iCloud Backup Failed? Why iPhone Won't Back Up & How to Fix It

Backing up your iPhone or iPad regularly is an important part of keeping your data and settings secure. By regularly backing up your device, you're assured that if your iPhone is damaged, you won't lose your device settings, app data, messages, or photos and videos. There's even a way to set your iPhone or iPad to automatically back up to iCloud, so you don't have to think about the process anymore. That is unless you get an unwelcome message like this on your iPhone: "iPhone Backup Failed" or "The Last Backup Could Not Be Completed." If your iCloud backup failed, there are several reasons why it might have happened. Let's get started troubleshooting why your iPhone won't back up to the cloud, then learn how to fix the issue so you can stop getting iCloud error messages, complete your backup, and save your data and settings.

Related: How to Back Up Your iPhone to iTunes on Your Computer

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You've set your iPhone to automatically back up to the cloud every night, but suddenly you've received an error message, "your last backup couldn't be completed" or "problem enabling iCloud Backup"; what gives? There are a few things that could have gone wrong, let's go through the possible problems and solutions.

iCloud Backup Failed? Why iPhone Won't Back Up & How to Fix It

First Steps to Take​​

Storage & Slow Backup Solutions

iCloud Backup Restart & Reset Solutions

 

Check Your iCloud Settings

Is it possible that your iCloud backup settings were accidentally changed? If so, your iPhone may display an error message indicating a problem enabling iCloud Backup. To remedy this:

  • Open Settings.
  • Tap on your name at the top of the page.

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  • Now tap on iCloud.
  • Scroll down and check to see if your iCloud Backup is toggled on.

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  • If iCloud Backup isn't on, tap it, then toggle on iCloud Backup.
  • Tap Back Up Now if you want an immediate backup.

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If Back Up Now is grayed out, it may indicate that there's a network restriction. If you're living on campus at college or leaving your work phone at the office overnight, check with the IT Department or system administrator to see if they've put restriction settings in place that make iCloud Backup unavailable. Another possible reason that Back Up Now may be grayed out is a problem with Wi-Fi connectivity; click here to troubleshoot that issue.

Check Your Power Source

Check the outlet your iPhone was charging from and make sure it's working; your iPhone needs to be connected to a power source to complete the iCloud Backup process. Make sure the charging symbol is on when your device is plugged into the outlet or placed on your cordless charger. If the charging symbol isn't on, test the outlet with another electronic device to see if the issue is the outlet. If the outlet works, test the charging cable on a different device to see if the cable is the problem. If the outlet and the charging cable are working, but your phone still isn't showing the charging symbol, follow this link to troubleshoot your iPhone charging issue.

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Check Your Wi-Fi Signal & Connection

If you're getting a message that says your backup couldn't be completed, the culprit is often your Wi-Fi connection. Make sure that your iPhone is connected to Wi-Fi; the iCloud Backup process can't work with just your cellular data connection. If your iPhone isn't connected to Wi-Fi, follow this tip to get it connected again. 

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If your iPhone still doesn't connect to your Wi-Fi network, check and see if your other devices can; if they aren't able to connect either, reset your router. If that fails, it's time to call your internet service provider for help.

iPhone's Screen Is Locked

In addition to requiring a Wi-Fi connection and a power source, your iPhone screen must be locked for your automatic iCloud Backup to proceed. If you have Auto-Lock turned off, you may be forgetting to turn off your screen (and lock it) at night. To check to see if Auto-Lock is enabled:

  • Open the Settings app.
  • Tap on Display & Brightness.

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  • Now tap on Auto Lock.
  • If Never is checked, consider enabling your phone to auto-lock by selecting 5 minutes or a shorter time period. Or make a point of remembering to lock your screen when you go to charge your phone; your screen must be locked for an automatic iCloud Backup to proceed.

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Make Sure Apple's iCloud Backup System Is Working

There is a possibility that you haven't forgotten anything and that Apple's iCloud Backup System is temporarily unavailable. To check this:

The Apple System Support page indicates whether iCloud Backup is available. If iCloud Backup is unavailable, check back later to see if iCloud Backup is available yet and try again.

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Make Sure You Have Enough Space for Your iCloud Backup

iphone wont backup

One of the most common reasons for a failed iCloud backup is a lack of sufficient iCloud storage. Your iPhone won't be able to automatically back up to the cloud if there isn't enough storage space left for the entire backup. Everyone who signs up for an iCloud account receives 5 GB of free storage space, but that can get eaten up quickly. To check and see if storage is the problem:

  • Open your Settings app and tap on your name at the top of the page.
  • Tap on the iCloud option; this will take you to a page where you can view your iCloud storage at the top.

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If your storage is maxed out, read on to learn how to clear some space or buy more iCloud storage.

Change Your iCloud Storage Plan or Delete Storage Hogs

If your iPhone can't back up to the cloud because your storage is too full, you can change your iCloud storage plan. You can also do things like deleting old backups to free up space or check these five storage hogs for ways to make room on your iPhone.

iCloud Backup Slower than Expected

Did your iCloud Backup fail, or is it just taking longer than you expected? If your iPhone displays a message that says, "your device is being restored," this means the backup is incomplete, but still working to finish. Stay connected to your Wi-Fi network and power source and let the backup conclude. Your backup may be slower than usual if your Wi-Fi connection isn't up to speed or you have a large amount of data and settings to save. Similarly, you may receive a notification that reads something like, "Restoring 700 of 1800 items." This type of notification also indicates that the iCloud Backup is still in process; stay connected to Wi-Fi and power until it's finished.

Grayed Out Apps?

One major culprit for a slow iCloud backup is apps getting hung up, indicated by a grayed-out app icon. If you suspect it's an app that's taking a long time to load that's slowing or stopping your iCloud Backup, make sure that your iPhone is connected to a reliable, speedy Wi-Fi network. If your device is connected to Wi-Fi but the app is still causing a problem, tap the app to pause the backup, then tap it again to restart. If this doesn't get your iCloud Backup moving, delete the app and then download it again.

iPhone Still Won't Back Up to iCloud?

If you've followed the troubleshooting steps above and your iPhone is still giving you an error message, here are a few more solutions to try.

Hard Restart

If your iPhone still doesn't back up to the cloud, try following this tip to reset it. If you have an iPhone X, you'll need to follow this link instead.

Sign Out of Your iCloud Account, Then Sign Back In

If the Hard Restart didn't work, you could try signing out, then back into your iCloud account.

  • Open the Settings app.
  • Scroll down to Accounts & Passwords and tap it.

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  • Tap on iCloud.
  • Scroll down to the bottom of the page and tap Sign Out.

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Don't worry about the warning before you sign out; when you sign back into your iCloud account all of your photos, documents, and data will be restored.

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Reset All Settings

This process won't erase any data; it will just reset your iPhone's settings to the factory default. You may be dismayed, however, at how many settings you've customized and will need to reset to your liking after this process; you'll have to customize your iPhone settings as though it was brand a new iPhone just out of the box.  

  • Open your Settings app and tap on General.
  • Scroll down to Reset and tap it.

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  • Tap on Reset All Settings.

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I hope this troubleshooting guide has helped you complete an iCloud backup on your iPhone. If not, please contact Apple Support, and they should be able to assist you.

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Leanne Hays is a Feature Web Writer at iPhone Life.  She loves reading and blogging, and is never without a book in her backpack or an audiobook on her phone. Short-term goals include finishing painting her house and starting an aquaponics farm, long-term goals include a bike tour of Italy and writing a novel.