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.
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.
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:
“Winter Wonderland” may be a great song to listen to when the snow flies, but if you’re sweltering in the summer heat, having it pop up while iTunes is shuffling through your music feels wrong. Happily, there’s a way to prevent holiday music from playing out of season—this trick is also useful for keeping children’s songs from shuffling alongside tracks from Abba, Beethoven, and The Clash. In iTunes, select the songs you want to prevent from being included when you shuffle all tracks, and choose Edit > Get Info. In the Get Info dialog, switch to the Options pane, select Skip When Shuffling, and click OK to save your changes. Note that the easiest way to find such music may be by selecting Genres in the sidebar and then Children’s Music or Holiday in the list that appears.
If you’re an Apple Music subscriber, you probably know that it can play music that’s related to a particular artist or track—just tell Siri, “Play a radio station based on the Beatles” to get a bunch of songs from the likes of the Rolling Stones, Simon & Garfunkel, and Elton John. That radio station will show up in the Radio screen in the iOS Music app and in iTunes on the Mac. But you may not have realized that Apple Music can create a special radio station just for you, based on tracks you’ve played before, added to your library, or “loved.” To create it, just tell Siri, “Play my radio station.” Once made, it shows up with all the other radio stations, with your name underneath—it may not appear immediately. This can be a great way to get a selection of songs you’re almost certain to like, and the more you use Apple Music, the more it should adjust to your listening habits.
If a new Mac has recently arrived in your life, it may be time to repurpose and hand your old Mac down to a friend or family member, pass it on to a coworker, or bring it back to iStore for recycling. Here’s what to do.
Before anything else, make a backup, just in case. Do this even if you’ve already migrated your data to your new Mac, since it’s possible that data could have been corrupted during the transfer without you realizing. At a minimum, update your old Mac’s Time Machine backup by clicking the Time Machine icon in the menu bar, and choosing Back Up Now. For extra safety, consider using an app like Carbon Copy Cloner or SuperDuper to make a bootable duplicate that will be easier to navigate if you need to recover a file.
Deauthorize iTunes and Other Apps
It’s uncommon for apps to have licensing schemes that are tied to your Mac’s hardware these days, but if you have any, such as those from Adobe, be sure to deauthorize or deactivate them.
However, there is one app that most people will need to deauthorize: iTunes. That’s because Apple allows you to play content purchased from iTunes only on up to five computers associated with your Apple ID, so be sure to deauthorize Macs that you won’t use again before passing them on.
To do this, open iTunes and choose Account > Authorizations > Deauthorize This Computer. Enter your Apple ID credentials when prompted.
If you’ve forgotten to do this, you can deauthorize all your computers once per year (and then add back those you still have). To do this in iTunes, choose Account > View My Account, and in the Apple ID Summary next to Computer Authorizations, click Deauthorize All.
Sign Out of iCloud
Next, you should sign out of iCloud to remove any connection between your iCloud account and the old Mac. Doing so disconnects the Mac from synchronization of your iCloud data.
To do this, open System Preferences > iCloud, and click the Sign Out button. If you’ve been syncing via iCloud Drive, Calendar, Contacts, Reminders, and so on, the Mac will ask if you want to keep the data on the Mac or delete it. Don’t bother deleting it since you’ll erase the Mac’s drive in a future step.
Sign Out of iMessage
Much as with iCloud, you should sign out of your iMessage account, at least if your Mac is running OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion or later. To do this, open Messages and choose Messages > Preferences > Accounts. Select your iMessage account and click Sign Out. (In 10.14 Mojave, instead of clicking Accounts in the toolbar, click iMessage.)
Unpair Bluetooth Devices
If you’re giving your Mac to another user along with its Bluetooth devices, such as a wireless keyboard and trackpad, you don’t need to do anything with them. However, if you plan to hang on to your Bluetooth devices and use them with another Mac, you should unpair them. That’s especially true if someone else in your home or office will be using the old Mac, since the device might end up working on multiple Macs, which could cause confusion.
Before you unpair a wireless keyboard and mouse or trackpad, however, make sure you have a wired keyboard and pointing device available, since you won’t be able to erase the drive and reinstall macOS without them. If you lack wired alternatives, don’t unpair your keyboard and pointing device.
To unpair Bluetooth devices, open System Preferences > Bluetooth, and in the list of devices either hover over a device or select it. Then click the X button to the right. When prompted, click Remove.
Erase the Drive and Reinstall macOS
Here’s the most important step—erasing the Mac’s drive. After all, you don’t want the next user to be able to access all your photos, documents, email, and more. Luckily, this is easy to do.
First, start up from macOS Recovery by holding down Command-R while the Mac boots. In the macOS Utilities window that appears, select Disk Utility and click Continue.
