If you're upgrading to the iPhone 7, you're probably chomping at the bit to try out all the neat new stuff it can do. However, sometimes upgrading can go disastrously awry, as many unfortunate souls found out the hard way when they tried to download iOS 10. Before you make a bee line to the Apple Store, you'd be wise to double-check that you've backed up your existing device so you don't lose any precious pictures, documents, or other ephemera when you make the big switch.

Here's what you need to do to prevent an embarrassingly weepy episode at the Genius Bar.

Decide how you want to back up your device

There are two methods to back up all your stuff from your old phone: iCloud or iTunes. Each is reliable and safe, but the iCloud option is easier. However, if you don't feel taking a few minutes to clear up additional iCloud space, or simply don't trust the Cloud (hi mom!), you can save a hard copy of the backup on your computer via iTunes. I'll show you how to do both, step by step, below. 

Apple

Back up and restore using iCloud

  • Make an iCloud backup -- Before you head to the Apple Store (or at the very least before you begin setting up your new device), make sure you're connected to Wi-Fi, then go to Settings > iCloud > Backup on your old phone and tap "Back Up Now." It's possible that you don't have enough space in your iCloud account to accommodate a proper backup, in which case you'll get a message alerting you as much. However, freeing up iCloud space is fairly simple.
  • Transfer your SIM card -- If your new device uses the same kind of SIM card as your previous one, switch it over (use the sharp end of a paperclip to pop open the side compartment). Otherwise, install the new one your carrier gave you with it.
  • Transfer your iCloud backup to your new phone -- Once you've turned on your new phone, swipe right on the "Hello" screen and follow the steps until it prompts you to join a Wi-Fi network. When you see the Apps & Data screen, tap "Restore from iCloud Backup" and hit "next." Sign into your iCloud account, choose the most recent backup version, and let it run through the full restore process (this could take a while depending on the size of your backup and speed of your Wi-Fi network, so be patient). 
Screenshot via iTunes

Back up and restore with iTunes

  • Save an iTunes backup -- Connect your old phone to your computer and launch iTunes, select your device and check the box called "Encrypt," and create a memorable password (this ensures your Health and Activity data is saved -- if you don't care about either of those things, you don't need to bother saving an encrypted version). Once it finishes the backup, confirm it was successful by going to Preferences > Devices. You should see the name of your device and the date & time of the backup.
  • Transfer your SIM card -- If your new device uses the same kind of SIM card as your previous one, transfer the old card over (use the sharp end of a paperclip to pop open the side compartment). Otherwise, install the new phone's SIM card your carrier gave you.
  • Transfer your backup to your new phone -- Once you've turned on your new phone, swipe right on the "Hello" screen and follow the steps you see on the Apps & Data screen. Tap "Restore from iTunes Backup," hit "next," and connect your new phone to your computer. With iTunes open, select your new device, click "Restore Backup," and choose the most recent backup. 

IF YOU HAVE AN APPLE WATCH: You'll need to unpair it from your old phone before switching to the new phone. This will automatically back it up so you can restore it once your new phone's up and running.


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Joe McGauley is a senior writer for Thrillist. He has his best cries at the Genius Bar.

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