How to Encrypt iPhone Backups
iPhone backups contain a huge amount of personal data, from various account and service logins, contact list and phone logs, personal notes, emails, health data, messages, fully readable SMS conversations, just about anything that is used or stored on the device gets placed in the backup file. That’s excellent for backup restoration purposes, but technically anyone with access to the computer can easily dig around in the backups locally if they wanted to. For this reason, it can be a good idea keep these locally stored iPhone backup files encrypted, which then require a password to access and restore from, and it also makes the backups safe from prying eyes.
Enabling backup encryption for iPhone (and iPad and iPod touch for that matter) is a simple procedure that must only be enabled once. After encryption has been toggled on, all backups will be placed through encryption, and all future backups that are made will be encrypted, making them unreadable and unusable without having the accompanying password that was set. This allows for a very secure layer of privacy and security for stored iOS data on any computer.
This tutorial will show you how to enable encrypted backups in iTunes for Mac or Windows.
How to Encrypt iPhone Backups with iTunes or Finder
This sets encryption and password protects your iOS backup files, whether for an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch, and the procedure works the same in iTunes for Mac OS X or Windows. We’re focusing on the encrypting iPhone backups to iTunes and Finder here:
- Connect your iPhone to the computer with a USB cable
- Launch iTunes or Finder in later macOS versions
- Select the iPhone in iTunes or Finder, and then under the “Summary” tab scroll down to find the “Backups” section
- Choose “This Computer” as the backup destination
- Click the checkbox next to “Encrypt iPhone backup” which will bring up a screen to set an encrypted backup password
- Enter the password twice to confirm it and begin the encryption process, what this does is start a new backup that is fully encrypted with the password that was just set
- Future encrypted backups are made when you connect the iPhone to the computer with iTunes and choose “back up now” at any time
As long as “Encrypt iPhone backup” is checked and enabled in iTunes or Finder, the backup will maintain encrypted on the computer.
A tip for Mac users with complex passwords, or if you want the option to recover lost encrypted iOS backup passwords, you’ll need to check the box for “Remember this password in Keychain”. What that does is make the password remembered by Keychain which is then guarded by the system-wide administrator password. That option is not available to Windows users however.
This is very important: Do not forget this encryption password! Without it you will not be able to access backed up data, ever, because it is encrypted with extraordinarily strong protection. Likewise, you will need to enter the password anytime you restore your iPhone from the backups that have been kept locally, otherwise they will become inaccessible along with all data contained within them.
OK I encrypted iPhone backups to iTunes, what about encrypting iCloud backups?
Do note this applies to locally stored backups that have been made from iOS devices through iTunes and stored onto a computer, and not iCloud. This is because backups created and stored with iCloud are encrypted automatically and stored on protected servers through Apple, making them only retrievable by using the Apple ID and login information associated with the Apple account. Thus you only need to encrypt the local backups of iPhone or iPad devices made with iTunes.
For further securing your iPhone, don’t forget to set a lock screen access passcode too. You can also take the passcode a step further by activating the “self-destruct” feature of iOS which will automatically erase all data on the device after multiple failed login attempts, though one must be cautious with that feature since someone could inadvertently erase the data on the device simply by entering the wrong passcode.
Note that while nearly all versions of iTunes support iPhone backup encryption, it may look a little different depending on the software release. In earlier iTunes versions it may look like this with an ‘Options’ section rather than a Backups section of iTunes, instead of the image above:
Regardless the setting you’re looking for is the same and will be something along the lines of ‘Encrypt iPhone backups’.