Losing all the stuff on your phone was no big deal before the smartphone age. These days, it's practically a Netflix horror movie plot. Wondering how to switch iPhones or iPads successfully, without losing anything in the process? If you're looking to upgrade (these are the best iPhones to buy right now), it is possible to do so painlessly. Your photos, contacts, videos, message history, music, calendars, mail accounts, and many of your apps can all be transferred from your previous device to the new one. We've outlined the steps below.
Updated September 2021: We added steps for using Quick Start to do a direct device-to-device transfer.
1. Back Up Your Old iPhone or iPad
Make sure your device is connected to Wi-Fi. Then go into your iPhone or iPad’s settings and click your name at the top, which will take you to your Apple ID page. Depending on which model you have, you will either choose iCloud > iCloud Backup > Back Up Now, or after clicking your Apple ID page, you'll see a list of devices your ID is signed into. If that's the case, click on your iPhone or iPad. From there, choose iCloud Backup, toggle it on, click on Back Up Now, and let your device back up while it’s still on Wi-Fi. It might be worth setting your new device to automatically backup daily, but be aware that Apple only lets you store 5 GB for free.
Using a Mac
Plug your iPhone or iPad into your MacBook or iMac and open Finder. On the left, you should see your device come up under Locations. You can go through all your saved data, from music and podcasts to photos and files. If your photos have been saved via iCloud, they won't show up here unless you turn that feature off. Under the General tab, you can select Back Up Now. To save Health and Activity data, choose the option to encrypt your backup, or else it will not be saved; not saving unencrypted Health and Activity data is a default privacy feature. All iCloud backups are encrypted automatically.
Using a Windows Computer
You'll need to download iTunes for Windows and plug your iPhone or iPad into your laptop or desktop via USB. Click the iPhone/iPad button at the top left of the iTunes window, then go to Summary > Back Up Now. Encrypt your backup by clicking Encrypt local backup and setting a password. Encrypting allows you to back up your Health and Activity data, as well. To find your backups, click Edit > Preferences > Devices. Apple also goes through the steps here.
2. Swap SIMs
Once you're fully backed up, it's time to swap SIM cards. You can also do this step after setting up your new iPhone, in case you don't want to miss any calls or messages during the process. Lightly pushing a SIM tool or paperclip into the SIM tray hole will help you open it up. The SIM card has one sloped side, which you can line up on the SIM tray of your new iPhone.
3. Turn On Your New Device
You are ready to turn on the new device. The next part depends on the version of iOS or iPadOS your old device is running.
NOTE: Before we run through the methods, anyone using the Google Authenticator app should be careful not to delete this app on their old iPhone until they have moved their accounts across to the new one or they may lose access. Here are Google's instructions for transferring Authenticator codes to a new phone.
If your old device is running iOS 12.4 and iPadOS 13.4 or newer, then you can use Quick Start to directly transfer data from your old iPhone or iPad to your new one. You can check your iOS version by heading to Settings > General > About > Software version. Here are the steps:
- Turn on your new device and place it near the old one, making sure that Bluetooth is turned on. The Quick Start screen should appear on your old iPhone or iPad, and you can tap Continue to begin the process.
- Wait for an animation on your new device and hold your current device over the new device to center the animation in the camera viewfinder. Wait for a message that says Finish on New [Device].
- Enter your passcode on your new device and follow the instructions to set up Face ID or Touch ID.
- You can choose to migrate data directly from your old iPhone or iPad to your new one by choosing Transfer from [Device].
- Keep both devices close and plugged into power until the transfer is complete and you're done. You can skip the rest of the steps below.
If your old device doesn't support Quick Start, or you don't want to use it, then follow the steps on the Hello screen until you reach a screen that asks if you want to join a Wi-Fi network. Choose the network you wish to join.
4. Restore Your Backup
While still on that Wi-Fi screen, you can choose how to restore your backed-up data.
Restore From iCloud
If you used iCloud to back up your iPad or iPhone, continue through the setup process until you reach the Apps and Data screen and tap the Restore from iCloud Backup option. Sign in to your Apple ID (if you're forgetful, consider using a password manager to find and store old login information) and choose the backup that you want to use. The backups are time-stamped, so if you've been regularly backing up your phone there will be several listed; be sure to look at the date and size of the backup to make sure you pick the correct one.
Restore From a PC
If you used your computer to back up your data, plug your phone or tablet into it. If you're using a Mac running Catalina 10.15, open Finder and select your device. If your Mac is running an older operating system or you have a PC, open iTunes. Select your iPhone/iPad when it appears in the window. Click Restore Backup under the General tab and choose the correct date.
5. Make Sure Your Wi-Fi Connection Is Stable
Don't disrupt the Wi-Fi connection until the backup is totally done. Disconnecting early will cause your backup to pause until you reconnect. The same goes if you are restoring by tethering your device to a Windows 10 PC or Mac—leave your phone or tablet plugged in until it's finished.
There isn't anything else to it. If you went ahead and fired up your new iPhone or iPad without transferring anything, you'll have to either erase it and start over, or transfer your content manually—but that's going to be a lot more work than doing a full transfer. We recommend just starting over from scratch and following the above steps to get all your data over at once.
Do not delete data on your old device until you have your new one up and running. Have fun with your new iPhone or iPad, and if you don't need your old one, you may consider selling it. Be sure to check out our Best iPhone 13 Cases and Accessories guide to protect your device.