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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're 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 you set up syncing, get the latest version of iTunes. You can change your 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.
  3. Click the Devices button in the upper-right corner. (If you're viewing the iTunes Store, click the Library button in the upper-right corner. The Devices button will appear.) Some tabs may not appear if you don't have corresponding content in your library. For example, if you don't have any podcasts in your library, the corresponding Podcasts tab won't appear.
  4. Configure the different content types in each tab. For example, movies under the Movies tab.
  5. To sync, click Apply in the lower-right corner of the screen.

Note: If your iOS device doesn't appear in the Devices section or if you can't sync, you can get help syncing your device.

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.

Set up Wi-Fi syncing:

  1. Open iTunes.
  2. Connect your iOS device to your computer with the included USB cable.
  3. Click the Devices button in the upper-right corner. (If you're viewing the iTunes Store, click the Library button in the upper-right corner. The Devices button will appear.)
  4. In the Summary tab, select Sync with this [device] over Wi-Fi.

Sync over Wi-Fi:

  1. When your computer and 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.
  2. While the iOS device appears in the upper-right corner of iTunes, select the content tabs and configure sync options.
  3. Click Apply or Sync to sync the iOS device.

If the iOS device doesn't appear in the Devices section or if you can't sync, get help syncing your device.

Syncing manually

If you prefer not to automatically sync content to your device, you can set up manual syncing:

  1. Connect your device to your computer and open iTunes.
  2. Click the Devices button in the upper-right corner. (If you're viewing the iTunes Store, click the Library button in the upper-right corner. The Devices button will appear.)
  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.

Learn how to manually manage your content with more than one computer and your device.

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. Choose Add to in the upper-right corner. If you drag a song, video, TV show, or movie while viewing the media in your iTunes library, a sidebar will show up on the right. You can drag your 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 on, you can use Autofill to quickly sync audio content from your music library or a selected playlist. Autofill settings allow you to adjust how you select songs for syncing and how you 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, then follow these steps:

  1. Click the Devices button in the upper-right corner. (If you're viewing the iTunes Store, click the Library button in the upper-right corner. The Devices button will appear.)
  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're 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. To ensure that all iTunes Store and App Store content is transferred to your iTunes library, use the Transfer Purchases option in iTunes.

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've 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 your iOS device. Information on importing photos and videos is available in the iPhone User Guide, iPad User Guide, or iPod touch User Guide. Learn more about importing your photos from your iOS device.

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 apps 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

Sync contacts with your computer:

  • In OS X Mountain Lion v10.8, or OS X Mavericks v10.9.3 or later choose Sync Contacts.
  • In OS X Lion v10.7 or earlier, choose Sync Address Book contacts.
  • In Windows, choose Sync Contacts.

You can sync your contacts with:

  • Contacts (OS X Mountain Lion or OS X Mavericks v10.9.3 or later)
  • Microsoft Entourage 2004, Microsoft Entourage 2008, or Microsoft Outlook 2011 for Mac (OS X Mountain Lion and earlier)
  • Microsoft Outlook 2003, Microsoft Outlook 2007, Microsoft Outlook 2010 (Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7, and Windows 8)
  • Microsoft Entourage 2004, Microsoft Entourage 2008, or Microsoft Outlook 2011 for Mac (OS X Mountain Lion or earlier)
  • Windows Address Book (Windows XP)
  • Windows Contacts (Windows Vista, Windows 7, and Windows 8)
  • Address Book (OS X Lion or earlier)

Notes:

  • When syncing contacts, you can choose to sync all of your contacts or 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

Sync calendars with your computer:

  • In OS X Mountain Lion, or OS X Mavericks v10.9.3 or later choose Sync Calendars.
  • In OS X Lion or earlier, choose Sync iCal Calendars.
  • In Windows or choose Sync Calendars.

You can sync calendars with:

  • Calendar (OS X Mountain Lion or OS X Mavericks v10.9.3 or later)
  • iCal (OS X Lion or earlier)
  • Microsoft Outlook 2011 for Mac (OS X Mountain Lion or earlier)
  • Microsoft Outlook 2003, Microsoft Outlook 2007, Microsoft Office 2010 (Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7, and Windows 8)
  • Microsoft Entourage 2008, Microsoft Entourage 2004
    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 occurred in the last 30 days. You can change the option 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 apps:

  • Safari (OS X Mountain Lion v10.8 or earlier)
  • 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 app 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 of Mac OS X v10.5 Leopard, Mac OS X v10.6 Snow Leopard, or OS X Lion installed to sync notes.) If you're using OS X Mountain Lion or later, you can use iCloud or an IMAP email account to share notes with the Notes app on your computer. Learn more about 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 doesn't sync settings from the iOS device back to the computer and doesn't sync any email messages.

Email messages aren't included in iOS backups. iOS Mail leaves copies of messages on the server.

Note: Mail account settings aren't synced using OS X Maverics.

Advanced

If you're 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 can't be undone.

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Last Modified: Sep 4, 2014
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  • Last Modified: Sep 4, 2014
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