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iOS: How to transfer or sync content to your computer

Learn how to configure sync in iTunes to transfer content between your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch and your computer. In addition to creating a backup, a sync with your computer allows you to manage contacts, calendars, and bookmarks on your computer.

If you are already managing your content with iCloud on your computer and iOS device, you can manage the data from iCloud on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch. Learn more about iCloud.

Setting up syncing

Before setting up syncing, download and install the latest version of iTunes. You can change sync options at any time. When you sync, content is shared between your iOS device and computer to reflect new, updated, or deleted content. 

USB syncing

  1. Open iTunes.
  2. Connect the iOS device to your computer using the included USB cable and click the device button in the upper right corner. (If you are viewing the iTunes Store, click the Library button in the upper right corner. The device button will then be visible.) Some tabs may not appear if you do not have corresponding content in your library. For example if you do not have any podcasts in your library, the corresponding Podcasts tab will not appear.
  3. You can configure the different content types in each tab. For example, movies under the Movies tab.
  4. To sync, click Apply, in the lower-right corner of the screen.

Note: If the iOS device does not appear in the Devices section or if you are unable to sync, please follow these troubleshooting steps.

Wi-Fi syncing

Syncing over Wi-Fi requires iTunes 10.5 or later and iOS 5 or later. Also, your computer must be connected to the same Wi-Fi network as your iOS device.

  1. Open iTunes.
  2. To set up Wi-Fi syncing, connect your iOS device to your computer with the included USB cable. Click the device button in the upper right corner. (If you are viewing the iTunes Store, click the Library button in the upper right corner. The device button will then be visible.)
  3. In the Summary tab, select "Sync with this [device] over Wi-Fi".
  4. Whenever the computer and the iOS device are on the same network, the iOS device will appear in iTunes, and you can sync it. The iOS device will sync automatically when all of the following are true:
    • The iOS device is plugged in to power
    • iTunes is open on the computer
    • The iOS device and the computer are on the same Wi-Fi network
  5. While the iOS device appears in the upper right corner of iTunes, you can select the content tabs and configure sync options.
  6. Click Apply or Sync to sync the iOS device.

Note: If the iOS device does not appear in the Devices section or if you are unable to sync, please follow these troubleshooting steps.

Syncing manually

If you prefer not to automatically sync music content to your device, you can set up manual syncing. If you want to manually manage your content with more than one computer and your device, see this article.

  1. Connect your device to your computer and open iTunes.
  2. Click the device button in the upper right corner. (If you are viewing the iTunes Store, click the Library button in the upper right corner. The device button will then be visible.)
  3. In the main iTunes browser window, select the Summary tab.
  4. Select the option to "Manually manage music and videos" or "Manually manage music." This will deselect the automatic sync settings for the Music, Movies, and TV Shows tabs.
  5. Click Apply.

After following the steps above, you can add individual songs, videos, and playlists from iTunes to your device. To add content to your device:

  1. Select your device.
  2. Click "On this Device".
  3. Then choose "Add to" in the upper right corner.
    While viewing the media in your iTunes Library, if you drag a song, video, TV show, or movie a sidebar will show up on the right. You can drag content onto the device.  You can also create and modify playlists directly on the device.

Syncing music with Autofill

When the "Manually manage" option is enabled, you can use Autofill to quickly sync audio content from your music library or a selected playlist. Autofill settings allow you to adjust how songs are selected for syncing as well as allocate space for disk use. To use Autofill, make sure your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch is set to manually manage music using steps 1 through 5 above and then follow the steps below.

  1. Click the device button in the upper right corner. (If you are viewing the iTunes Store, click the Library button in the upper right corner. The device button will then be visible.)
  2. Click the On This Device tab.
  3. Click Music in the left column.
  4. Select the Music library and review the Autofill settings at the bottom of the main iTunes window.
  5. When you click the Autofill button, iTunes will automatically sync as much music as possible to your device. If the playlist you selected contains more music than your device can hold, Autofill will sync a subset of the music. The iTunes LCD will display the sync progress and notify you when the sync is complete.
  6. When you are ready to disconnect your device, you may do so without ejecting it. An iOS device doesn't need to be ejected before disconnecting it.

iTunes and App Store content

iTunes Store and App Store content on your iOS device may not automatically transfer to your computer. You can use the Transfer Purchases option in iTunes to ensure that all iTunes Store and App Store content is transferred to your iTunes library. Learn about transferring purchased content.

