What is iCloud Data Recovery Service and how to set it up?

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As of macOS Catalina, the iTunes app has been replaced by Apple Music, Podcasts, and Apple TV.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.

Mac laptop screen with Apple Music

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:

  1. Open Installation application.
  2. Option Your name.
Settings application
  1. Option Password & Security.
Password & Security
  1. Option Recover account.
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.

Add recovery 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.

Send a message> Added account recovery contact ” class=”wp-image-15523″  /></figure>
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<p>Another option is to create a recovery key, so you can recover your account and access your iCloud data without the assistance of others.  However, this option comes with some special considerations, which are covered later in this article.</p>
<h2><span class=Set Up iCloud Data Recovery Service on iPadOS

The steps to enable iCloud Data Recovery on iPad are very similar to those of iOS. Here’s what you need to do:

  1. Open Installation application.
  2. Option Your name.
Settings application
  1. Option Password & Security.
Password & Security
  1. Option Recover account.
Recover account

Like the iPhone method above, you can now add a recovery contact that you trust.

Account recovery contact screen
Add recovery contacts

Don’t choose the recovery key option until you read our important notes about it below.

Set up iCloud Data Recovery Service on macOS

If you have a MacBook or Mac, the process is slightly different for iOS devices. The following screenshots were taken on a MacBook Air M1 running macOS Monterey. Here’s how to set up iCloud Data Recovery on macOS:

  1. Choose Apple icon at the top left of the screen.
  2. Select System Preferences.
System Preferences
  1. Option Apple ID.
Apple ID has been selected
  1. Option Password & Security.
Password & Security
  1. Option Recover account.
Recover account
  1. Next Recover accountoption Manage
Add recovery contacts
  1. Below Recovery Supportchoose “+” icon to add recovery contacts.
Add Recovery Contact screen

You can also add a recovery key here or enable or disable 2FA, but please read the next section before doing so.

Should you use a recovery key?

If you choose to use a recovery key and lose it, you can no longer recover your account using Apple’s standard account recovery process. This is a safer way to secure your account because hackers cannot use your information to abuse the standard account recovery process. However, you’ll need a recovery key, a trusted phone number, and an Apple device running at least iOS11 or macOS High Sierra. Because the recovery key is so secure, you need to keep copies of it in a place where you won’t lose access but also inaccessible to unwanted people.

Restore button on keyboard

It’s important to note that you shouldn’t set up a recovery key option at this time if you’re already using two-factor authentication (2FA). The recovery key and the 2FA recovery method seem to interfere with each other. As mentioned above, using a recovery key will block the standard recovery method enabled by 2FA. It is better to choose only one of these two recovery options. If you don’t have high security needs, it’s better to stick with 2FA, which should be more than enough for most users.

Don’t just use a backup solution

While it’s nice to have a backup access solution to your iCloud backups, it’s never a good idea if you put all your eggs in one basket. The good news is that you can easily back up your data to multiple cloud services.

For example, you can install Microsoft OneDrive or Google Photos and have these apps automatically upload your information to their data centers. So even if you lose access to your iCloud backup, there are other places you can go to get your data back. With so many ways to secure your information, there’s no reason for you to fall victim to data loss again.

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