St. Patrick’s Snow Day project: iPhone backup and update

With much of the DC area shut down with snow (again!), don’t let the day go to waste. Get caught up on making sure that your iPhone and other iOS devices are updated and backed up.


IMG_0553It’s important to make sure that your backups are configured in case you ever lose, break, or upgrade your phone. You have two choices for backup: iCloud and iTunes. Personally I prefer iCloud even if it means paying a little for some extra storage. It’s far more convenient and your backups will likely occur more frequently. To check your backups go to the Settings app > iCloud > Storage & Backup. Scroll to the bottom of that screen and you’ll see the last backup date, which should hopefully be in the past couple of days. Go ahead and tap the “Backup Now” button to initiate a manual backup.

If you get an error that you don’t have enough storage to complete a backup you have a few options:

  • Remove orphaned backups. Check to make sure you don’t have an orphaned backup in your online storage. This often happens if you’ve upgraded or erased your device. Go to Settings > iCloud > Backup > Manage Storage. From there you can see all of the backups stored in your account and how much storage they consume. Tap each one to to find the delete button or to see the date of the most recent backup if you need any clues as to which ones are orphaned.
  • Selectively back up. You can skip some parts of your backup if you know you don’t need them. For example, if all of your photos flow smoothly into iPhoto or Flickr, you might be able to safely skip your photos, which often consume the largest part. Go to Settings > iCloud > Storage & Backup > Manage Storage, then tap the item that says “This iPhone” (or iPad). From there you can switch each app off from backing up. They are sorted with the largest offenders at the top. If you restore from this backup in the future this doesn’t mean that the app itself isn’t restored, just your personal content, meaning that the app will be installed in a fresh state.
  • Purchase more storage. Additional storage is rather affordable. Go to Settings > iCloud > Storage & Backup > Change Storage Plan. You get 5 GB for free, and each of the upgrade options are for additional storage, e.g., if you buy 10 additional gigabytes you have a total of 15.


I’ve been harping on this a lot lately, but if you are not running at least iOS 7.0.6 your device is open to some really terrible hacking in which someone could access your data even on a supposedly secure connection, including passwords. If your iOS device is still running iOS 6 I’m sorry to say but you don’t really have much choice left but to do the (free) software upgrade. If your model is too old to upgrade to iOS 7 Apple did release a patch for iOS 6, but that patch only works on devices that can’t be upgraded to 7.

Many of the holdouts for upgrading to iOS 7 were iPhone 4 users who have heard that iPhone 4 performs sluggishly with iOS 7. The good news is that last week Apple released iOS 7.1 which greatly increased the speed.

To perform the upgrade, plug your device into power, connect to your WiFi, and go to Settings > General > Software Update. If for some reason you can’t upgrade (strange error message, out of storage), see my tips in this article.