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iPhone backups--David's iPhone tip of the week

The more you depend on your iPhone, the more important your iPhone backups are. This week's tip is on iPhone backups.

If you've had an iPhone for a long time and you have grown to depend on it then you should know that iPhone backups are important. This week I'll focus on some good tips about the automatic backups created in iTunes each time you sync your iPhone or iPod Touch. All of the tips apply, whether you are using Mac OS X or Windows.

Speed up your backups

If you own an iPhone, you probably enjoy the convenience of using the built-in camera for both still and video photography. I know I do, but my over enthusiastic use of the camera leads to more media on the Camera Roll, which leads to longer sync times. Each sync takes longer because of the automatic backup included in the process. If you want to speed things up you should read my previous post, which I highly recommend to new iPhone owners, on how to improve iPhone backup and restore times by managing your Camera Roll.

Secure your backups with encryption

I recommend that you set up iTunes so that it will encrypt and password protect your backups. This will protect the data in the backups from idle examination in the event that your computer is lost or stolen. It's easy to configure using the following steps:

1. Launch iTunes.
2. Attach your iPhone or iPod Touch using the USB sync cable to your computer.
3. Once iTunes recognizes your device, locate and select the Summary tab for that device.
4. Under Options, locate Encrypt iPhone backup and make sure it is checked.
5. When prompted, configure the password that will be used to access your encrypted backups.

Encrypt your backups by checking the box indicated by the arrow. Screenshot by David Martin/CNET

Manage your backups in iTunes

iPhone and iPod Touch backups are all managed by iTunes automatically, but you have the ability to delete older backups from your current devices or backups from devices you no longer own.

1. Launch iTunes.
2. Open the iTunes preferences on your computer.
3. Select the Devices tab.

Devices tab of iTunes preferences houses the list of backups performed. Screenshot by David Martin/CNET

iTunes will now display the device backups that are stored on your computer. If you sync more than one device there will be entries in the list for each one. They are listed in chronological order and the most recent one is usually the most important one. Older backups can be just as important, especially, for example, if you are migrating from an older iPhone to a newer model. You might want to retain that old backup until you are sure that your migration to the newer phone was successful.

If you decide you need to delete one of the backups, simply click on its entry under Device backups as shown above and click the Delete Backup button. iTunes will remove it from the list.

You should consider performing a sync and backup of your iPhone or iPod Touch immediately before or after you make any major changes like adding new contacts, before going on a trip, etc. Definitely perform these tasks before doing a firmware update. Hopefully these tips will make your backups take less time to perform, more secure, and easier to manage.