How to Back Up an iPhone or iPad with Your Mac Running Catalina

One of the most significant changes in macOS 10.15 Catalina was the breakup of the long-standing iTunes app into separate Music, Podcasts, and TV apps. But what about backing up iOS devices, which you also used to do in iTunes? In Catalina, Apple moved this function into the Finder. So if you’ve upgraded to Catalina or bought a new Mac that comes with Catalina, here’s how you can continue to backup your iOS or iPadOS in the Finder.

One note first. If you haven’t been using iTunes to back up, manage, and sync media to your device from your Mac all along, we don’t recommend that you start now. Although Apple continues to make these capabilities available for those who need or prefer them, the company focuses most of its efforts on cloud-based services like iCloud Backup, Apple Music, and iCloud Photos. Plus, many of Apple’s apps, like Books, Calendar, Contacts, Podcasts, and TV, can sync their data among all your Apple devices through iCloud. We’re focusing on backup here—for more details about manually syncing media to your iOS device, check out Take Control of macOS Media Apps, by Kirk McElhearn.

Initial Connections

As when you were using iTunes, you’ll need to connect your iOS device to the Mac with a USB cable, either a USB-to-Lightning cable for most devices or a USB-C cable for recent iPad Pro models. When you plug your device into your Mac, it should appear in a Finder window’s sidebar. However, it may not show unless you open Finder > Preferences > Sidebar and select CDs, DVDs, and iOS Devices. (And if it still doesn’t appear, restart your Mac.)

The first time you connect an iOS device to your Mac, you’ll need to establish a trust link between the two devices. That requires that you select the iOS device in a Finder window’s sidebar, click a Trust button that appears, click Trust again on the device itself, and then enter the device’s passcode. This is all very sensible since it prevents someone from stealing your iPhone and connecting to their Mac to read its contents.

Back Up Your Device

Once you’ve jumped through the necessary security hoops, select your device in a Finder window sidebar to view the General screen, which has an interface that’s eerily reminiscent of iTunes. Here’s where you’ll find backup controls, along with a button that lets you update your device’s version of iOS and (not shown) a variety of other general options. Again, we’re focusing on backup here.

You have two choices: storing the backups on iCloud or keeping them on your Mac. Apple has more information comparing the two, but here are the basics:

  • iCloud backups: Assuming you have enough (or are willing to buy more) storage space in iCloud, select “Back up your most important data on your iPhone to iCloud.” Backing up to iCloud is the best option because it automatically happens once per day whenever the device is connected to power, locked, and on Wi-Fi—for us, that usually means during an overnight charge. Plus, if your Mac has a relatively small SSD, you may not have space to store the backups for a large iOS device. iCloud backups are highly secure and reliable, but there are those who don’t want to pay for sufficient iCloud space or don’t want their data in iCloud.
  • Local backups: If you prefer, select “Back up all of the data on your iPhone to this Mac.” Be sure to select “Encrypt local backup.” Otherwise, the backup won’t include saved passwords, Wi-Fi settings, browsing history, Health data, and your call history. And anyone breaking into your Mac could access everything else in your iPhone backup! When you select “Encrypt local backup,” you’ll be asked for a password—make sure it’s one you won’t forget.

If you’re going with iCloud backups, you’re done—backups will happen automatically. For local backups, however, click Back Up Now to initiate a backup. Backups can take quite some time—a circular progress indicator replaces the eject button next to the device’s name in the sidebar. That’s a hint that you shouldn’t unplug the device while it’s backing up.

In fact, you don’t have to choose between iCloud and local backups. Nothing prevents you from leaving the default set to iCloud (this mirrors the setting on the device itself in Settings > Your Name > iCloud > iCloud Backup) but occasionally connecting your device to your Mac and clicking Back Up Now to make a secondary local backup, just in case. That would be a sensible thing to do before switching devices or intentionally erasing the device for some reason.

Since iOS device backups can be quite large—up to hundreds of gigabytes—you may need to recover space used by backups for devices you no longer have. Plus, if you switch to iCloud backups at some point, there’s little point in devoting many gigabytes of storage to obsolete backups.

Click Manage Backups to see a list of backups. To delete one, select it and click Delete Backup. You can also Control-click any backup to delete it, archive it (which prevents it from being overwritten by future backups), or show it in the Finder. That last option is useful for determining the size of the folder containing the backup—select it in the Finder and choose File > Get Info.

Finally, backups are useful only if you can restore from them in case of problems. To do that from the Finder in Catalina, connect your iOS device and click Restore Backup. You can choose which backup to restore, if necessary, and enter the password you set for an encrypted backup. Restoring will likely take quite some time, depending on how much data needs to be transferred.

