iOS Assistant

iCloud vs. iTunes Backup: What's the Difference between Them? (Full Guide)


"I just got my iPhone 7 yesterday, and I have never upgraded from iPhone to iPhone. That being said, I want my notes, messages, contacts, etc., transferred from my 5s to my 7 safely without any issue. When backing up, I choose between doing it through iCloud, which is currently taking 2 hours, and iTunes, which B.T.W completed in minutes. The question is, I don't know the difference between the two..."

- Excerpted from Reddit

Many people cannot figure out the differences between iCloud vs. iTunes backup when backing up their iPhones. Actually, there are many differences between them. This post compares them in 5 aspects. You will have a clear understanding of both methods and decide which to choose after reading the following information.

icloud vs itunes backup

Part 1. What is iCloud or iTunes Backup?
Part 2. iCloud vs. iTunes Backup: Difference & How to Choose
Part 3. iCloud Backup vs. iTunes Backup: How to Use
Bonus: Prefer Not to Back Up to iTunes or iCloud? Use Coolmuster Instead

Part 1. What is iCloud or iTunes Backup?

iCloud backup is first introduced in iOS 5. When you turn on the iCloud Backup feature on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch, it will automatically back up everything to your iCloud account over a Wi-Fi network no matter it is locked, toggled on, or plugged into a power source. A wide range of files is supported to back up to your iCloud account, like app data, device settings, home screen, app organization, iMessage, etc.

After a successful backup, you can access and download the backups from your iCloud account easily. As the iCloud backup relies on the Wi-Fi network, the backup process may be time-consuming.

Further reading: How to Back Up Locked or Disabled iPhone (Best Way)

Unlike iCloud backup, iTunes backup copies the files and settings from your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch to a computer and restores the backups from your computer to a new device via a USB cable. It is a direct way to back up and restore your device when it is lost, damaged, or changed. Using iTunes, music, movies, photos, books, files, etc., are usually well supported. As it stores the backups on your computer through a USB cable, it is relatively fast.

Part 2. iCloud vs. iTunes Backup: Difference & How to Choose

As the official backup apps, iCloud and iTunes do have distinctions. This part shows you the differences between iCloud and iTunes backup in the following five detailed sides.

2.1 What Does iTunes/iCloud Backup Save?

The files iCloud or iTunes backup save are slightly different. Below are the lists of the files you can back up with iTunes or iCloud.

What does iTunes backup include?

  • Albums, songs, playlists, TV shows, movies, podcasts, and audiobooks.
  • Photos and videos.
  • Contacts, messages, and calendars.
  • Purchased iBooks and files.

What does iCloud backup save?

  • App data.
  • Device settings, home screen, and app organization.
  • iMessage, SMS, and MMS.
  • Photos and videos stored on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch.
  • Visual voicemail password (the SIM card must be in your device during backup).
  • Ringtones.
  • Purchased music, movies, apps, iBooks, and TV shows from the Apple services.

Guess you are interested in: Comparison: Reset All Settings VS Erase All Content on iOS Devices

2.2 What Does iCloud/iTunes Backup Not Include?

Also, iCloud or iTunes does not back up some types of files. Check the content below to find out what does not include in iCloud or iTunes backup.

What does not include in iTunes backup?

  • Content from the iTunes or App Store or PDFs directly downloaded to iBooks.
  • Files synced from iTunes or Finder, such as the imported MP3s/CDs, books, videos, and photos.
  • Data already existed in iCloud, including iCloud photos, SMS, iMessage, and MMS messages.
  • Apple Pay information and settings.
  • Face ID or Touch ID settings.
  • Apple Mail data, Activity, Health, and Keychain files.

What does not include in the iCloud backup?

  • Data stored in Gmail and Exchange mail.
  • Apple Mail data.
  • Data already stored in iCloud, like iMessage, calendars, notes, contacts, voice memos, iCloud photos, SMS, MMS messages, and Health data.
  • Face ID or Touch ID settings.
  • Apple Pay information and settings.
  • iCloud Music Library and App Store content.

Learn more: Does your iPhone make you change your passcode? If it always prompts you to change your passcode, you can fix it in these ways.

2.3 iCloud vs. iTunes Backup: Storage

By default, iCloud automatically offers you 5GB of free storage to store photos, videos, settings, etc. when you set up an iCloud account. If you regularly back up your iDevice, the free storage may become insufficient as time goes by. If you need more storage, you can upgrade it anytime. There are totally three types of storage plans you can choose from: $0.99/month for 50GB, $2.99/month for 200GB, and $9.99/month for 2TB. Although the monthly payments are not expensive, they are still relatively higher than most online cloud storage services.

icloud backup storage

Comparatively, iTunes does not limit the iTunes library storage. As long as there is enough computer storage, you can store as many backup files as possible. However, the iTunes interface may slow down when the iTunes library gets large.

2.4 iTunes vs. iCloud Backup: Data Encryption

Both iCloud and iTunes backups encrypt your data to protect your privacy from disclosure. The only difference is that iCloud automatically encrypts the files enabled by default, whereas iTunes lets you manually encode data.

The encrypted data for iCloud or iTunes backup is displayed below.

The encrypted files in iTunes or Finder backup include:

  • Your saved passwords and Wi-Fi settings.
  • Call history, contacts, SMS, and WhatsApp messages.
  • Photos, videos, and notes.
  • Health data.
  • Website history.
  • The location data.

The encrypted files in iCloud backup include:

  • SMS and iMessage.
  • Contacts, call history, calendars, and voicemail.
  • Notes, Safari browser history, and location history.
  • Photos, Health data, Keychain & passwords, and device & network settings.
  • 3rd-party app data, like WhatsApp, Kik, Viber, Hike, and WeChat.

