A Simple Introduction to Syncing an iPhone to Your Computer

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Introduction to Syncing iPhone to Computer

You manage what content is added to and removed from your iPhone by syncing it.

The first step to sync the iPhone to computer is very simple: plug the cable that came with the iPhone into a USB port on your computer and the other end into the dock connector on the bottom of the iPhone. When you plug the cable in, your phone will begin to sync. The rest of the iPhone sync process happens in iTunes.

If you've just gotten a new iPhone and want to set it up for the first time, check out How to Activate an iPhone.

Otherwise, read on.

The first screen you come to should be the iPhone management screen. If it doesn't appear, look at the top right corner of the iTunes window for the iPhone button and click on it. That will take you to the management screen.

The iPhone management screen offers basic overview and option information about your phone. Click to other screens via the tabs at the top. The boxes on this screen do the following:

In the iPhone box at the top of the screen, you'll see a picture of your iPhone, the phone's name, storage capacity, version of the iOS it's running, serial number, and your phone number.

This section of the top box lets you:

This section details your backup options and what backups you have.
  • Automatically Back Up - Choose where your iPhone will back up its contents. Your options are:
    • iCloud: If you're using iCloud, your data will back up there daily
    • This computer: Backs up your data when you sync your iPhone to this computer
    • Encrypt iPhone backup: Select this option to password protect the backups on your computer
  • Back Up Now - Click this button to back up your iPhone right away
  • Restore Backup - This button lets you restore an existing back up onto your iPhone.

  • Automatically sync when this iPhone is connected - Ensures that iTunes launches and syncs the phone when you connect it. Consider unchecking this if you connect your iPhone to multiple computers or play your music through other computers.
  • Sync with this iPhone over Wi-Fi - When this is enabled and your iPhone is on the same Wi-Fi network as your computer, it will sync--no more cables!
  • Sync only checked songs and videos - Useful if your iTunes library is bigger than your iPhone's capacity. Uncheck the small box to the left of songs/video you don't want to sync.
  • Prefer standard definition videos - Designed to conserve disk space. This option ensures that, if you've got both HD and standard definition versions of a video, the smaller standard definition version is synced.
  • Convert higher bit rate songs to 128 kbps AAC - Converts songs to the AAC format during syncing. This helps conserve space if your songs are encoded in other formats or at higher bitrates, which results in larger files.
  • Manually manage music and videos - Disables automated syncing. Instead, allows you to manually add and remove all content on your iPhone. Not recommended unless you've got a specific reason.
  • Reset Warnings - If you have previously dismissed any alerts or warnings on your iPhone, you can see them again by clicking this button.
  • Configure Universal Access - Turns on accessibility options for people with hearing or visual impairments.

This bar displays your phone's capacity and how much space each type of data takes up. Click on the text below the bar to see additional information about each kind of data.

The Sync button on the bottom right should be clicked when you've made changes to your settings and want to update the phone.

Info Tab: Sync Contacts, Email, Calendar to iPhone

The Info tab is where you manage the sync settings for contacts, calendars, email accounts, and other data.

Sync Contacts
Choose to sync all contacts or just selected groups of contacts. The other three options in this box include:
  • Add contacts created outside of groups on this iPhone to - Determines what group new contacts should be added to when the contact isn't otherwise in a group.
  • Sync Yahoo! Address Book contacts - Configure this to sync your Yahoo! Address Book with iPhone.

If your contacts are being synced between devices using iCloud, there won't be any options in this box, just a message about iCloud.

Sync Calendars
Lets you decide whether to sync all the calendars on your computer to the iPhone or just selected ones. You can also choose to not sync events older than 30 days.

Again, if you're using iCloud to sync your calendar data, you'll see a message about that.

Sync Mail Accounts
This box allows you to choose which email accounts from your computer are synced to the iPhone. This doesn't sync email messages, it just syncs your email account names and settings.

Learn more about email on iPhone by reading:

Lets you decide whether or not to sync your desktop Safari web browser bookmarks to the iPhone, as well as notes created in the iPhone's Notes app.

Again, this data can be synced using iCloud.

This box lets you choose overwrite data on the iPhone with data from the computer. Normally the sync process merges data, but this option--which should only be used with by more advanced users--will replace all the iPhone data with the computer's data for those categories.

Syncing Apps to iPhone

On the Apps page, you can control both what apps are synced to your iPhone and also the arrangement of those apps on the iPhone's screen.

Apps List
On the left side of the screen are all the apps that you've downloaded to your computer's hard drive. Click the Install button to the left of an app to sync it to your iPhone. You can sort the list of apps by name, kind, category, date, and size. Check the Automatically sync new apps box if you want newly downloaded apps to always be synced.

App Arrangement
On the right side of the screen, you'll see the homescreen of your iPhone and the apps you have on it. Here, you can arrange apps and make folders prior to syncing.
  • Add/Remove Apps - If you checked the box next to the app on the left, it will be synced. You can also add an app by dragging its icon from the left box onto the screen on the right. To remove an app from your iPhone, mouseover it and click the X that appears.
  • Arrange Apps - To arrange apps on the screens, drag the app icon to where you want it. To move an app to another screen, drag it to the screen you want it on in the far-right column.
  • Make/Delete Folders - To make or delete folders on this screen, follow the standard process for doing this.
  • Add/Remove Screens - To add another screen of apps, drag an app to the last screen in the list on the far right (the gray one). The remove a screen, simply drag all apps off it to other screens.

File Sharing
Some apps will share files between the iPhone and your computer.

