Where to back up your iPhone if iCloud runs out of space

If you don’t want to pay for extra gigabytes in iCloud, try these other ways to backup your photos and other iPhone files.

Where you can store backup copies of photos and other iPhone files when you’ve run out of space in iCloud

For convenient backups, you can’t beat the always available, device-independent cloud. And iPhones make backing up to iCloud as simple as can be. Just turn on the option and stand back; your phone will periodically copy everything stored on it to the cloud. The only problem most users will ever encounter is running out of iCloud space: You get just 5GB of storage free, and that’s not very much in the grand scheme of things.

The easiest solution, of course, is to buy more space when the 5 gigs run out. But iCloud storage is subscription-based, which means that you’ll have to pay monthly (currently $0.99 for 50GB, $2.99 for 200GB, or $9.99 for 2TB). If you do not want running costs, you’ll have to look elsewhere. Let’s explore some alternatives.

Where to copy iPhone files: Other cloud storage

iCloud is by no means the only cloud storage out (or up) there. But most other providers offer a similar amount of free space, sometimes even less. For example, OneDrive gives users the same 5GB at no charge, after which you’ll have to pay a subscription fee. DropBox’s free storage is limited to 2GB, and Amazon Drive offers nothing at all unless you are signed up for Amazon Prime — and even then it’s just the same 5GB.

What’s more, most providers charge roughly the same for extra space as iCloud does, so it makes little sense to pay for third-party cloud storage. That said, you can use a couple of cloud services free — under certain conditions.

iPhone backup to Google Drive

Unlike other cloud services, Google Drive provides 15GB of free storage space for data (of any kind). Even better, you can upload photos with a resolution of up to 16 megapixels (by comparison, iPhone 11 Pro cameras have a resolution of 12 megapixels) and video in 1080p HD format (if you choose unlimited storage, your 4K videos will get compressed to 1080p) and these photos and videos don’t count as part of the 15GB quota.

You can make use of Google’s unlimited photo storage in two ways:

  • If your backup needs are limited to photos and videos, you can manage your iPhone backup through the Google Photos app.
  • Alternatively, download Google Drive app. This way you can store in Google’s cloud not only photos and videos, but also documents, as well as calendar info and contacts (but they have to fit into the free 15GB).

iPhone backup to Yandex.Disk

Yandex.Disk offers a little less than Google Drive in its free plan — 10GB to be precise. However, it stores photos and videos uploaded from smartphones without restrictions, and at the original quality. That said, when viewing media files online, it will show only compressed previews, although you can always download the original to any of your devices.

To make use of unlimited storage download Yandex.Disk app and set it up to auto uploading. As with Google Drive, you will have to fit all other files (except photos and videos) into the limited free storage. On the plus side, if you like to shoot high-resolution video, Yandex.Disk is a far more attractive option for backing up your iPhone than Google Drive.

Third-party clouds: What’s the deal with privacy?

Both Google and Yandex not only store your photos and videos on their servers, but also sort them and even create photo albums. In doing so, they automatically analyze your pictures to determine the content — which can be very personal. In the Google Photos app, you can block the system from grouping photos by faces, but if you prefer Yandex and Google not to know what you were taking and where, it is better not to use their unlimited cloud storage.

Where to copy iPhone files: Another device

If third-party clouds don’t suit your purposes, where can you back up your iPhone? Two options remain: a computer or external media.

iPhone backup to a computer with Windows or macOS (except Catalina)

If you have a computer running Windows or macOS Mojave (or earlier), you can copy files there from your iPhone using iTunes. The app lets you sync photos, videos, albums, playlists, movies, TV shows, podcasts, audiobooks, voice recordings, contacts, and calendars. To make a backup:

  • Connect your phone to your computer using a USB cable, and open iTunes.
  • If the iPhone asks whether you trust this computer, tap Trust.
  • Select the device icon in the upper left corner of iTunes.
  • In the left-hand menu, select what you want to copy to your computer: music, books, movies, podcasts, and so on. For each data type, turn on Sync.
  • For each data type, check the boxes next to the additional files that you want to sync. For example, on the Music tab, you can choose whether to copy voice recording and video clips to the computer.
  • Select Apply.
  • If the app does not start copying the files, select Sync.

iPhone backup to a macOS Catalina computer

In macOS Catalina, iTunes responsibilities are divided: Apple Music handles music, Apple TV handles video, Apple Books … well, you get the picture. And copying files between the iPhone and the computer is now a task for Finder. It syncs the same data set as iTunes, and works in much the same way. To make a backup using Finder:

  • Connect your iPhone to the computer with a USB cable, and open Finder.
  • Select the phone icon in the left-hand menu.
  • If the iPhone asks whether you trust this computer, tap Trust.
  • In the list at the top, select what you want to transfer to the computer (music, books, movies, and so on), and for each data type select Sync.
  • Select which specific files you want to copy.
  • Select Apply.
  • If the app does not start copying the files, select Sync.

After the app (iTunes or Finder) copies the files to its folder on your computer, you can transfer them to another place, such as an external drive. You can back up most of the data on your iPhone in this way. As for storing information such as Face ID, Touch ID, or Apple Pay, iCloud’s free 5GB is definitely enough.

iPhone backup to an external or flash drive

Starting with iOS 13, you can also connect an external hard drive, a USB flash drive, or even an SD memory card to your iPhone or iPad, and copy files directly from device memory. This is a relatively new option, and your phone will not have enough battery power for some hard drives.

But external drives get on better with tablets with iPadOS 13, so you definitely can use this method to back up your iPad. That said, if you don’t have an external drive, you will have to buy one (and, if necessary, an adapter to connect the drive). But that’s a one-off cost, so if you need a backup storage for your iPhone or iPad for a long time, this option may be more economical than iCloud, with its monthly subscription fee.

Where to make iPhone backups: Summary

As you can see, you have several options in addition to iCloud for backing up your iPhone, and each has its pros and cons. If you have nowhere to store your vast collection of photos and videos, and are not put off by nosy machine-learning algorithms, the unlimited storage option on Google Drive or Yandex.Disk will do nicely. Either of them represents the simplest of the available options — set it to back up automatically in the cloud and that’s it.

If you do not want your photos and videos to be seen by AI robots, it makes sense to copy the files to a computer. And if you also need them on the go in compact form, try acquainting your iPhone with a USB flash or external hard drive. It should get easier as time and technology progress. And so that no one can steal or corrupt your files, protect your devices. We offer a free security solution for this purpose, compatible with all popular operating systems: iOS, macOS, Windows, and Android.

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