if you’re more organised), you’ll likely have to update a ton of apps so that they won’t blow up under iOS 8. Some won’t work at all and will never be updated, in which case it’s time to say cheerio and send them to oblivion (tap-hold until they all wiggle, and tap the close button to annihilate zombie apps).

For apps and especially games you’ve invested loads of hours in, use the free iExplorer to access such an app (from Apps in the sidebar) and save its Documents and Library folders to your computer. These can then be sideloaded back later, if the app gets a surprise update. (This technique can also be used as an ultra-paranoid data-securing method pre-upgrade for ensuring your progress in a game will be very safe indeed.) Note also that iTunes doesn’t back-up music, and iCloud only holds content you’ve bought from Apple. iExplorer can be a quick way of getting music off of your device via ‘Media Library’, again in the sidebar. If you’ve local back-ups taken using iTunes, they will be searchable.

You’ll need to update iTunes (spit) to continue periodically backing up to your computer, which we assume you’re also backing up, right? (Stern look at camera. Theatrical about-turn. Exit into moody sunset, with ‘our work here is done’ vibe.)

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