Make a Backup before Upgrading to Catalina or iOS 13!

If there’s one topic I can’t stop talking about, it’s backups. Backups are essential since no one can guarantee that your Mac or iPhone won’t be lost or stolen, be caught in a flood from a broken pipe, or just fail silently. It happens.

You should have a good backup strategy that ensures backups happen regularly, but it’s not paranoid to make double extra sure when you’re doing something that’s more likely to cause problems than everyday activity. And by that I’m thinking about upgrading to a major new operating system, such as iOS 13 due out on Thursday or macOS 10.15 Catalina, due out next month.

The reason is simple. As much as Apple tests the heck out of these upgrades, so many parts are in play that all it takes is one unexpected glitch to render the entire Mac or iPhone non-functional. Wouldn’t you like to be able to revert quickly if something does go wrong?

By the way, I’m recommending all of my customers hold off on iOS 13 unless they can afford some possible downtime. Especially if you don’t have proper backups. iOS 13.1 will be out on the 30th and it’s well worth waiting for just a little over a week to get something that’s far more polished.

Mac Backups before Upgrading

On the Mac side, most people should be using Time Machine. It ensures that you can not only restore your entire drive if necessary but also easily recover a previous version of a corrupted file. The other advantage of having Time Machine backups is that you can use it to migrate all your apps, data, and settings back to a new installation of macOS, should that become necessary, or to an entirely new Mac. But even more importantly in the case of an OS upgrade gone awry, you can boot into Recovery and restore your computer to a previous date, OS and all.

For a backup drive, I normally recommend the WD My Passport Ultra. The Ultra model line has USB-C for the best forward compatibility but includes an adapter so you can continue using it with the old style USB if that’s what you have. For capacity, I recommend getting one that’s twice the size of the computer you are backing up. You can check your computer’s drive capacity by going to the Apple menu > About this Mac > Storage.

You can check your current backup status by clicking the Time Machine icon near your WiFi or if you don’t see that go to the Apple menu > System Preferences > Time Machine.

So please, back up your Mac before something goes wrong. It’s fast, easy, and inexpensive to get started.

iOS Backups before Upgrading

Although upgrade-related problems are less common with iPhones and iPads, they can still happen. It’s more likely that you’d drop your little friend accidentally while juggling groceries or forget it after your workout at the gym, but regardless, a backup ensures that you don’t lose precious photos if you’re not using iCloud Photos or My Photo Stream, and backups make migrating to a new device like a fancy new iPhone as painless as possible.

With iOS, though, you don’t need extra software or hardware to make a backup. Apple provides two ways of backing up your iPhone or iPad: iTunes and iCloud. I generally recommend backing up to iCloud. There’s nothing wrong with iTunes backups, though they’re a bit fussier to set up and manage. In my book fussier just means it’s less likely to happen. And a backup plan isn’t the same as a backup.

There’s also no harm in using both, with iCloud for nightly automatic backups and iTunes for an extra backup just before upgrading to iOS 13 or to a new iPhone or iPad. A second backup can be useful—I’ve seen situations where an iPhone would refuse to restore its files from iTunes but would from iCloud, or vice versa.

To back up to iCloud, go to Settings > Your Name > iCloud > iCloud Backup, turn the switch on, and tap Back Up Now. On that same screen you will see the current backup status. For backups to happen automatically in the future, you must have sufficient space in your iCloud account (you can buy more for a reasonable cost), and your device must be on a Wi-Fi network, connected to power, and have its screen locked. For most people, those conditions are met every night while you sleep.

To back up to iTunes, connect your device to your Mac via a Lightning-to-USB cable, launch iTunes, and click the device icon to the right of the media menu. Beginning with macOS Catalina you’ll find this in Finder instead of iTunes, on the sidebar where you would normally see hard drives and flash drives.

Then, in the Backups section, click the Back Up Now button. If you’re prompted to encrypt your backups, I encourage you to agree since otherwise, your backup won’t include passwords, Health information, or HomeKit data. For automatic backups via iTunes, select This Computer. After that, every time you plug into your Mac, it will back up.

The eagle-eyed among you will have noticed that I’m not talking about how to restore if something goes wrong during an upgrade. That’s because it’s impossible to predict exactly what might happen or what state your device will end up in. So if you’re unfortunate enough to have such problems—or to have some other catastrophic failure—contact Apple Support for help or my clients can get in touch with me.

(Featured image based on an original by Alejandro Escamilla on Unsplash)