This box is where you manage those files. Click on the app you want and either add new files from your computer to the iPhone or save files from the app to your computer.

Related: Learn more about using this feature here.

Syncing Ringtones to iPhone

The Tones tab is where you manage what ringtones are synced from iTunes to your iPhone. To sync ringtones, begin by choosing to sync either All tones or Selected Tones. If you choose All Tones, there's nothing else to do. If you choose Selected Tones, choose the ringtones you want to sync by checking the boxes next to each tone.

To learn about getting custom ringtones, check out:

Syncing Music to iPhone

The Music tab gives you a number of options for controlling what music is synced to your iPhone and how.
  • Sync Music - You must check this in order to sync music to your iPhone.
  • Entire Music Library does exactly what it sounds like it should: syncs all your iTunes music to your iPhone. This only works if your phone's storage is bigger than your library, of course. If not, you'll get some, but not all, of your music.
  • Selected playlists, artists, albums, and genres lets you decide what music gets downloaded to your iPhone.
    • If you select this, iTunes downloads only selected music to your iPhone. Sync playlists by checking the boxes on the left or all music by particular artists by checking the boxes on the right. Sync all music in a particular genre, or from a given album, by clicking the boxes at the bottom.
  • Include music videos syncs them to your iPhone if you have any.
  • Include voice memos syncs voice recordings to/from your iPhone.
  • Automatically fill free space with songs fills unused storage on your iPhone with music that you haven't already told iTunes to sync.

Syncing Movies to iPhone

On the Movies tab you can control the syncing of movies and videos that aren't TV shows (those are synced on the next screen).
  • Sync Movies - Check this box if you want to sync movies or other videos from your computer to your iPhone. Once you check this, each movie listed in the Movies box below will light up and have a checkbox next to it. To sync a given movie, click its checkbox.
  • Automatically Include - Click this is you want iTunes to automatically sync movies by default. The menu next to it will allow you to choose your preferences for what movies to sync and how.
    • All or Other Options - Your options here include the most recent movies added to your iTunes library whether you've watched them or not, all unwatched movies, or unwatched movies based on how recently you added them.

    Learn more about movies on the iPhone with:

    Sync TV to iPhone

    You can sync entire seasons of TV, or individual episodes, on the TV Shows tab.
    • Sync TV Shows - Check this box in order to enable syncing of TV shows to your iPhone. When you click it, all other options will light up.
      • To sync individual episodes of TV shows, click the show on the left and then the checkbox next to the episodes you want to add to your phone.
    • Automatically include - When checked, allows you to automatically sync shows based on the following criteria: unwatched, newest, newest unwatched, oldest unwatched, and from all shows or just selected shows.
    • Shows - Lists all the shows on your hard drive, as well as what seasons you have and how many episodes of each show. If there are new or unwatched episodes, a blue dot will appear next to the number of unwatched shows. Click on an individual show to see a list of all its episodes.
    • Episodes - Once you've clicked on a show, the episodes of that show will appear on the right.
    • Include Episodes from Playlists - TV shows can reside in playlists including Purchased and Recently Played. If you want to include shows from those playlists (though you won't have direct control from this screen over what they are), check the box next to the playlist.

    Syncing Podcasts & iTunes U to iPhone

    Podcasts have the same syncing options as the Movie and TV show screens. You can choose to sync none or all of your podcasts, as well as those fitting certain criteria. If you wish to sync some podcasts, but not others, choose "selected podcasts" and then click the ones you prefer.

    iTunes U

    The next tab, iTunes U, lets you sync educational content downloaded from iTunes to your phone. The interface for syncing iTunes U content is the same as for TV Shows and podcasts.

    Learn more about iTunes U here.

    Syncing iBooks to iPhone

    On the Books screen, you can manage how iBooks files, PDFs, and audiobooks are synced to your iPhone.
    • Sync Books - Check this box to enable the syncing of books and related files from your hard drive to your iPhone. When you check this, the other boxes below will light up and you'll be able to select individual books. Check the box next to each book to sync it.
    • All/Selected Books - Check All books to automatically sync all books to your iPhone. Check Selected books to control which get synced.
    • Sorting Options - Using the drop-down menus under the Books heading, you can sort files by type (Books and PDF files, Only Books, Only PDF files) and by title/author.
    • If you choose Selected books, check the box next to each book you want to sync.

    Below the Books section is the Audiobooks section. Syncing options for Audiobooks work the same way as for standard books.

    Resync to Update Content

    The iPhone can sync its photos with your iPhoto (or other photo management software) library. Choose what photo libraries, if any, to sync with iPhone in the Photos tab.
    • Sync Photos From - Check this box to enable syncing of photos from your hard drive to your iPhone and vice versa. The drop-down menu lets you select iPhoto or another folder that contains your photo library as the place to do the syncing.
    • All photos, albums, Events, and Faces - Select this to sync all photos, photo albums, and related information.
    • Selected photos, albums, Events, and Faces and automatically include - Gives you control over what photos and related content are synced, and also allows you to sync photos based on the time they occurred (this is done in the drop down).
      • When this is selected, the Albums, Events, and Faces box will light up and you'll be able to select individual items from within them by checking the boxes to the left of them.
    • Include videos - Check this to sync videos taken by the iPhone camera to your computer and vice versa.

    When you're done choosing all your settings, click the Sync button at the bottom right to resync the iPhone with iTunes and all your content will be updated based on the new settings you've just created.

    Advanced iPhone Tips:

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