Losing access to your iCloud data is a nightmare scenario. However, in iOS 15, Apple added a new feature called iCloud Data Recovery Service, which can get back (some of) your data when the worst happens. It’s easy to set up on iOS or macOS, and if you take the time, you’ll thank yourself one day.
What is iCloud Data Recovery Service?
iCloud Data Recovery Service is a feature of iCloud security that allows you to regain access to your photos, notes, documents, device backups, and most other types of encrypted data.
Note that there are limitations. First, it should be data that has been synced to the cloud. So, if your device is lost or damaged before it can be synced, the data will not be recoverable.
Second, it is not possible to recover any data using end-to-end encryption. The purpose of end-to-end encryption is to hide data from others, even Apple. Without the passcode (decryption key), your Keychain, Messages, and health data cannot be recovered. To access those data, you need a working device signed in to iCloud.
How iCloud data recovery service works
The idea behind iCloud Data Recovery Service is that you will designate a trusted friend or family member as your backup when you forget both your device passcode and Apple ID password.
Once you have specified your “Account Recovery Contact”. This can be anyone over the age of 13, with their own Apple ID, and whose Apple device is updated to the latest version of the operating system.
iCloud Recovery and iTunes Backup are different
As of macOS Catalina, the iTunes app has been replaced by Apple Music, Podcasts, and Apple TV. The iTunes app serves as a central hub where you’ll sync content with your iOS device and back it up to local storage.
iTunes still exists as a Windows app, and Windows users can use iTunes to create a local backup of their device. If you’re using Catalina or later, you can still create a local backup of your iOS device using your Mac, but that functionality is now available in Finder.
Whichever local backup method you choose, this is different from iCloud Data Recovery because you have to create a local backup manually to your Mac or PC
Who Needs to Set Up iCloud Data Recovery Service?
Unless you have absolutely no one you can trust, it’s probably best for every iCloud user to set up data recovery with a recovery contact. Even if you personally don’t feel the need for it, you may want to act as the recovery contact for others. If you have friends or family that easily forget their login information, you should convince them to set it up. Keep in mind that this is not something that you can enable after the fact.
The steps to activate the service are slightly different depending on the device you are using. The steps outlined below are for iOS 15, iPadOS 15, and macOS Monterey.
Set Up iCloud Data Recovery Service on iOS
The following screenshot is from an iPhone 11 Pro running iOS 15, but should be the same as any iOS device running iOS 15 or later. To set up iOS Data Recovery on your iPhone, do the following:
- Open Installation application.
- Option Your name.
- Option Password & Security.
- Option Recover account.
On this screen, you can do several things. To set up iCloud Data Recovery, select Add recovery contacts and choose a trusted person from your contacts.
After you complete the process, they’ll get a message that you can edit first, and if they accept, they can help you get your data back from your iCloud account on iCloud.com if your phone you lost, stolen, or you forgot your password.