During the setup process of a new or freshly restored iOS device, select “Restore from iCloud Backup” and enter your Apple ID email address and password.

iCloud Backup is a wonderful thing. It helps protect your pictures, videos, text messages, and any other data on your iPhone and iPad by making a carbon copy every 24 hours to Apple’s cloud storage. You can check out our article explaining iCloud Backup if you don’t know what it is or how it works.

While iCloud Backup is great, it’s not so obvious how you actually retrieve your data out of it.  We get a lot of questions about this, so know that you aren’t the only one confused!

Here’s how you can restore your stuff from iCloud:

  1. Make sure your device is in an erased state, meaning that it must be reset to factory default. iCloud Restore must happen from the initial setup of an iOS device or after you’ve erased by going to Settings > General > Reset > Erase All Content and Settings or by restoring your device using iTunes.
  2. During the setup, you’ll get to a screen that asks you if you want to A. Set up as New, B. Restore from iCloud, or C. Restore from iTunes. We want to do an iCloud Restore!
  3. When prompted, type in your Apple ID and password of the account you want to restore from.
  4. Select the time/day of the backup you want to restore.
  5. Wait as your phone installs the backup!

That’s it! iCloud will do the rest. Your device will reboot once during the process, then it will load up your home screen where it will start downloading your apps, photos, videos, and anything else you had on there.

A Couple of Notes

  1. You might have to type in any iTunes or App Store account IDs or passwords that you’ve used to download any apps or media at any point in the backup you’re attempting to restore from.
  2. Also, you might have to update your iOS before you can restore. This is because you CAN’T restore a newer iOS backup onto an older iOS system.
  3. You CAN restore an older iOS backup onto a newer iOS system.
  4. This process is the same for any iOS device, including the iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch that supports iOS 5 or later according to Wikipedia.
  5. iCloud backup does not restore any passwords, UNLESS you have Two-Factor Authentication enabled.
  6. iCloud backups are not encrypted unless you have Two-Factor Authentication enabled.

iCloud Restore FAQ

Here are some Frequently Asked Questions about iCloud Backup that we see in our appointments with our clients.

Can I restore an individual file or photo?

  • You cannot restore individual files like Time Machine. It’s all or nothing. ?
  • [UPDATE: Actually, Apple just released a new feature allowing us to recover individual files! You can read more about this new feature here.]

When can I restore from and iCloud Backup? How to I get my device ready?

  • Your iPhone or iPad has to be in an erased state in order to Restore. You can follow our instructions to learn how to erase your device or put it in recovery mode.

Why does my device say, “You must update the software before restoring from this backup?” I can’t update because I can’t get past this part of the setup!

  • You can’t restore onto older software than the backup was made. This one is tricky: we’ve seen sometimes where someone gets a new iPhone and tries to restore a backup to it and it fails, saying the software was too old. That means the new iPhone had older software from the factory than your old iPhone! You need to put it in recovery mode and do an update first using iTunes or complete the initial setup “As a New Device”, run the update, then Erase All Content & Settings by going to Settings > General > Erase All Content & Settings.

Can I see which photos, videos, or other individual files before I restore?

  • You can’t see individual items before you restore, you can only see the kinds of things stored. For example, you can see, “There are 2GB of photos and videos,” but you can’t actually look at each picture until you do an actual restore. However, you can do a restore to see what’s in the backup, but then start over again if you pulled from the wrong one!

How can I see what iCloud backups I have already and what time they last backed up?

  • To see what’s in your current iCloud Backup, head over to Settings > iCloud > Storage > Manage Storage where you can see which devices are being backed up. Click on whichever device is in question and you can see the latest backup time. NOTE: You can only see the content of the backup if you’re on the particular device in question. Otherwise, you can only see the backup time and size. (Kind of a bummer).

Relevant Official Apple Documentation