2.5 iCloud vs. iTunes Backup: Pros & Cons

Created by Apple, both iCloud and iTunes backups are believed by many people to be reliable and secure to use. Apart from this, they also have other merits and demerits. We concluded all the advantages and disadvantages of iCloud or iTunes backup as below.

iCloud backup pros & cons:


  1. Easy and secure to use.
  2. Automatically back up your iDevice over a Wi-Fi network when unlocked, locked, or damaged.
  3. Automatically encrypt your privacy when you enable the two-factor authentication for your Apple ID.
  4. Easily access the iCloud backups with your iCloud account.


  1. Only back up an iPhone under a Wi-Fi connection.
  2. iCloud backup does not include everything on your iDevice.
  3. Offer only 5GB of free storage.
  4. The speed is a bit slow when transferring large media files.

iTunes backup pros & cons:


  1. Back up your iDevice to a computer without using a Wi-Fi network.
  2. Provide unlimited storage to store files.
  3. Free to use.
  4. Able to back up your iDevice to an external drive.
  5. Easy to use and direct transfer.
  6. Encrypt your privacy manually.


  1. Use a computer and USB cable to back up an iPhone.
  2. iTunes backup does not include some files.
  3. iTunes backup is not available when your iPhone is locked or damaged without enabling trust this computer.

Part 3. iCloud Backup vs. iTunes Backup: How to Use

Follow the steps below to back up your iDevice to iTunes or iCloud.

How to use the iCloud backup?

1. Open Settings on your iPhone or iPad > tap your name > iCloud > turn on iCloud Backup. If you are using iOS 10.2 or lower version, navigate to Settings > iCloud > Backup.

2. Plug your iDevice into a power source and connect it to a Wi-Fi network. Make sure that your device's screen is locked.

3. iCloud will begin to back up your iPhone every time you connect your device to a Wi-Fi network and power source.

back up to icloud

How to use the iTunes backup?

1. Install the latest version of iTunes on your computer and connect your iPhone or iPad to your computer using a USB cable.

2. Launch iTunes if it does not open automatically. Then tap Trust or Allow on your iPhone or iPad if a message asks you to trust this computer.

3. Tap the device icon at the top-left corner of the iTunes window, click Summary, and press the Back Up Now button under the Backups section. If you like, choose Encrypt iPhone backup under This computer and hit Apply below.

back up to itunes

Further reading:

How to Add Ringtones to iPhone from Computer (Best Ever)

How to Transfer Notes from iPhone to Computer Easily? (Top 4 Ways)

Bonus: Prefer Not to Back Up to iTunes or iCloud? Use Coolmuster Instead

If you want a way to back up your iPhone without iTunes or iCloud, you can try Coolmuster iOS Assistant. It is a professional app for you to back up an iPhone to a computer and restore backups from the computer to your iPhone. With it, you can one-click back up contacts, messages, notes, and more files from your iPhone to your computer without the data limit.

use an icloud itunes backup alternative to back up an iphone on windowsuse an icloud itunes backup alternative to back up an iphone on mac

main interface of ios assistant

What does Coolmuster iOS Assistant backup include?

  • Contacts and messages.
  • Photos, videos, and music (purchased and non-purchased).
  • Notes, bookmarks, iBooks (purchased and non-purchased), and calendars.
  • Apps and other files.

What does not include in Coolmuster's backup?

  • WhatsApp, Viber, Kik, Facebook, and WeChat messages.
  • Apple ID and Touch ID settings.
  • Apple Pay information and settings.
  • Apple Mail data, Activity, Health, and Keychain files.

Coolmuster backup storage:

You can back up your iPhone to a computer with Coolmuster iOS Assistant in uncountable times without a data limitation. As long as your computer storage is sufficient, you can back up anything from your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch to your computer at a fast speed.

Coolmuster backup pros:

  1. One-click operation.
  2. Simple, fast, and secure to use.
  3. Preview and selective back up the desired files on your iDevice or back up everything on your iDevice as a whole.
  4. Back up both purchased and non-purchased iDevice files, such as iBooks, videos, songs, TV shows, etc.
  5. Easy connection.
  6. No data limit for backups.
  7. The backups are in classified groups.
  8. Easy reading and printing on a computer.
  9. Widely compatible with all generations of iPhone, iPad, and iPod, such as iPhone 14/13/12/11/X/8 Plus/8/7/6, iPad Pro/Air/4/mini/2, iPod touch 8/7/6/5/4/3/2, etc.

Coolmuster backup cons:

  1. Not support to back up some data, like WhatsApp, Viber, Kik, Line, and WeChat messages.

Learn how to back up your iPhone to a computer from here.

The Bottom Line

After reading the above information, you can easily conclude that both iCloud and iTunes backup have their advantages and disadvantages and are significant ways to back up your iPhone. It is hard to figure out which is better to use. You can choose iCloud or iTunes backup according to your need.

Besides, you can also use Coolmuster iOS Assistant to back up your iPhone, which is easy, safe, and fast to use. Most importantly, it allows you to preview and selectively back up the purchased and non-purchased files. In my opinion, Coolmuster iOS Assistant is a more suitable backup option.

If you have any queries concerning iCloud vs. iTunes backup or our product, please tell us in the comment area.

Related Articles:

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How to Back Up iPhone without Passcode [Simple Guide]

How to Back Up iPhone without iTunes? (Top 3 Ways)

How to Back Up iPhone with Broken Screen? [Full Solutions]

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