We’ll leave you with one last thought. An eject button appears next to your iOS device in the Finder window’s sidebar. You can click it to disconnect the device or, if there’s no other progress indicator there, just unplug the device.

(Featured image components by Apple)


Social Media: If you prefer to back up your iOS devices to your Mac, rather than take advantage of daily automatic iCloud backups, note that in macOS 10.15 Catalina, you now do that in the Finder, not in iTunes. Here’s what you need to know:

iPhone Not Charging? Clean Its Lightning Port with a Toothpick

If you’re plugging your iPhone in regularly but getting low-battery warnings when you shouldn’t, consider the possibility that something is preventing your iPhone from charging successfully while plugged in. If there’s no lightning bolt badge on the battery icon when the iPhone is plugged in, that’s a sure sign that no power is reaching the device. Another hint that failures could be happening intermittently would be a lack of charging in the Last Charge Level graph in Settings > Battery when you know the iPhone was plugged in. Luckily, the solution is often easy. Take a wooden (not metal) toothpick and gently poke around inside the iPhone’s Lightning port for pocket fuzz. You’d be amazed how much crud can end up in there. If cleaning doesn’t solve the problem and you use only a single Lightning cable to charge, try another one.

(Featured image by Adam Engst)

Want to Push Some Buttons? Make the Most of Control Center in iOS

Starting back in iOS 11, Apple made Control Center significantly more useful by letting you customize it more to your liking by adding and rearranging buttons. You can even remove a few of the default buttons if they’re just taking up space.

Opening and Closing Control Center

To open Control Center in iOS 11 and later on an iPhone X or later (the models with Face ID), swipe down from the top-right corner of the screen. For iPhones with a Home button that use Touch ID (including the just-released iPhone SE and the iPod touch), swipe up from the bottom edge of the screen.

On an iPad, you’ll swipe down from the top-right corner of the screen if it’s running iOS 12 or iPadOS 13; if it’s still running iOS 11, swipe up from the bottom edge of the screen.

If you swipe down to invoke Control Center, you can close it by tapping a blank area of the screen or by swiping up from the bottom of the screen. If you swipe up to show Control Center, close it either by tapping the top of the screen or pressing the Home button.

Interacting with Controls

In Control Center, you can interact with the various controls in two ways: tap or press and hold. Unfortunately, the interface provides no clues to alert you to how you should interact with any given item.

Start with a tap, but it’s always worth pressing and holding to see what options Apple might have hidden behind that button. Some buttons, like Camera, Do Not Disturb, and Flashlight, even react to both a tap (launching the app or turning on) and a press-and-hold (providing extra useful options).

What happens when you tap a button varies, but here are some guidelines:

  • Apps: A number of buttons, like Camera, Magnifier, and Stopwatch, open other apps instantly. Alas, you can’t pick just any apps to open in this way.
  • Toggles: Some Control Center buttons, like Screen Lock and Low Power Mode, are simple on/off toggles. Tap the button once to turn it on; tap it again to turn it off.
  • Sliders: Drag the sliders for Brightness and Volume to adjust the intensity of the setting.
  • Option screens: With a few of the buttons, like Screen Mirroring and Text Size, a tap opens another screen with more options.

What happens when you press and hold is more predictable. If you press and hold a button that has more options (or if you press and hold a “card,” which is what Apple calls the collection of buttons for networking and audio controls), another screen opens, showing controls for those settings. Some of those screens provide even more options—press and hold the networking card to expand it from four buttons to six, and then press and hold the Wi-Fi, AirDrop, or Bluetooth button to switch Wi-Fi networks, choose who can send you files via AirDrop, or connect to Bluetooth devices.

Customizing the Controls

To change which buttons are available in Control Center, go to Settings > Control Center > Customize Controls. The Customize screen is split into two sections: Include lists controls that are showing in Control Center, and More Controls contains inactive controls you can add.

Here’s how to switch things up:

  • Add a button: Tap its green plus button. It moves to the Include list. You can add as many buttons as you like. If you add so many that they don’t fit on the screen, you’ll have to swipe in Control Center to see the extras.
  • Remove a button: Tap its red minus button, and tap Remove. The button moves to More Controls.
  • Arrange buttons: For any button in the Include list, drag the grab handle on the right side up or down.

Pay attention to which buttons you find yourself actually using in Control Center and how often you use them. Then you can adjust which ones appear and where they’re located, so you can find them quickly whenever you open Control Center.

