You plug your iPhone into your computer and open iTunes, but your iPhone won’t show up. You’ve tried unplugging your iPhone from your computer and plugging it back in, closed and reopened iTunes, and you’re sure your Lightning cable works, but it still won’t connect. In this article, I’ll explain why your iPhone won’t connect to iTunes and how to fix the problem on Mac and PC.
Troubleshooting iPhone / iTunes Problems: Where To Begin
The first thing we need to do is double-check that your Lightning cable (the cable that charges your iPhone) is working properly. If the cable works for charging your iPhone, then it’s probably good—but not always. Some cables that work for charging won’t work to sync data.
You’ll typically see this with the cheap cables you’ll find at the gas station because they aren’t as high-quality as the cables that Apple produces. But not all non-Apple cables are low quality—here’s what makes the difference:
Look For MFi-Certified Cables
High-quality Lightning cables are MFi-certified. When a company applies for MFi certification from Apple, they are given the high-quality specifications and a unique identification chip for that specific cable. Have you ever seen “This cable or accessory is not certified and may not work reliably with this iPhone.” pop up on your iPhone? That means the cable is not MFi certified and may not be high-quality.
Amazon sells great MFi-certified iPhone cables that are about half as expensive as Apple’s. If you’re shopping in a store, look for the “Made for iPhone” logo on the box—that means the cable is MFi-certified.
After you’ve verified that your Lightning cable works, try plugging your iPhone into another USB port on your computer. USB ports can wear out too, and sometimes using a different port is enough to solve this problem.
From this point on, the fixes are different for Mac and PC. I’ll start by showing you how to fix this problem on PCs running Windows. If you have a Mac, you can skip right to the section about what to do when your iPhone won’t connect to iTunes on your Mac.
The Most Common Reason Why Your iPhone Won’t Connect To iTunes On Your PC
The most common reason why your iPhone won’t connect to iTunes is that the device driver isn’t working properly.
What’s A Device Driver?
A device driver (or just driver) is the program that tells Windows how to interact, or how to “talk” to the hardware that is connected to your computer. If your iPhone driver isn’t working properly, your computer won’t know how to communicate with your iPhone, and it won’t show up in iTunes.
Drivers stop working for a variety of reasons, and it’s a common problem on PCs for iPhones and other devices.
Troubleshooting Your iPhone’s Device Driver
On a PC, the first thing you need to do is to open Device Manager. You’ll find Device Manager in Control Panel, but the absolute easiest way to do this is to click on the search bar on your computer and type “Device Manager”.
After you open Device Manager, look for Universal Serial Bus controllers and click on the small triangle icon just to the right. A dropdown menu will open and you should see Apple Mobile Device USB Driver listed here.
Note: If your device is plugged in and shows up in the My PC or My Computer but you don’t see the driver here, don’t worry—I’ll get to that later.
How To Fix the Apple Mobile Device USB Driver on a PC
If you see Apple Mobile Device USB Driver but your iPhone won’t connect to iTunes, the driver probably needs to be updated or repaired. Right-click on Apple Mobile Device USB Driver and three options should appear: Update Driver Software…, Disable, and Uninstall.
Enable The Driver If You Can
If you see an option to Enable, click that and your problem should be solved. At some point, the driver was disabled, so enabling it again will fix the problem. If you don’t see Enable, keep reading.
Uninstall And Reinstall The Driver
I have found that uninstalling and reinstalling the driver is the easiest way to solve driver issues. The driver will only appear if your iPhone is plugged into your computer, so make sure your iPhone is plugged in before you look for this driver.
Click Uninstall and Windows will remove the driver from the list of Universal Serial Bus controllers. Next, unplug your iPhone and plug it back in. When you do this, your computer will automatically recognize your iPhone and reinstall an up-to-date version of the driver.
An out-of-date driver is a very common reason why an iPhone won’t connect to iTunes, so this should fix the problem. Open iTunes and look for the iPhone icon to see if your iPhone is connected. Make sure to look at your iPhone and click “Trust” to make sure it shows up.
Why You Need To Select “Trust” On Your iPhone
It’s very important that you tap Trust on your iPhone, or it won’t communicate with your computer at all. At this point, if your iPhone is showing up in iTunes, then you’re all set! If your iPhone still doesn’t show up, keep reading.
Choose The “Update Driver Software…” Option If You Can
If you choose Update Driver Software… after right-clicking on Apple Mobile Device USB Driver, you’ll see two options: Search automatically for updated driver software and Browse my computer for driver software.
Click on Search automatically for updated driver software and Windows will search the internet to find an updated version of the driver. If your computer isn’t connected to the internet, you’ll need to click Browse my computer for driver software—I’ll show you how to do that under the section below called How To Fix Problems Updating The Driver & What To Do If The Driver Is Missing.
If You Don’t See The Driver At All (It’s Missing From Device Manager)
There are two reasons why Apple Mobile Device USB Driver won’t show up in Device Manager:
- Your iPhone isn’t connect to the computer. Open the My PC or My Computer folder on your computer, and if you see your iPhone there, move onto the next option.
