How to Archive an iTunes Backup of iPhone or iPad

Jul 10, 2019 - 2 Comments

How to Archive a Backup in iTunes

Need to archive an iTunes backup of an iPhone or iPad for safe-keeping? Creating an archived backup in iTunes is helpful because it allows you to preserve a specific device backup while still allowing for backing up to iTunes on Mac or PC, without those new backups overwriting the archived backup.

Creating routine backups of iPhone and iPad are important in general, but if you ever plan to try a beta release of system software like iOS public beta or iPadOS public beta, you’ll want to go a step further and archive an iTunes backup as well, since it makes it easier to revert to a prior release (like downgrading iOS 13) if necessary.

How to Archive iTunes Backup of iPhone or iPad on Mac & Windows

This obviously focuses on archiving backups in iTunes, but in MacOS Catalina these same actions are performed in the Finder, where device management occurs, rather than in iTunes.

  1. Open the iTunes application if you have not done so already on Mac or Windows
  2. Optionally, start and complete a new encrypted backup to iTunes if you wish to create a fresh backup to archive then proceed when finished
  3. Pull down the iTunes menu and choose “Preferences”
  4. Go to the “Devices” tab in iTunes Preferences
  5. Under the Device Backups list locate the device backup you want to archive, then right-click on that backup and choose “Archive”
  6. How to archive iTunes backups

  7. Ensure that the iPhone or iPad backup has been archived by checking for the lock icon and date stamp on the backup name, when finished click on “OK” to exit out of iTunes Preferences

Archiving a backup essentially locks that backup so that it is not overwritten by subsequent device backups made to iTunes.

Again, iCloud has no impact on backups in iTunes. You can backup to both iCloud and iTunes if desired.

Identifying Archived Backups in iTunes

In the device list this is easy to identify because there is a lock icon and a time and date stamp on when the backup was archived.

How to identify Archived Backup in iTunes

You can un-archive a backup by right-clicking on it from within the same Devices settings list, and of course you can also delete backups from iTunes there as well.

Remember that in iTunes it’s important to encrypt backups so that all Health data and sensitive data is also backed up, because without the backup encryption feature enabled that data will not be backed up to iTunes. Backing up iPhone or iPad to iCloud is encrypted by default and does not require the manual encryption setting.

Note you can not currently archive iCloud backups, so if you wish to preserve an iPhone or iPad backup you must use iTunes and archive the backup there, or a Mac with at least Catalina and archive the backup there.

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Posted by: Paul Horowitz in iPad, iPhone, iTunes, Tips & Tricks

2 Comments

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  1. r c says:

    on mojave, right clicking an archive did not un archive it. This seems to be a one way trip.

    • Dan Ohiha says:

      What happens when you choose to unarchive the backup then?

      Does not matter much, even if it’s archived you can still restore from it. Delete it when finished. etc

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