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iTunes vs iCloud Backup: Which is Better for iOS Device Backup

Myra updated on Mar 13, 2023 | Home > iOS & Mac Topics

There was a time when Apple only allowed users to use the iTunes app to create a computer backup of an iOS device by connecting it via a USB sync cable to a Mac or a Windows PC. Apple introduced iCloud with iOS 5 in 2011, and since then it has allowed users to back up and restore iOS devices running iOS 5 or later without a cord. 

Many people may ask "what is the difference between iCloud and iTunes backup?" This article will walk you through iCloud backup vs iTunes backup and tell you which one is better for backing up your iPhone, iPad, iPod, or iPod Touch.  

What Is iCloud Backup

iCloud is a cloud service provided by Apple Inc. to enable users to store and sync data across Apple devices logged with the same Apple ID. iCloud backup lets you back up your iOS devices like iPhone, iPad, or iPod wirelessly and automatically over a Wi-Fi network. It includes information and settings stored on your device and does not include information already stored in iCloud. Some information is not included in an iCloud backup but can be added to iCloud and shared across multiple devices like Mail, Health data, call history, and files you store in iCloud Drive.


To enable iCloud backup, go to Settings, tap your name and tap on iCloud. Then select iCloud Backup, and toggle to turn it on. If you are enabling iCloud Backup for the first time, you may want to click the Back Up Now button to manually initiate backing up your device instead of waiting for the automatic backup. 

Apple offers 5GB of free cloud storage per Apple ID, but you may pay extra money for more iCloud capacity up to 4TB with an Apple One Premier plan. 

What Is iTunes Backup

iTunes is a software program developed by Apple Inc. that has multiple functions. It can be used as a media player, media library, client app for iTunes Store, and even a mobile device management utility. iTunes backup is one of the services of the iTunes app. It lets you back up your iOS device to a Mac computer or a Windows PC by connecting your iPhone, iPad, or iPod to the computer via a USB cable. 


To enable iTunes backup, you connect your iPhone to your Mac or PC using its charging cord. Tap Trust This Computer when prompted. Launch the iTunes app and click your iPhone or another iOS device in the sidebar. Click the General tab and click Back Up Now. 

Please remember iTunes is not pre-installed on macOS 10.15 Catalina or later. To create an iTunes backup, you need to either download iTunes on Mac or use the Finder app instead to create a computer backup of your iOS devices. The iTunes app is also available for Windows 10, but you still need to download it before you can have an iTunes backup on your PC. 

iTunes vs. iCloud Backup: Main Differences Between Them

Many people can't figure out the differences between iCloud vs iTunes backup. We make a table to help you quickly understand the main differences between them.

DistinctionsiCloud BackupiTunes Backup
Backup method


USB cable
Automatic backupYesNo
Data encryptionYesYes but off by default
Backup speedRelatively slowFast
Backup storage placeCloud Computer hard drive or external hard drive
Storage capacity5GB for free, up to 4TBUnlimited (Depending on the free space on your  hard drive)
What backup includeApp data, device settings, home screen and app organization, iMessage/SMS/MMS messages, photos, videos, purchase history from Apple services, ringtones, Contacts, Notes, Reminders, Voice Memos, Calendars, and BookmarksApp data, device settings, home screen arrangement,  iMessages/SMS/voice messages, call history,  photos, videos, ringtones, Contacts, Notes, Voice Memos, Calendar, Bookmark, Safari history, browse cache and more
What backup not includeContent from the iTunes or App Store, data already stored in iCloud,Face ID or Touch ID settings, Apple Pay information, Apple Mail data, iCloud Music Library, App store content, call history, Heath, files in iCloud driveContent from the iTunes or App Store, content synced from iTunes, data already stored in iCloud, Face ID or Touch ID settings, Apple Pay information, Apple Mail data, Activity, Health, Keychain

Both iCloud and iTunes are official backup tools, so when it comes to backing up your iOS device you probably will ask which one is better to use. 

iCloud vs iTunes Backup: Which One You Should Use

iCloud backup and iTunes backup are both secure and reliable to use, but they do differ from one another in several positive and negative ways. Check out the iTunes vs iCloud backup pros and cons to find out a better option.

iCloud vs iTunes

iCloud Backup pros:

  • Automatically back up your iOS device over a Wi-Fi network.
  • Backup is available even when your device is locked or damaged.
  • Easily access the iCloud backups with your Apple ID on different devices.
  • Automatically encrypt your data when two-factor authentication is enabled.
  • Automatically back up data across iPhone, iPad, iPod, and more Apple devices in the future with the same Apple ID. 

iCloud Backup cons:

  • iCloud backup is only working with a Wi-Fi connection. 
  • Offer only 5GB of free storage which is too small. 
  • The data backup speed is slow especially when your network is slow or you have large media files

iTunes Backup pros:

  • Back up your iOS devices to a computer without a network connection.
  • Be able to back up your iPhone to an external hard drive.
  • The data backup speed is fast due to the direct transfer. 
  • Provide data encryption option. 

iTunes Backup cons:

  • Backup is not available without enabling Trust This Computer if your phone is locked or damaged.
  • You need to download iTunes on a Mac with a newer version of macOS and a Windows PC. 

Knowing the benefits and drawbacks of utilizing iTunes vs. iCloud Backup can help you decide which option best suits your needs. However, it is advisable to use them both and save a duplicate of your data locally and another on iCloud for maximum security.


When comparing iCloud vs iTunes Backup, they do have some differences such as backup method, speed, storage capacity, and files included. They, therefore, have their advantages and disadvantages over each other. 

Both iTunes Backup and iCloud Backup are free and reliable backup tools for Apple iOS users, so why use one when you can use both for free? Having both cloud and local backup gives you the best protection for your data and privacy. 

FAQs about iTunes Backup vs iCloud Backup

1. Is it better to back iPhone to iCloud or iTunes?

Use iCloud Backup if you want to back up your iPhone wirelessly and automatically. Use iTunes Backup if you run out of free iCloud storage space and don't want to pay for extra capacity.

2. Is iTunes still used for iPhone backup?

Yes, iTunes is still used for iPhone and other iDevices backups. On macOS Catalina, you can back up your iDevice in the Finder app without installing iTunes. 

3. What is the best backup method for iPhone?

iCloud backup is agreed to be the best backup for iPhone because it covers almost all data on your iPhone and automatically backs up your data with a Wi-Fi connection. 



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