How do I get iTunes to sync?

Quick Overview

iTunes syncing allows you to transfer music, videos, photos, and other content between your computer and iOS devices like iPhones, iPads, and iPod touches. Setting up and troubleshooting iTunes sync can be frustrating at times, but this guide will walk you through the main steps to get iTunes sync working properly.

The key things to check are:

  • Make sure you have the latest version of iTunes installed on your computer.
  • Connect your iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch to your computer using the included USB cable.
  • Enable syncing in the Summary tab for your device in iTunes.
  • Select the content types you want to sync in the different tabs like Music, Movies, TV Shows, Podcasts, etc.
  • Click the Sync or Apply button in iTunes to transfer the content.
  • Check that your devices have enough free storage space for syncing content.
  • Authorize your computer to sync purchased content with your Apple ID.
  • Use the same Apple ID on all your devices for a smoother syncing experience.
  • Disable syncing selectively for any content you don’t want transferred.

Follow the step-by-step guide below for more detailed instructions on setting up iTunes sync and troubleshooting common issues.

Step 1: Install or Update to the Latest Version of iTunes

The first step is to make sure you have the most up-to-date version of iTunes installed on your Windows or Mac computer. iTunes is updated regularly with bug fixes and improvements, so it’s important to keep it updated.

Here’s how to update iTunes:

  • On Windows: Open the Microsoft Store app and search for iTunes. If an Update option shows, click it to update to the latest version.
  • On Mac: Open the App Store app and click Updates. If an iTunes update is available, click Update to install it.
  • Alternatively on Mac, you can go to Apple Menu > About This Mac > Software Update to check for updates.

If you don’t already have iTunes installed, you can download the latest version for free from Apple’s website.

Having the current iTunes version will ensure maximum compatibility with your iOS devices and help prevent potential syncing issues.

Step 2: Connect Your iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch to Your Computer

Once iTunes is up to date, connect your iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch to your computer using the included USB cable.

If you’re using a Mac with a newer iPhone or iPad model that has a USB-C connector, you may need to use a USB-C to USB adapter.

On connecting the device, iTunes should automatically detect it and show it under the Devices section in the top left sidebar.

If your device isn’t recognized, try using a different USB port or cable. Rebooting your device or computer may also help get it detected properly in iTunes.

Step 3: Enable Syncing in the Summary Tab

With your device connected, click on it in the Devices section in iTunes. Then go to the Summary tab for the device.

Towards the bottom of the Summary screen, check that the Sync option is enabled and selected for your device.

If Sync is turned off, simply click on it to enable syncing. This ensures that updates, new purchases and other content transfers will occur when you sync.

Wi-Fi Sync vs Wired Syncing

You also have the option on the Summary tab to set up Wi-Fi sync to sync your device wirelessly over your Wi-Fi network. This allows syncing without having to physically connect the device.

To use Wi-Fi sync, simply check the Sync this iPhone/iPad over Wi-Fi option. You will then need to plug in your device once initially to complete the Wi-Fi setup process.

After that, your device will automatically sync when connected to power and joined to the same Wi-Fi network as your computer.

Wired USB syncing is generally faster and more reliable than Wi-Fi syncing. But Wi-Fi sync can be more convenient if you frequently sync large media files like movies or TV shows.

Step 4: Select Content to Sync

With syncing enabled, you can now choose the type of content and media you want to transfer from your iTunes library to your device.

The different content types that can be synced include:

  • Music
  • Movies
  • TV shows
  • Podcasts
  • Audiobooks
  • Photos
  • Playlists
  • Apps
  • Books

Go through each of the content tabs in iTunes and select the items you want to sync. For example, under Music, check Sync Music and select your playlists or whole library.

You can configure iTunes to automatically fill your device with new content added to iTunes up to the storage capacity of your device. Or you can manually sync selected playlists, artists, albums and genres.

Be selective in what content you sync to avoid filling up all the storage space on your device. Music, videos, podcasts and photos take up a lot of space in particular.

Purchased Content and Automatic Downloads

Media and apps purchased through iTunes or the App Store are automatically synced and available for download across your devices. This requires that you use the same Apple ID on all devices.

You can configure automatic downloads for new music, app, book and audiobook purchases in your Apple ID account settings. This will automatically begin downloads on your device without needing to sync each time.

Step 5: Sync Your Device to Transfer Content

Once you have configured syncing options and selected content to transfer across, it’s time to run the actual sync process.

Here are the steps to sync your device and transfer content:

  1. Make sure your device is still connected to your computer.
  2. In iTunes, click the Sync button in the bottom right corner of the window.
  3. You can also click the Apply button instead to sync changes without transferring all the selected content.
  4. The sync process will now run, showing the transfer status of your music, videos, apps and other content.
  5. Do not disconnect your device while sync is in progress.
  6. The sync is complete when the status says “Sync Complete” and your device shows up under Devices again.