In Disk Utility, select the internal drive, click Erase in the toolbar, and in the dialog that appears, enter a new name, choose a format, and choose GUID Partition Map for the scheme. For the format, stick with the default, since the macOS installer will convert it later if necessary. Quit Disk Utility when you’re done.
Once the drive is erased, you’ll be returned to the macOS Utilities window, where you can select Reinstall macOS (or Reinstall OS X, if it’s an older Mac) and click Continue. Obviously, if you’re sending it back to Apple for recycling, there’s no reason to do this.
The installation process takes time, and when it’s done, the Mac will restart into the setup assistant. Press Command-Q at the Welcome screen to shut down. When the new user starts the Mac up again, they’ll be able to continue with the setup process. That’s it—now you’re ready to give the Mac to its next user.
Here is a way to recover hard drive space on your Mac. If you’ve been good about backing up your iOS devices to iTunes on your Mac or to iCloud, give yourself a gold star! Both backup destinations are fine, but there’s one potential downside to iTunes backups: they can consume a lot of space on your Mac’s drive. In iTunes, go to iTunes > Preferences > Devices, where you’ll see all the iOS device backups that iTunes has stored. If there are multiple older backups or any for devices you no longer own, you can get rid of them. Control-click the offending backup, and choose Delete. Or, if you want to check how large a backup is first, instead choose Show In Finder, and then in the Finder, choose File > Get Info. When you’re ready, move the selected backup folder to the Trash.
Poll a room of Apple experts about the one topic they can’t stop talking about and many will launch into frustrated rants about how too few people back up. Backups are always important since you can never predict when your Mac or iPhone will be lost or stolen, melt in a fire, or just break. But one time when backups are especially important is before you upgrade to a major new operating system. If you’re thinking “What could go wrong?” the answer is, “Lots, and wouldn’t you like to be able to revert instantly if something does?”
On the Mac side, there are plenty of ways to back up, and a bootable duplicate made with SuperDuper or Carbon Copy Cloner is the best insurance right before you upgrade to macOS 10.14 Mojave. More generally, backing up with Time Machine ensures that you can not only restore your entire drive if necessary, but also easily recover a previous version of a corrupted file. Finally, since a fire or flood would likely destroy your backup drive along with your Mac, we always recommend an offsite backup made via an Internet backup service like Backblaze.
What happens if you don’t back up and your Mac gets damaged such that you can’t access important data? That’s when things get expensive, and if you have a 2018 MacBook Pro, you have even fewer options.
Historically, it was relatively easy to remove a drive from a broken Mac and recover the data from it. Data recovery got harder with solid-state storage, and even more so with the introduction of the first MacBook Pro with Touch Bar, thanks to Apple’s new T2 encryption chip, which encrypts data on the drive. To simplify last-ditch data recovery, Apple put a special port on the MacBook Pro’s logic board and provided a custom recovery tool for Apple Authorized Service Providers. With the 2018 MacBook Pro, however, Apple removed that port, so only data recovery specialists like DriveSavers can recover data from such damaged machines, and only then if they have the user’s password.
So please, back up your Mac before something goes wrong. It’s fast, easy, and inexpensive to get started, and we’re happy to help.
We’ve all seen, if not experienced, a broken iPhone or iPad. They’re durable little devices, but they won’t necessarily survive a drop onto a sidewalk or into a toilet (yeah, it happens). And it’s way too easy to forget your iPhone at the gym or in a restaurant. So a backup is necessary if you don’t want to risk losing precious photos or having to set up a new device from scratch. Plus, just as with a Mac, things can go wrong during major iOS upgrades.
With iOS, though, you don’t need extra software or hardware. Apple provides two ways of backing up your iPhone or iPad, iTunes and iCloud. Neither is necessarily better or worse, and you can—and should!—use both for added safety. We’ve seen situations where an iPhone would refuse to restore its files from iTunes but would from iCloud.
To back up to iCloud, go to Settings > Your Name > iCloud > iCloud Backup, turn the switch on, and tap Back Up Now. For backups to happen automatically in the future, you must have sufficient space in your iCloud account (you get 5 GB for free and can buy more), and your device must be on a Wi-Fi network, connected to power, and have its screen locked.
To back up to iTunes, connect your device to your Mac via a Lightning-to-USB cable, launch iTunes, and click the device icon to the right of the media menu.
Then, in the Backups section, click Back Up Now. If you’re prompted to encrypt your backups, we encourage you to agree since otherwise your backup won’t include passwords, Health information, or HomeKit data. For automatic backups via iTunes, select This Computer. After that, every time you plug into your Mac, it will back up.
If you have sufficient iCloud storage, we recommend backing up automatically to iCloud because its automatic backups work well at night when you’re charging your devices. Then, make extra backups to iTunes whenever you think you might need to restore, such as when you’re getting a new iPhone or iPad, or when you’re about to upgrade to a new version of iOS.