Interesting Buttons

Apple has a full list of all the controls in Control Center, but here are a few of our favorite optional buttons, and what to expect from them:

  • Apple TV: This button opens an Apple TV remote control that can replace your Siri Remote. It’s especially useful when you need to type a search string or password into the Apple TV.
  • Clock Options: Need to keep track of the time? Three buttons—Alarm, Timer, and Stopwatch—each open their corresponding screen in the Clock app so you can complete a timing task quickly. Timer is the most useful because it has a press-and-hold option that lets you start a timer without switching to the Clock app.
  • Magnifier: Tapping the Magnifier button takes you to a camera-like app designed to zoom in on something in the physical world so you can see it better. It’s helpful for seeing tiny type, such as serial numbers on electronic devices.
  • Notes: Tap to start a new note in the Notes app. Or press and hold to bring up a menu of choices for starting a new note with a checklist, a photo, or a scanned document.
  • Screen Recording: Want to make a movie of something you see on your iPhone or iPad’s screen? Tap the Screen Recording button to start a recording, then tap the red button in the upper-left corner of the screen to stop.
  • Text Size: This button brings up a slider for adjusting the size of the system font—this is the text in places like the Messages and Settings apps.
  • Voice Memos: This button opens the Voice Memos app when you tap it, but if you press and hold instead, you can start a new recording immediately or access recent recordings. If your yoga instructor doesn’t mind, recording a class is a handy way to recap workout instructions.

Only Apple can provide new controls for Control Center right now, so you won’t find any options for working with independent apps. But who knows—as with Siri, perhaps Apple will open Control Center up to developers in the future too.

(Featured image by Adi Goldstein on Unsplash)

Covid 19 Exposure Notification System from Apple & Google and Your Privacy

Apple recently released iOS 13.5, incorporating a new Exposure Notification API in response to the global COVID-19 pandemic. We’ve seen a few people freaking out about this, but seriously, calm down, folks. At best, the Exposure Notification API could lower contact tracing costs, reduce the spread of COVID-19, prevent life-changing health consequences, and save lives. At worst, it won’t prove particularly effective. In neither case does it pose any threat to personal privacy.

Why have Apple and Google—two companies that normally compete tooth and nail—formed this unprecedented partnership? Contact tracing is one of the key techniques employed by public health authorities in slowing the spread of COVID-19. It involves gathering information from an infected person about those they’ve been in contact with, enabling authorities to learn who might have been the source of the infection and who they may have infected. It’s a slow, laborious, and error-prone process—do you know or even remember all the people you’ve come in contact with over the past few weeks?—but it’s helpful nonetheless.

To speed up this process and make it more accurate, Apple and Google are building exposure notification capabilities into their respective smartphone operating systems. A large percentage of the population carries a smartphone running either iOS or Android, and since these phones have the capability to detect when other phones are in their vicinity via Bluetooth, Apple and Google realized they could use technology to alert people when they had been exposed to a person who later tests positive for COVID-19.

Their solution comes in two phases. In the first phase, Apple and Google are releasing the Exposure Notification API, and that’s what just happened with iOS 13.5. This API, or application programming interface, allows apps written by public health authorities to work across both iOS and Android devices, something that’s never been possible before. The first key fact to understand is that only public health authorities will be allowed to write apps that leverage the Exposure Notification API. It cannot be incorporated into sketchy social media apps.

Unfortunately, it seems likely that many people will never learn about or download those apps. So in the second phase, Apple and Google will build the exposure notification technology directly into iOS and Android, so it can work without a public health authority app being installed.

The second key fact to understand is the entire system is opt-in. You must explicitly consent to the terms and conditions of the program before it becomes active on your phone. That’s true whether you get an app in the first phase or rely on the integration in the second phase. And, of course, if you change your mind, you can always turn it off in the app or the operating system settings.

How does it work? Apple and Google have developed an ingenious approach that ensures that those who opt-in to the technology can use it without worrying about privacy violations.

Your phone creates a Bluetooth beacon with a unique ID derived from a randomly generated diagnosis encryption key. The system generates a fresh diagnosis key every 24 hours and stores it on your phone for 14 days, deleting all older keys. Plus, the unique Bluetooth beacon ID that your phone broadcasts to other phones in your vicinity changes every 15 minutes. Similarly, your phone reads the unique IDs from nearby phones and stores them locally. This approach ensures privacy in three important ways:

  • No personal information is shared. The ID is based on a random encryption key and changes constantly, so there’s no way it could be traced back to your phone, much less to you personally.
  • No location information is stored. The only data that’s generated and transferred between the phones are these unique IDs. The system does not record or share location information, and Apple and Google have said they won’t approve any public health authority app that uses this system and also records location separately.
  • No data is uploaded unless you test positive. As long as you remain uninfected by COVID-19, no data from your phone is uploaded to the Apple- and Google-controlled servers.

