How to archive an iPhone backup and why you might want to

When you backup your iPhone using a Mac, it overwrites the previous backup with the new one. Finder or iTunes does this to manage your Mac’s storage and ensure only the latest backups with the newest data are saved and old ones are discarded. Overall, this sounds like a great thing, but there is a caveat.

iPhone backup archive

Why you might want to archive an iPhone backup

iPhone backups made on different iOS versions are not compatible with each other. This means that if you have an iOS 15 backup, you cannot restore it to an iPhone running iOS 14.

Therefore, before downloading iOS developer or public beta, you must back up your iPhone running the current stable iOS version and archive this backup.

After a backup is archived, it is saved and not overwritten when you connect your iPhone to Mac and make a new backup. In other words, after archiving a backup, you have at least two backups for that device. The first one is the archived backup which remains untouched. And the other is the normal backup that gets overwritten every time you make a new backup.

You can archive as many backups as you want. However, this will quickly fill your Mac’s storage. So, limit yourself to one or two archived backups.

Let me explain further with an example.

Suppose you are on iOS 14 but want to try the iOS 15 beta. So, before you install the beta profile and download iOS 15 beta, follow the steps below to create an archived backup of your iPhone running iOS 14.

Doing this will ensure that if for any reason you want to switch and downgrade from iOS 15 beta back to iOS 14, you have a backup to restore that is compatible with iOS 14. As mentioned earlier, the backup you create when your iPhone is running iOS 15 beta cannot be restored after installing iOS 14.

How to create and archive an iPhone backup on Mac

Here are the steps to create a fresh backup and archive it on Mac running macOS Catalina, macOS Big Sur, and macOS Monterey.

  1. Connect your iPhone to the Mac via a Lightning cable.
  2. From the Finder Sidebar, click on your iPhone name and Trust if asked.
  3. Click Back Up Now and let it complete.
  4. Once the back up completes, click Manage Backups.
  5. Right-click on today’s backup file and choose Archive.
How to archive an iPhone backup on Mac

Now, when you back up this iPhone in the future, Finder will create a new backup file. It won’t overwrite the archived backup. The archived backup file shows the date and time along with the device name.

If you are running macOS Mojave or earlier, you have to use iTunes instead of Finder. The back up process is the same. That is, in iTunes, locate your iPhone and click Back Up Now. Once that’s done, click iTunes from the top menu bar and choose Preferences > Devices. Here, right-click on the backup file and select Archive. You will see the date and a padlock icon next to an archived backup.

Restoring to an archived backup

After downgrading from beta to the regular iOS version, connect the fresh iPhone to your Mac. Now open Finder or iTunes. It should show you a screen to restore the backup. Select the archived backup and follow along.

If you already set up your iPhone, you can restore the archived backup by clicking Restore Backup and selecting the archived backup file.

Once the backup restores, your iPhone will have the data that was on it the day this backup was made. However, contacts, reminders, calendar events, etc., stored in iCloud even when running the beta version, will sync back once you are logged in to your Apple ID.