How is music backed up on iPhone?

iPhones have become an essential part of our lives, storing valuable data like photos, contacts, and of course, music. With large music libraries taking up significant storage space on our iPhones, it’s important to have a backup plan in case anything happens to your device.

How does iPhone music backup work?

When you connect your iPhone to iTunes on a computer or use iCloud backups, your music library is included in the backup. This copies your music files and playlists so they can be restored if needed. Here’s a quick overview of how iPhone music backup works with the two main options:

  • iTunes backups: Connecting your iPhone to a computer with iTunes will back up your entire iPhone contents, including music, to that computer. You can enable automatic backups or manually trigger a backup.
  • iCloud backups: If you use iCloud Backup, your music library is backed up to Apple’s cloud servers. This happens automatically when your iPhone is connected to power, Wi-Fi, and has an internet connection.

So in both cases, the actual music files and data about your playlists, artists, etc. get copied during the backup process. This allows you to restore your music if you ever lose data on your iPhone or switch to a new device.

Where are iPhone music backups stored?

The location where your iPhone music backup is saved depends on whether you use iTunes or iCloud.

  • iTunes: iTunes backups are local, meaning they are saved on the computer you connect your iPhone to. You can find the iTunes backup files in the Finder under Users/[Your Username]/Library/Application Support/MobileSync/Backup/. There will be a folder with a random name that contains the backup.
  • iCloud: Backups stored in iCloud are saved in Apple’s cloud servers. You can access and manage these backups in the iCloud settings on your iPhone, Mac, or Windows device.

So iTunes backups keep your music and iOS data locally on your own computer, while iCloud provides online cloud storage. Both have their advantages – iTunes makes it easy to restore music if your iPhone is damaged, while iCloud allows you to restore music and data to a new iPhone seamlessly.

How to back up iPhone music

Here are the steps to back up your iPhone music using iTunes or iCloud:

Using iTunes

  1. Connect your iPhone to your computer using the USB cable.
  2. Open iTunes on your computer.
  3. In iTunes, select your connected iPhone.
  4. Go to Settings > Summary and check “Sync Music” is enabled. Also ensure any other content you want backed up is selected.
  5. Click Back Up Now to perform a manual backup.

Your iPhone data including music will now be backed up to your computer. Enable encrypted backups for added security.

Using iCloud

  1. Make sure you’re signed in to iCloud on your iPhone.
  2. Connect to a Wi-Fi network and power source so your iPhone can back up.
  3. Go to Settings > [Your Name] > iCloud.
  4. Under iCloud Backup, turn on iCloud Backup.
  5. Tap Back Up Now to perform a manual iCloud backup.

Your music will now automatically back up to iCloud when connected to power and Wi-Fi. You can check backup status under iCloud > iCloud Backup.

How to restore iPhone music from a backup

If you ever lose music or switch to a new iPhone, you can restore your music library from a backup. Here’s how:

Using an iTunes backup

  1. Connect your new or erased iPhone to the computer holding your iTunes backup.
  2. Open iTunes and select your connected iPhone.
  3. Go to Summary and click Restore Backup. Select the backup you want to restore from.

iTunes will restore your music files and playlists from the selected backup.

Using an iCloud backup

  1. Make sure you’re signed into iCloud on your new or erased iPhone.
  2. Go through the setup assistant until you reach Apps & Data.
  3. Tap Restore from iCloud Backup and sign in if needed.
  4. Select the iCloud backup you want to restore from.

Your iPhone will be restored from your iCloud backup, including music and playlists.

How to selectively back up music

If you want to selectively back up certain music from your iPhone, you have a couple options:

  • Create playlists – Make playlists containing just the music you want backed up, then sync only those playlists to your computer in iTunes.
  • Sync selected artists/albums/songs – In iTunes, you can manually select which artists, albums, and songs get synced from your Music library.
  • Use file sharing – Use file sharing in iTunes to manually transfer music files and playlists to your computer.

This allows you to choose exactly which music gets backed up through iTunes. Just remember to sync those same playlists when restoring to retrieve that music.

Selectively backing up music is not possible using iCloud backups. It will always backup your entire music library.

Does music purchased on iPhone get backed up?