What happens if you test positive for COVID-19? (Sorry!) In that case, you would need to use a public health authority app to report your test results. You’ll likely have to enter a code or other piece of information to validate the diagnosis—a requirement necessary to prevent fake reporting.

When the app confirms your diagnosis, it triggers your phone to upload up to the last 14 days of diagnosis encryption keys—remember, these are just the keys from which the IDs are derived, not the IDs themselves—to the servers. Fewer days might be uploaded depending on when the exposure could have occurred.

All the phones enrolled in the system constantly download these diagnosis keys from devices of infected people. Then they perform cryptographic operations to see if those keys match any of the locally stored Bluetooth IDs captured during the period covered by the key. If there’s a match, that means you were in proximity to an infected person, and the system generates a notification with information about the day the exposure happened, how long it lasted, and the Bluetooth signal strength (which can indicate how close you were). A public health authority app will provide detailed instructions on how to proceed; if someone doesn’t have the app yet, the smartphone operating system will explain how to get it. Additional privacy protections are built into these steps:

  • No one is forced to report a positive diagnosis. Just as you have to opt-in to the proximity ID sharing, you must explicitly choose to share your positive diagnosis. Not sharing puts others, including your loved ones, at risk, but that’s your decision to make.
  • Shared diagnosis keys cannot identify you. The information that your phone uploads in the case of a positive diagnosis is limited to—at most—14 encryption keys. Those keys, which are then shared with others’ phones, contain no personal or location information.
  • The matching process takes place only on users’ phones. Since the diagnosis keys and the derived IDs only meet on individual phones, there’s no way Apple, Google, or any government agency could match them up to establish a relationship.
  • The notification information is too general to identify individuals. In most cases, there will be no way to connect an exposure notification back to an individual. Obviously, if you were in contact with only one or two people on a relevant day, that’s less true, but in such a situation, they’re likely known to you anyway.

Finally, Apple and Google have said they’ll disable the exposure notification system on a regional basis when it is no longer needed.

We apologize if that sounds complicated. It is, and necessarily so, because Apple and Google have put a tremendous amount of thought and technical and cryptographic experience into developing this exposure notification system. They are the preeminent technology companies on the planet, and their knowledge, skills, and expertise are as good as it gets. A simpler system—and, unfortunately, we’ll probably see plenty of other apps that won’t be as well designed—would likely have loopholes or could be exploited in unanticipated ways.

You can read more about the system from Apple and Google, including a FAQ and the technical specifications.

Our take? We’ll be installing the necessary app and participating in this exposure notification system. It’s the least we can do to help keep our loved ones and others in our communities safe. In a pandemic, we all have to work to help others.

(Featured image based on an original by Dennis Kummer on Unsplash)

iPhone Reporting “No Service” When You Know There’s a Signal?

Have you ever seen the dreaded “No Service” label at the top of your iPhone’s screen, even when you’re pretty sure there should be cellular reception? It’s not common, but the iPhone’s cellular radio can occasionally get confused. Luckily, you can easily fix the problem. Open Control Center (swipe down from the upper-right corner on an iPhone X or later or an iPad; or up from the bottom on an earlier iPhone) and tap the airplane icon to put the iPhone in airplane mode. That turns off the cellular radio. Wait a few seconds and tap the airplane icon again to re-enable the cellular radio. If that doesn’t work, power-cycle your iPhone by holding the side or Sleep/Wake button until you see the Power Off slider. Slide it to turn the iPhone off, then press and hold the side or Sleep/Wake button again until the iPhone restarts.

(Featured image based on an original by Pexels from Pixabay)

The Fastest Way to Change Wi-Fi Networks in iOS 13

Historically, picking a new Wi-Fi network has required you to open the Settings app and tap Wi-Fi, forcing you to unlock your iPhone or switch away from what you were doing. In iOS 13, however, Apple added a better way to connect to a new Wi-Fi network. Open Control Center (swipe down from the upper-right corner on an iPhone X or later or an iPad; or up from the bottom on an earlier iPhone), press and hold on the network settings card in the upper-left corner to expand it, and then press and hold on the Wi-Fi icon to reveal a list of Wi-Fi networks. Tap one to switch to it.

(Featured image by Paul Hanaoka on Unsplash)