The iPhone and iPad are not infallible. Sometimes, things happen. Your Wi-fi or LTE connection isn’t working; your iPhone isn’t tracking your location, things are just generally glitchy. If your iPhone or iPad is acting up, you can restore it from a backup to get it back on track again.
Step 1: Always be backing up
Just like it is important to back up your Mac, it is essential to make sure your iPhone or iPad is on a regular backup schedule. You can set it up to automatically back up every 24 hours via iCloud, or whenever you connect it to your computer and open iTunes. Your backup regimen is up to you, but you should be backing up regularly so when you have to resort to restoring your device, you’ve got a backup ready.
Burn it down. Burn it all down! Or: how to reset your device
The first thing you will need to do to restore your iPhone or iPad from a backup is to erase and reset all of your content and settings. At this point, you will lose all data that hasn’t been synced in iCloud or another cloud-based service. Here’s a list of data you will keep and lose when you reset your iPhone.
Find My iPhone will also automatically be disabled when you reset your device. Not to worry, though. It will automatically enable when you restore.
Once you are sure you’ve backed up everything important, erase your iPhone data right from the device.
How to restore your iPhone or iPad using iCloud
Next, you’ll need to restore your iPhone’s data from its most recent backup. Once you’ve reset it, follow these steps.
- When you see the “Hello” screen, press the Home button.
- Select a language.
- Select a country or region.
- Choose a Wi-fi network and sign into it.
- Enable or disable Location Services.
- Set up Touch ID.
- When you get to the “Apps and Data” screen, tap Restore from iCloud Backup.
- Enter your Apple ID and password.
- Agree to the Terms and Conditions.
Select the backup you want to use. Tap Show all backups to view older backups stored in iCloud.
Note: If you are trying to fix a problem, you might want to try using an older backup. But, remember that if you use an older backup, you may not be able to restore data you collected since then.
It will take a while to restore your backup from iCloud, so grab a cup of tea and go for a nice, healthy walk.
How to restore your iPhone or iPad using iTunes
If you choose to back up your iPhone or iPad by connecting it to iTunes and storing the backups on your computer, you can also restore it from your most recent iTunes backup. You’ll first need to manually disable Find My iPhone. Then, you can use iTunes to restore from a backup.
Note: This method restores your iPhone’s contacts, calendars, notes, text messages, and settings, but not the firmware.
- Connect your iPhone or iPad to your computer.
- Launch iTunes on your computer.
- Click on the device icon in the upper left corner of the iTunes window.
Click on the device summary from the menu on the left side.
Make sure the box is ticked for automatically backing up to This computer.
If your device was not set to back up to your computer, follow the steps for how to restore your iPhone or iPad using iCloud instead.
Click Restore Backup.
- When the option appears, select your device and click Restore.
If necessary, enter the password to unlock your iPhone backups (used when encrypting your backups).
When all else fails
If for some reason, restoring from a backup does nothing to help your problem, you can start fresh with a clean install of iOS on your device. The benefit of doing this is that it empties your iPhone of everything and resets it as if it were brand new, which means you can start over and only select apps you want to keep on your iPhone or iPad. It’s sort of like spring cleaning your device.
The bad news is that it does not save your Health data or Messages. Before doing a clean install, make sure your photos, app data, music, safari activities, and contacts have been backed up to some cloud services, like iCloud Drive, Dropbox, or OneDrive. This data will not carry over, but can be added back to your iPhone if you’ve saved it in the Cloud.
As for saving your Health app data or Messages, you can use a third-party app like Health Data Importer for exporting and importing Health app backups.
Once you’re sure you’ve backed up important data in some cloud service, you can perform a fresh install of iOS on your iPhone or iPad. Follow the steps to reset your device, and then select Set Up as New Phone.
Do you have any questions about restoring your iPhone or iPad from an iCloud or iTunes backup? Let me know in the comments, and I’ll help you out.
Updated January 2019: All information in this article is up to date for iOS 12 and macOS Mojave.