How to fix an Apple iPhone XS Max that won't back up to iTunes [Troubleshooting Guide]

Many people prefer to back up files to iCloud because they found it better and faster but the thing is that backing up to iCloud may not always be that successful especially when network problems strike. When this happens, your next option would be to back up files manually. And this is where iTunes play its vital role. But then again, iTunes is also not free of flaws as there are many factors that can cause iTunes to fail. If you’re seeing an error message that says, “iTunes could not backup iPhone” when trying to back up your iPhone XS Max on a computer, then it’s probably due to a problem with the connection between your iPhone and the computer or could be due to some problems with iOS, if not, with iTunes or the computer system itself.

To give you some inputs on how to fix the problem, I’ve mapped out some helpful workarounds that are used to rule out software problems on the iPhone, iTunes or computer from the underlying causes. Read on whenever you need help in resolving this issue.

Before troubleshooting, check and do the following requisites:

  • Check and ensure no damage to your cable. A damaged cable could be the main reason why your iPhone won’t sync or connect to iTunes or vice versa. As a result, you won’t be able to backup files from your iPhone to iTunes. Also be sure to use only the Apple-supplied (OEM) cable for your iPhone. If you’ve got a spare Apple-supplied Lightning cable, then you can try using that and see if it’ll work. This will help you rule out cable issues from the underlying cause.
  • Make sure iTunes is up-to-date, otherwise install new updates. Obsolete iTunes version is no longer supported in iOS 12, so you need to work on that too.
  • Make sure your computer has enough space to store new files from your iOS device. Even if iTunes is working just fine but if your computer doesn’t have enough memory space, iTunes won’t still be able to backup your iPhone files. In that case, you need to free up some space from your computer’s internal storage by deleting old and unwanted files or uninstalling unused computer programs.

If your iPhone XS Max still cannot back up to iTunes after complying all mentioned requirements and guidelines, then you may go ahead and troubleshoot your iPhone, iTunes and computer system with these subsequent methods.

First solution: Reboot your iPhone and your computer.

To rule out minor software issues on the phone and computer system that might have caused iTunes backup to fail, start with a soft reset on your iPhone XS Max and then restart your computer. To soft reset or restart your iPhone, follow these steps:

  1. Press and hold the Side/Power button and either Volume buttons simultaneously for a few seconds.
  2. Release the buttons when the Slide to Power Off command appears and then drag the power off slider to the right.
  3. After 30 seconds, press and hold the Power/Side button again until the phone reboots.

Alternatively, you can do a force restart to abruptly close all errant apps and corrupted services that might have caused conflict with the syncing process between your iPhone and iTunes. Here’s how it’s done:

  1. Press and quickly release the Volume Up button.
  2. Press and quickly release the Volume Down button.
  3. Then, press and hold the Power button on the side of the phone and then release when the phone restarts.

On your computer, just do the usual method to restart the system.

  • If you’re using a Windows 10 computer, you can restart or shut down through the Start Menu or Start button and then select Restart or Shut down from the menu options. Or you can also use the hardware keys or shortcut keys. To do so, press the Ctrl+Alt+Del keys simultaneously and then choose the Sign Out or Restart.
  • If you’re using a Mac computer, click on the Apple key and then click on Restart. Alternatively, you can use the control key combos that’s done by pressing the Control+Command+Eject or Control+Command+Power buttons on your keyboard.

Wait until your devices are finished rebooting and once they’re done, connect your iPhone via USB then try to back up to iTunes again and see if it works. If not, then continue to troubleshoot.

Second solution: Rename the backup file or move it to another location.

To rule out any filename issues, try entering another name for your backup file. There may be some existing backups of the same filename so the next backup will be invalid. Usually you will be prompted with an error message telling you about filename issues. So just read and review any message prompt to find out what the computer wants to tell you.

Or you can also set a different path or directory to save your new backup. The default file path may no longer be valid and therefore needs to be modified. You can also create a new dedicated folder for your most recent iPhone XS Max backups. Just be sure to note that exact location or directory where your backup is saved so won’t find a hard time looking for it later.

Third solution: Update your iPhone software to the latest version available.

Installing new updates for iOS and iPhone apps can also be considered among the possible solutions especially if the problem is tied to some system errors and errant apps. Updates for iOS usually embed patches or codes to get rid of bug-inflicted issues on the device. App updates also offer fix patches to clear the app from any sort of bugs that might have caused conflicts.

To check for new iOS update on your iPhone XS Max, go to Settings-> General-> Software Update menu. Then follow the onscreen instructions to download and install new update when ready.

Note that your phone must have stable Wi-Fi internet connection and enough memory space and battery life to complete the update via over-the-air.

To check for and install pending app updates, go to the App Store-> Updates section. Then tap the Update button next to an app to install individual updates or tap Update All to install all app updates at once.

After installing new updates, reboot your iPhone to apply the new system changes and to refresh the apps. When it’s done rebooting, try to connect to iTunes and see if the problem is solved.

Fourth solution: Disable firewall and other security software on your computer.

Another possible hindrance is a security software like an antivirus or firewall installed on the computer. When these programs perceive some security threats the moment you plug your iPhone into the computer’s USB port, they will usually deny access to your iOS device. But that will also depend on how the security software is configured on your computer. If you have one installed, then you can try to reconfigure it to grant access or remove restrictions to your iPhone XS Max, or just disable the software temporarily until you’re finished backing up your iPhone to iTunes.

Fifth solution: Reinstall iTunes on your computer.

The problem can also be with iTunes itself. Like any other computer programs, iTunes may also become corrupted and if that happens it could stop working. In this case, you will need to delete the corrupted iTunes program and then reinstall it your computer.

Uninstalling programs may vary depending on the operating system of your computer. If you need more help on how to uninstall and reinstall iTunes, then you may contact Microsoft Support (Windows) or Apple Support (Mac) to walk you through in the entire process.

After reinstalling iTunes, reboot your computer to clear errant caches and to refresh the operating system. Then try to connect your iPhone XS Max using the same USB to Lightning cable setup.

Other options

  • Use another computer. The problem could be with the computer you’re using if you still cannot back up your iPhone XS Max to iTunes. In that case, try using a different computer (if you have one available) and use it to back up your iOS files through iTunes instead. Also ensure that the computer is running on compatible OS and has the latest version of iTunes software installed.
  • Use third-party iOS backup software. Aside from iTunes, you can also use other file management software from third-party developers. These tools can be downloaded on your computer for free or thru one-time purchase. Just pick the most reliable and highly-rated software that’s compatible with iOS 12 or later versions.

You can also contact Apple Support and seek help in performing more advanced troubleshooting methods to eliminate complex errors with iTunes on your Mac computer or talk to Microsoft Support to fix major problems with iTunes on a Windows computer.

Connect with us

If you need more help with the use of certain functions and features of the Apple iPhone XS Max smartphone, feel free to visit our Tutorial Page. There you can find a list of how-to contents, step-by-step tutorials, as well as answers to FAQs regarding iPhone XS Max. If you have other concerns or encountered some troubles while using the phone, you can reach us through this form. Just be sure to tell us more details of the problem or device issue(s) you may have and we will be more than happy to assist you further.