- The driver isn’t automatically showing up or reinstalling on your computer. If you deleted the driver from your computer and it won’t show up when you plug in your iPhone again, here’s how to fix it:
When the driver doesn’t show up at all, look for an option called Portable Devices in Device Manager. Click on the tiny triangle icon on the right of Portable Devices and you should see Apple iPhone listed. This is another way to verify that your iPhone is connected to your computer.
How To Fix Problems Updating The Driver & What To Do If The Driver Is Missing
From this point on, the fix is exactly the same for problems updating the driver and drivers that are missing from Device Manager altogether.
- If the Driver is completely missing, right-click on Apple iPhone under Portable Devices. Select Browse my computer for driver software and a window will appear on the screen.
- If you’re updating your driver, click the tiny triangle icon on the right of Universal Serial Bus controllers, click Update Driver Software…, and then click Browse my computer for driver software.
How To Browse For The Apple Mobile Device USB Driver
First, you’ll need to locate the folder where the driver is stored on your computer. This will mean navigating to the following directory (or folder) in the window:
C:\Program Files\Common Files\Apple\Mobile Device Support\Drivers
Don’t worry—I’m here to help with this process.
Finding The Correct Driver On Your Computer
After you select browse, look through the list until your find your C Drive. This may be the first option under This PC or This Computer.
If the This PC or This Computer folder isn’t open, click the small arrow on the right to open the folder and look for the C Drive. You’ll see something like OS (C:) or just C:. Either way, click on the arrow next to the C drive to open the dropdown menu.
Scroll down until you find Program Files and click the arrow open the dropdown menu. Next, scroll down to Common Files and open the dropdown menu again—you’re getting the hang of it, right?
This time, look for the Apple folder and open that dropdown menu. Scroll down again and look for Mobile Device Support and you guessed it—open the dropdown menu. Last step: Click on the folder called Drivers to select it. This folder should not have a small arrow next to it—simply click on the folder to select it and then click OK.
You have now selected the correct folder for updating the Apple Mobile Device USB Driver or finding a missing driver. Now, click Next in the window, and you’ll see a message that indicates the driver has been successfully installed or that the driver is now up-to-date.
If iPhone Still Doesn’t Show Up, Restart
At this point, the driver is installed correctly on your computer. If your iPhone still won’t show up in iTunes, then I recommend restarting your computer and your iPhone at the same time. Disconnect your iPhone from your computer and turn it off and back on, and then reboot your computer. After your computer turns back on, plug your iPhone back into your computer and open iTunes to see if the problem has been resolved.
Last Ditch Effort: Uninstall And Reinstall iTunes
If you still can’t connect your iPhone to iTunes on your PC, we need to uninstall iTunes completely and then reinstall the latest version of iTunes on your computer. You can download the latest version of iTunes from Apple’s website. When iTunes finishes installing on your computer, it’s a good idea to restart your PC before you continue with the process.
How Does Reinstalling iTunes Fix The Problem?
When you reinstall iTunes, it will install a tiny program that runs in the background of your computer called Apple Mobile Device Support. This program is very important because it runs the driver and the interface that lets your iPhone connect to iTunes. Uninstalling and reinstalling iTunes is the best way to fix problems with Apple Mobile Device Support.
Rebuilding Your iTunes Library After You Reinstall iTunes
If you uninstall iTunes, you won’t lose any of your music or movie files, but you may need to rebuild your iTunes library. Don’t worry—Apple has a great support article called If you don‘t see your entire library after you update iTunes on your Mac or PC that will walk you through the process. .
At this point, the problem will be solved—skip to the bottom of the article to wrap things up and leave a comment about which step worked for you.
My iPhone Won’t Connect To iTunes On My Mac!
To Apple fans, it will come as no surprise that troubleshooting the reasons why an iPhone won’t connect to iTunes on a Mac is usually much simpler than troubleshooting the problem on a PC. Before we do anything else, we need to make sure that your Mac realizes that your iPhone is plugged into your computer.
How To Check If Your Mac Recognizes Your iPhone
First, click on the Apple in the upper left-hand corner of the screen to open the Apple Menu, and select About This Mac.
Next, click System Report… to open the System Information app.
Click USB on the left and look for iPhone.
Troubleshooting iTunes / iPhone Problems On Mac
If your iPhone shows up in System Information but it doesn’t show up in iTunes, skip to step 3 below. If your iPhone isn’t in the list, start with step 1.
- Try a different USB port on your Mac.
- Try a different Lightning cable.
- Deactivate third-party security software. (Security software can sometimes be too aggressive and prevent your own USB devices from connecting to your Mac.)
- Reset the lockdown folder in iTunes. Check out Apple’s support article about how to reset the Lockdown folder on your Mac to learn exactly how to do it.
Your iPhone Shows Up Again In iTunes!
Great job! At this point, your iPhone is showing up again in iTunes. I bet you never thought you’d be so happy to see that little iPhone icon in iTunes again! Fixing the reasons why an iPhone won’t connect to iTunes isn’t always easy, and you deserve a pat on the back. Now you can get back to syncing and backing up your iPhone, just in case you need to restore it in the future. Let me know which fix worked for you in the comments section below.