As anyone who's ever lost data due to a hard drive failure or file corruption knows, making good backups of your data is essential. All computers encounter trouble sometimes and having a backup can be the difference between successfully recovering from the problem and losing days, months, or even years of data.
Backing up your iPad is just as important as backing up your desktop or laptop. While Apple makes backing up the iPad very easy--in the simplest version, you don't really have to do anything--there are some third-party options, too.
Backup iPad with iTunes
Every time you sync your iPad to your computer, an iPad backup is automatically saved on your computer that contains your settings and some data.
So, if you ever need to restore your iPad from backup, you'll be able to choose this backup and you'll be back up and running in a snap.
An important thing to know about the iTunes option, though, is that it doesn't backup your iPad's apps and music. Those are stored in your iTunes library and need to be backup as part of your computer backup or using iCloud (more on that in a minute). Given that, it's a good idea to ensure that you're employing some other kind of backup, whether it's an external hard drive or web-based automatic backup services. If you have to restore your iPad from backup, it would be too bad to lose your music because you didn't back it up.
Backup iPad with iCloud
Apple's iCloud service provides a number of ways to backup the data on your iPad, including music and apps.
First, you can automatically back up data, settings, photos, and documents to iCloud simply by turning its Backup feature on. To do this, you need to be running iOS 5 or higher. Then go to Settings -> iCloud -> Storage & Backup and slide iCloud Backup to On. After this, you'll need to manually sync with your computer when you connect it (the automatic syncing now happens with iCloud) and all your data will live in your iCloud account.
Like iTunes, the iCloud backup doesn't cover apps or music. For apps, this is easily solved: you can redownload any of your apps for free using iCloud.
Music is a little more complicated. You can use iCloud to redownload music you've purchased through the iTunes Store just like you do with apps. For music purchased elsewhere, you have two options: standard backup or iTunes Match. The standard backup option includes external hard drives and web-based services as noted above. On the other hand, iTunes Match is a $25/year service that scans your iTunes library and adds all the songs available there to your iCloud account for later redownloading if necessary. This can take a while to set up, especially if you have a big iTunes library, but if you do this before your crash (and, of course, maintain your subscription), it can help in recovering music lost in a crash.
Backup iPad with Third Party Software
If you'd prefer a more complete backup in a single location, you need third party software. The same programs that you can use to transfer music from your iPad to a computer can also, in most cases, be used to create a complete iPad backup. How you do that depends on the program, of course, but most will allow you to backup more data, apps, and music than either iTunes or iCloud does.
If you want to try this option, first consult this chart for programs that do and don't support the iPad. Then check out our tops picks for the programs of the bunch.
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