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How to Switch iPhones Without Losing a Thing

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

First, you need to back up your old device, which can you do via iCloud or your computer

Using iCloud

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. 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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].
  3. Enter your passcode on your new device and follow the instructions to set up Face ID or Touch ID.
  4. You can choose to migrate data directly from your old iPhone or iPad to your new one by choosing Transfer from [Device].
  5. 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.
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