Syncing can take from a few minutes to over an hour depending on how much content you are transferring across. Music, video, podcasts and photos take the longest.

Partial and Selective Syncing

If you have a large iTunes library, you may want to only sync partial content rather than your entire music collection.

To sync just certain playlists or albums, simply deselect the Sync Entire Music Library option and choose your desired music to transfer instead.

You can disable syncing for individual content types like Music or Movies from the Summary tab. This allows selective sync so you only transfer the content you want.

The Apply button is useful to sync small changes without retransferring everything.

Step 6: Manage Capacity and Storage

Syncing a lot of content from iTunes to your device requires having enough available storage space. Music, videos, photos and apps can quickly fill up the fixed capacity on iPhones and iPads.

Here are some tips for managing storage:

  • Check how much free space is available on your device before syncing. Go to Settings > General > iPad/iPhone Storage to see capacity details.
  • Try to maintain at least 20-30% free space on your device.
  • Selectively sync only your most needed media files and apps.
  • Downgrade to lower resolution videos to take up less space.
  • Use Apple Music or Spotify streaming instead of always syncing large music libraries.
  • Offload unused apps from your device while keeping app data.
  • Delete old text messages, photos and files you no longer need.
  • Upgrade to a device model with higher capacity if needed.

Managing storage well is important for syncing to work reliably and quickly.

Step 7: Authorize Computers and Accounts

To sync purchased content from iTunes or the App Store to your device, you need to authorize the computer with your Apple ID account. This associates your iTunes library with your account.

On your computer, go to Account > Authorizations in the iTunes menu bar. Here you can authorize the computer which enables it to sync paid content to your devices.

You should also use the same Apple ID for purchases on all your devices. This allows automatic syncing of apps, music, books etc. that you download across devices.

Changing Apple IDs part way through can cause content to become unmatched between iTunes and your device, so try to use a consistent ID.

Common iTunes Sync Issues and How to Fix Them

Despite the steps above, you may occasionally run into issues getting iTunes to reliably and smoothly sync content to your iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch.

Here are some of the common syncing issues and how to troubleshoot them:

Problem Solution
Syncing is slow even for small files
  • Use a faster USB cable designed for syncing
  • Try wireless Wi-Fi syncing instead
  • Restart your computer and device
Device won’t show up in iTunes
  • Check USB connections and change cables
  • Reboot the device and computer
  • Update to the latest version of iTunes
  • Try a different USB port on your computer
Sync gets stuck or frozen
  • Force restart your device
  • Update iTunes and iOS software
  • Disable and reenable syncing
  • Try syncing media selectively
Entire music library won’t sync
  • Check you have enough free space on device
  • Sync selectively – choose playlists or artists instead of entire library
Photos won’t sync properly
  • Import photos to your Pictures folder in Windows or Mac OS
  • Consolidate your photo library in iTunes
  • Check you have enough device storage space
Purchases won’t download or sync
  • Authorize your computer with your Apple ID
  • Use the same Apple ID on all devices
  • Check that automatic downloads are enabled in your account settings

As you can see, common issues involve not having enough device storage, software needing updates, account and authorization problems, connectivity issues, or content conflicts.

Following the tips above should help diagnose and fix most iTunes syncing problems. Don’t hesitate to contact Apple support if you can’t resolve an issue.

Best Practices for Syncing Your iPhone or iPad

To wrap up, here are some best practices to keep in mind for smooth iTunes syncing with your iOS devices:

  • Update iTunes on your computer regularly to latest version
  • Keep your iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch updated to current iOS version
  • Use high-quality USB cables designed for syncing
  • Authorize your computer with your Apple ID
  • Maintain at least 20% free space on your device
  • Enable automatic downloads for new purchases
  • Sync selectively – don’t transfer your entire media library
  • Disable syncing for content you don’t want transferred
  • Consolidate and organize your iTunes media libraries
  • Back up your device to iCloud or iTunes regularly

Following these best practices will prevent many common issues and help iTunes syncing work seamlessly. Syncing your iPhone or iPad with iTunes ensures you always have your latest apps, music, videos, photos and other content on all your devices.


Syncing your iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch with iTunes provides an essential way to manage media, apps, photos, and other content across devices.

Setting up sync properly the first time avoids many problems down the road. Enable sync in device summary, select content to transfer, manage capacity well, and authorize your computer.

Troubleshoot issues by updating software, using quality cables, rebooting devices, syncing selectively, consolidating media, and checking authorizations.

Leverage iTunes sync to enjoy your favorite music, videos, podcasts, photos and apps on all your devices conveniently. Follow best practices for smooth syncing results.