Yes, any music you purchase directly on your iPhone from the iTunes Store will be included in both iTunes and iCloud backups. iTunes is especially seamless in this regard:

  • Music acquired on your iPhone is automatically downloaded to any computers authorized on your iTunes account.
  • These purchases are then included when the computer backs up your iPhone.

So iTunes downloads new purchases and integrates them into your Music library. iCloud will also backup any music purchased on your iPhone. Just note that if you download music over cellular, it will count against your data plan.

What about Apple Music and downloaded songs?

Songs downloaded from an Apple Music subscription or Match service have some limitations when it comes to backups:

  • Apple Music: Songs downloaded from Apple Music for offline playback cannot be backed up. These are tied to your Apple Music subscription.
  • iTunes Match: You can download iTunes Match songs for offline listening. But they are not part of your device backup and have to be downloaded again if you switch devices.

So use caution storing large offline Apple Music or Match libraries on your iPhone. These will need to be downloaded again if you restore your iPhone or move to a new device.

Does backing up music also save playlists?

Yes, backing up your iPhone music through either iTunes or iCloud will also save your playlists. This includes:

  • Playlists created on your iPhone
  • Playlists synced from iTunes
  • Smart playlist rules and settings

When you restore from a backup, all music playlists will reappear on your iPhone, with all the same songs included. So your playback preferences are retained in the backup.

As an exception, playlists created from Apple Music will not backup, since those songs are not part of your personal library.

Can you access iPhone music backups directly?

You can directly access and view music files stored in an iTunes backup, but not from an iCloud backup:

  • iTunes backup: Use a program like iMazing or iExplorer to extract music from an iPhone backup on your computer. This allows browsing your backup like a music library.
  • iCloud backup: There is no way to directly browse music files in an iCloud backup. You can only restore the whole backup.

So iTunes backups provide more flexibility for selectively accessing your music library backup.

How to free up iPhone storage by removing music

Since music can take up a large amount of storage on your iPhone, you may want to remove some songs to free up space. Here are some options:

  • Turn on Optimize Storage in Settings > Music. This removes songs that aren’t played often.
  • Delete albums or artists in the Music app.
  • Go to Settings > General > iPhone Storage to see which music is taking up the most space.
  • Remove playlists or large songs like albums.
  • Use iTunes to sync only certain playlists or music to your device.
  • Stream Apple Music rather than saving songs offline.

Pick songs and playlists you listen to less frequently to remove first. Just remember any music deleted will no longer be in backups.

Main risks of losing iPhone music

Given the importance of backups, here are some key risks you face around losing music on your iPhone:

  • Hardware failure – If your iPhone suffers hardware failure or damage, you could lose access to all its music if you don’t have a backup.
  • Accidental deletion – You or someone else could accidentally delete your music library from the device.
  • Theft or loss – Having your iPhone stolen or lost poses an obvious risk of your music being inaccessible.
  • OS failure – Major software glitches could potentially lead to music library corruption or data loss.

Protecting your music properly via backup provides an important safeguard against these risks of music loss.

Comparing third-party iPhone music backup tools

A few third-party programs offer alternatives for backing up your iPhone music library:

App Pros Cons
iMazing – Selective backup of songs
– Preview music library contents
– Encrypted backup option
– Paid subscription after free trial
– Computer app only (no cloud backup)
iExplorer – Direct access to iTunes backups
– View and export music files
– Requires iTunes backups (no iCloud support)
– Must connect iPhone to computer
AnyTrans – View and export music library
– Backup to computer or cloud services
– Subscription fee for full features
– Limited music streaming preview

These tools provide greater visibility into your iPhone music library. But none match the convenience of built-in iTunes and iCloud backups.


Keeping your iPhone music safely backed up is crucial to avoid losing your playlists, artists, and songs. Both iTunes and iCloud backups provide simple processes to follow, with iTunes maintaining a local copy on your computer while iCloud enables wireless backups.

Remember these key points about iPhone music backups:

  • iTunes and iCloud backups include your full music library and playlists.
  • iTunes backups are stored locally on a computer, while iCloud uses cloud storage.
  • You can restore music if needed from either backup type.
  • iTunes allows previewing backups directly, but not iCloud.
  • Backups do not include Apple Music or iTunes Match downloaded songs.

Following best practices around regular backups, encrypting sensitive data, and testing restores periodically can keep your music secure. Understanding how iPhone music backups work helps safeguard your music library.