For App Store apps that use File Sharing, transfer the files from within your apps to your computer using iTunes.

Messages

To keep pictures or movies you have sent from the Messages app or received in the Messages app, save them to the Camera Roll (or Saved Images library on iPad and iPod touch). Then import them to your computer.

Photos

You can import photos or video taken or saved on the iOS device. Information on importing photos and videos is available in the iPhone User Guide, iPad User Guide, or iPod touch User Guide. You can find additional information on importing your photos from your iOS device in this article.

Note: You can import only photos or videos that you took or saved on the iOS device. These photos will be in your device’s Camera Roll (or Saved Photos on iPad and iPod touch.) You can also share photos with others through emails and messages.

Contacts, Calendars, Bookmarks, and Notes

You can sync contacts, calendars, bookmarks, and notes with other applications on your computer. This allows you to keep all your information in sync across multiple computers and iOS devices. The settings for these items are all in the Info tab for your iOS device in iTunes. With your iOS device connected to the computer, select your iOS device. Then click the Info tab.

For details on syncing content on your iOS device with your computer, click the sections below.

Contacts

To sync contacts with your computer, choose "Sync Contacts with" within iTunes for Windows, or "Sync Contacts" in OS X v10.8, or "Sync Address Book Contacts" in OS X v10.7 and earlier.

You can sync your contacts with:

  • Microsoft Outlook 2003, Microsoft Outlook 2007, Microsoft Outlook 2010 (Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7, and Windows 8)
  • Windows Address Book (Windows XP)
  • Windows Contacts (Windows Vista, Windows 7, and Windows 8)
  • Address Book (Mac OS X v10.7 and earlier)
  • Contacts (Mac OS X v10.8)
  • Microsoft Entourage 2004, Microsoft Entourage 2008, or Microsoft Outlook 2011 for Mac

Notes:

  • When syncing contacts, you can choose to sync all of your contacts or only selected groups. The option to sync selected items may not show up until after the first sync.
  • You can select a group of contacts to which all new contacts created on your iOS device will be added.
  • Additional options for syncing include syncing your contacts with Yahoo or Gmail/Google Mail. You will need to configure it with the user name and password for your Yahoo or Google account.

Calendars

To sync calendars with your computer, choose "Sync Calendars" in Windows or Mac OS X v10.8 or "Sync iCal Calendars" in Mac OS X v10.7 and earlier.

You can sync calendars with:

  • Microsoft Outlook 2003, Microsoft Outlook 2007, Microsoft Office 2010 (Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7, and Windows 8)
  • iCal (Mac OS X v10.7 and earlier)
  • Calendars (Mac OS X v10.8)
  • Microsoft Entourage 2004, Microsoft Entourage 2008
  • Microsoft Outlook 2011 for Mac

Notes:

  • When syncing calendars, you can sync all calendars or sync specific calendars.
  • You can limit the data that is synced to only events that have occurred in the last 30 days. The option can be changed to any number of days.

Bookmarks

You can sync bookmarks between your computer and your iOS device. When syncing is enabled, all bookmarks will sync. You can sync bookmarks with the following applications:

  • Safari (Mac OS X)
  • Safari for Windows (Windows XP, Windows Vista, and Windows 7)
  • Microsoft Internet Explorer
    Note: Microsoft Internet Explorer refers to bookmarks as "Favorites."

Notes

Sync notes in the Notes application on iOS devices with notes in Mail on a Mac or with Microsoft Outlook 2003, 2007, or 2010 on a PC. (On a Mac, you must have the latest version Mac OS X Leopard, Mac OS X Snow Leopard, or OS X Lion installed to sync notes.) If you are using OS X Mountain Lion, you can use iCloud or an IMAP email account to share Notes with the Notes application on your computer. For more information about syncing Notes, see iOS: Syncing Notes.

Mail accounts

Mail account settings (email address, display name, server name, and user name) are synced from the computer to the iOS device; iTunes does not sync settings from the iOS device back to the computer and does not sync any email messages.

Email messages are not included in iOS backups. iOS Mail leaves copies of messages on the server.

Advanced

If you are experiencing difficulty with syncing, or have made a large number of changes on your computer, you can use the Advanced option to replace the Contacts, Calendars, or Notes on the iOS device during the next sync. These options will become deselected after the next sync. When you replace the data on the device, it will overwrite the data on the device. This action cannot be undone.

 

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Last Modified: Dec 28, 2013
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