How to transfer data from an old iPhone to a new iPhone

How to transfer data from an old iPhone to a new iPhone

One of the nicest things about buying a new iPhone is finding out how easy it is to set it up to be exactly the same as your old iPhone.

When you've finished working through this tutorial, your new iPhone will look exactly the same as your old one. It will have the same wallpaper; the same apps ordered in the same way, and stored in the same folders; all your photos in the Photos app; email set up the way you like it; old text messages in your Messages app; all your contacts; and so on.

Thanks to iOS and iCloud this can be done easily and pretty much anywhere (as long as you have access to Wi-Fi, anyway). In this article we show how to set up a new iPhone from a previous phone's backup, and how to transfer key data if restoring from backup isn't possible.

Transfer apps & data from one iPhone to another

So, you've got yourself a new iPhone and want to transfer all your data from your old handset. It's fairly simple to do; just follow the instructions below.

Step 1: Create a backup of your old iPhone

The first thing you need to do is create a backup of your old iPhone. You can create the backup in iCloud, or use iTunes or Finder on your Mac or PC. We prefer to use iCloud since it means we can access it anywhere and don't need to have our computer with us, but using iTunes/Finder will be faster.

If you're running a PC, or a Mac with macOS Mojave or earlier, you'll be using iTunes.

  1. Plug your iPhone into your Mac or PC.
  2. Open iTunes.
  3. You may need to unlock your iPhone before you can access it via iTunes.
  4. You may also see a warning: "Do you want to allow this computer to access information on [your name]'s iPhone?" Click Continue and if required enter the passcode on your iPhone.
  5. It's also possible that a software update will be required on your Mac or PC. If that's the case, click Install.
  6. iTunes should now show your iPhone in the Devices section in the column on the right. You will also see an iPhone icon beside the Music drop-down menu. Click on the iPhone icon.
  7. You'll see information about your iPhone and a section titled Backups. Here you can choose to back up to This Computer.
  8. Click 'Back Up Now' to make the backup happen

How to switch iPhones: Back up iPhone to Mac or PC

If you're running a Mac with macOS Catalina or later, iTunes' role in the above process will be taken by Finder. (Because iTunes got the boot in Catalina, and no longer exists.) Here's how that works:

Plug your iPhone into the Mac.

Open the Finder app. If you weren't using it before this is likely to open a fresh window we can use for this purpose; if that doesn't happen, open a new window with Cmd + N.

Look for your device under Locations in the lefthand column of the Finder window. Click it.

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On the righthand side of the window you should see information about your iPhone - much the same information we would previously have seen in iTunes, in fact. Click General in the tab along the top, if it hasn't already been chosen.

In the Backups section, select the option to back up your device's data to the Mac. We would recommend encrypting the backup by ticking 'Encrypt local backup' and creating a password.

Click Back Up Now.

How to transfer data from an old iPhone to a new one: Finder backup

Alternatively, you might prefer to back up to iCloud. This is a great option if you might need to set up a new iPhone without your Mac in the future, and if you want to ensure that backups happen daily (without you needing to plug your iPhone into your Mac), but bear in mind that you will probably need to pay money for iCloud storage - here's how much iCloud costs in the UK.

Here's how to back up your iPhone using iCloud:

  1. Open the Settings app on your iPhone.
  2. Tap on your the name/picture at the top, then tap iCloud.
  3. Check the list of Apps using iCloud to make sure that all the apps with data you need will be backed up.
  4. Scroll down to iCloud Backup and tap on it. How to switch iPhones: iPhone backup
  5. Make sure iCloud Backup is turned on (the slider should show green).
  6. Now tap Back up Now to force a backup. How to switch iPhones: iCloud iPhone backup

In older versions of iOS, head to Settings > iCloud > Backup and tap 'Back Up Now'.

Apple Watch owners...

Apple Watch owners beware: switching iPhones will require you to reset your Apple Watch. Its apps and settings will be backed up to the Watch app on your iPhone before your Watch is reset - don't worry about storage, as the backups are only around 100-200kb.

On that note, if you have health data you must back up your iPhone via iCloud or using an encrypted iTunes backup, as for legal reasons, Apple isn't allowed to store personal health-related data in unprotected backups.

This means that if you choose not to encrypt your backup in iTunes on your Mac (this happens automatically in iCloud), your backup will restore your Apple Watch apps, but it won't transfer your exercise/health data.

Step 2: Turn on your new iPhone

Once you've turned on the new iPhone, simply follow the onscreen instructions to set up the device.

Step 3: Restore from iCloud/iTunes backup

Once you've logged in to your new iPhone with your Apple ID, you'll be asked whether you want to set your iPhone up as a brand-new iPhone, or if you'd like to restore an existing backup via iTunes or iCloud.

From here, select either Backup from iCloud or Backup from iTunes and select the most recent backup from your old iPhone.

Step 4: Wait while your data is restored

After selecting a backup to restore from, your data and preferences from your old iPhone will be transferred. The time it takes may vary depending on the size of the backup (iTunes and iCloud) and your Wi-Fi speed (iCloud).

Once this is complete, you're done - you should be able to access all photos, contacts, messages and other data from your old iPhone.

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How to transfer data to a new iPhone

The above method is fine for those of us that haven't already set up our iPhones as 'new' iPhones - but what about those of us that have already started using the new phone and don't want to restore from a backup? Luckily there is a way to transfer some data even if you have set up a new iPhone without using a backup.

The following method uses Apple's iCloud and should transfer all photos, contacts, notes, calendars and Safari passwords from your old iPhone to your new one.

Step 1: Enable iCloud on your old iPhone

On your old iPhone, open the Settings app and make sure you're signed in with your Apple ID/iCloud account and you're connected to a Wi-Fi network.

Once signed in, click on your Apple ID information at the top of the page, then click on iCloud. Toggle on everything you want to transfer to your new iPhone (Photos, Contacts and so on). Leave your iPhone connected to Wi-Fi and your data should start syncing with iCloud, although there's no progress bar to see how much has been synced.

How to transfer from an old iPhone to a new iPhone: iCloud

Step 2: Enable iCloud on your new iPhone and sync data

Once you've synced your old iPhone with iCloud, it's time to transfer all your data to your new iPhone. Just like with the old iPhone, head to Settings and make sure you're logged in with the same Apple ID/iCloud account as your old iPhone, then open the iCloud settings and toggle on everything you want to download.

After a few minutes, you should find your old data appearing in relevant apps, such as Photos and Contacts.


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Step 3: Download purchased apps

Although the above step will successfully transfer data including images, videos and contacts, it won't transfer everything - if you want to access and download your purchased apps, you can head to the App Store, tap the Updates tab and find the Purchased page. This will bring up a list of every app you've downloaded, both paid and free, available to download to your iPhone.

It's worth noting that if you want access to your old preferences (Wi-Fi logins, Settings and so on), third-party app data (game saves), health/exercise data or text messages, you'll have to erase your new iPhone and set it up again, this time selecting a backup of your previous iPhone to restore from.

And that's it! Your new iPhone should now be indistinguishable from the old one... except for all the hardware upgrades, of course.

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