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Most people back up their iPhones or iPads to iCloud, but it’s not completely private: Apple always holds the key so it can help if you forget your password. If you want a truly secure device backup and you have a Windows machine, you’ll need iTunes. (Mac users can back up from Finder.) Here’s how.

How to Make Encrypted Local Backups in iTunes

First, install iTunes for Windows if you don’t have it already. You can download it for free through the Microsoft Store for Windows 10. When it’s installed, launch iTunes.

Connect your iPhone or iPad to your Windows 10 PC using the appropriate USB-to-Lightning cable. When you’re asked whether you want to allow the computer to access your device, click “Continue.”

When your device asks for it, enter your passcode on your iPhone or iPad screen to trust the computer. After your PC recognizes your device, you’ll see a small device icon (that looks like an iPhone or iPad) up in the toolbar. Click it.

You’ll see an iTunes screen with general details about your device (If you don’t see it, click “Summary” in the sidebar.) In the Backups section, locate the “Automatically Back Up” header and place a checkmark beside “Encrypt local backup.”

In iTunes, check "Encrypt Local Backup."

After you check the box, iTunes will ask you for a password. This password will unlock the encrypted backup in the future, so enter a strong one and make sure you won’t forget it (or put it in a password manager).

Warning: If you forget this password, you won’t be able to restore your backup or otherwise access its contents.

RELATED: Why You Should Use a Password Manager, and How to Get Started

After that, locate the “Manually Back Up and Restore” section and click the “Back Up Now” button.

Assuming you have enough free space on your Windows PC, the backup will begin. If you have a lot of data on your iPhone or iPad, the backup might take a while, so be patient. When the process is complete, you can safely disconnect your iPhone or iPad from your PC.

How to Restore an Encrypted iPhone or iPad Backup

To restore an encrypted iPhone or iPad backup on your Windows 10 PC, launch iTunes and plug in your device. Click the device icon in the iTunes toolbar that looks like an iPhone or iPad.

On your device summary page, locate the “Manually Back Up and Restore” section. Click the “Restore Backup” button.

In a pop-up window, iTunes will ask you to select which backup you’d like to restore. Choose the one you want to restore from the drop-down menu, then click “Restore.”

Since your backup is encrypted, iTunes will next ask you to enter your backup password. This is the password you set earlier (see the section above) when you first made the encrypted backup. Type the password, then click “OK.”

After that, iTunes will restore the backup to your device. It may take a while, so be patient. When it’s done, you can safely unplug your iPhone or iPad from your PC.

RELATED: How to Back Up Your iPhone With iTunes (and When You Should)

Profile Photo for Benj Edwards Benj Edwards
Benj Edwards is a former Associate Editor for How-To Geek. Now, he is an AI and Machine Learning Reporter for Ars Technica. For over 15 years, he has written about technology and tech history for sites such as The Atlantic, Fast Company, PCMag, PCWorld, Macworld, Ars Technica, and Wired. In 2005, he created Vintage Computing and Gaming, a blog devoted to tech history. He also created The Culture of Tech podcast and regularly contributes to the Retronauts retrogaming podcast.
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