iTunes is one of my favorite pieces of software. It’s great for backing up your iPhone and syncing your iPhone to your computer. So when something goes wrong, you find yourself scratching your head and saying, “My iPhone won’t sync!” — and that can be really frustrating.
Never fear! There are a lot of things you can do to troubleshoot an iPhone that isn’t syncing with iTunes. I’ll walk you through making sure you have the right equipment, checking iTunes on your computer for syncing issues, and checking your iPhone for problems.
1. Check Your USB Lightning Cable For Problems
First, some basics. To sync your iPhone to iTunes, you’ll need an iPhone, a computer with a USB port, and a cable to connect your iPhone’s lightning port to a USB port in the computer.
In 2012, Apple introduced a new chip to their chargers, which makes it hard for cheaper, non-official chargers to work correctly with your iPhone. So if your iPhone won’t sync with iTunes, the cable could be to blame. Swap out the one you’re using for an Apple product, or buy one that says it’s MFi certified. MFi means “manufactured for iPhone,” and that means the cable was created with Apple’s blessing and contains the all-important chip. Buying an MFi certified cable may be cheaper than spending $19 or $29 on an official Apple product.
If you use the right kind of cable to plug your iPhone into your computer, iTunes should recognize your iPhone in a minute or two. If it doesn’t, read on. The trouble could be your computer or the iPhone itself.
Computer Issues and Syncing to iTunes
Sometimes, settings or software issues on your computer can be the reason your iPhone won’t sync to iTunes. I’ll walk you through a few different things to check your computer if you’re having syncing problems.
2. Try a Different USB Port
The USB ports on your computer can go bad, but it’s hard to tell if that’s happened. If your iPhone won’t sync to your computer, try a different USB port first. If your iPhone syncs with iTunes after you change USB ports, then you know what the trouble was. If not, move on to the next troubleshooting step.
3. Are Your Computer’s Date and Time Correct?
One of the first things to check on your computer if your iPhone is not syncing to iTunes is your computer’s date and time. If those are wrong, your computer will have trouble doing a lot of things, including syncing your iPhone to iTunes.
On a PC, you can check this by right-clicking on the date and time in the lower right-hand corner of the screen and then choosing Adjust Date/Time. On a Mac, you’ll go to your Apple menu, select System Preferences, and then go to Date & Time.
If your date and time are correct, read on. There could be another computer issue keeping your iPhone from syncing with iTunes.
4. Make Sure Your Software Is Up to Date
Do you have the latest version of iTunes and your computer’s operating system installed? There could have been problems in older versions of both that have now been corrected. Doing an update could fix your syncing issue.
To check for updates on iTunes, open iTunes, go to the Help menu, and click Check for Updates.
Sometimes, iTunes software issues can’t be fixed with a simple update. When that’s the case, you may have to uninstall and reinstall iTunes.
To check for operating system software updates on a Mac, go to the Apple menu and choose Software Update. On a PC, go to Settings in the Windows menu, then choose Update & Security.
Once your iTunes and operating system software are updated, restart your computer (if it hasn’t automatically restarted already) and try to sync your iPhone to iTunes again.
5. Update Your Firewall Settings
Is your iPhone still not syncing to iTunes? It could be because your computer firewall blocks iTunes from working properly. A firewall is a piece of security software or hardware. On a Windows computer, a firewall is software — a program that helps control what goes into your computer system and what comes out. Security is a great thing, but when it’s blocking a legitimate program (like iTunes), it can cause problems.
If your iPhone won’t sync with iTunes, it’s time to check your firewall settings. Go to your Windows start menu, or if you have Windows 10, you can go straight to the “Ask Me Anything” search field in the lower left-hand corner of the screen.
There, type in “firewall.cpl.” That will take you to the Windows Firewall screen. Select Allow an app or feature through Windows Firewall. Scroll down through the list of apps until you get to iTunes. The box next to iTunes should be selected. So should Public and Private. If those boxes aren’t already selected, click them, then select Change Settings.
6. Antivirus Software Causing Syncing Problems?
Antivirus software can cause similar problems with syncing. You’ll have to go into these programs individually and check to see if iTunes is authorized to work. Sometimes, on a PC, an alert will pop up in the lower corner of the screen when you try to sync an iPhone to iTunes. Click on this alert to give your iPhone permission to sync.
7. Check Your iPhone Driver Software
When you plug your iPhone into a computer for the first time, your computer installs a piece of software called a driver. That driver is what allows your iPhone and your computer to communicate. So trouble with driver software can be big trouble when you’re trying to sync your iPhone to iTunes.
You can check for updates to your iPhone driver and uninstall the driver (so that it will reinstall with fresh, hopefully bug-free software!) from the Windows Device Manager. You get to that from your Settings menu. Either search for Device Manager in your “Ask Me Anything” window or go to Settings → Devices → Connected Devices → Device Manager.
Here, you’ll see a list of all the different devices that have driver software installed on your computer. Scroll down to Universal Serial Bus controllers. Click the arrow to expand the menu. Then choose Apple Mobile Device USB Driver. Go to the Driver tab. Here you’ll see an option to Update Driver (choose “Search automatically for updated driver software,” then follow the prompts) and another option to Uninstall the Driver. I suggest checking for updates, then unplugging and replugging your iPhone first before trying to uninstall and reinstall the driver software.
When Your iPhone Causes Syncing Issues
If your software is all up to date, you’re using the right cord, you’ve checked your firewall and antivirus software, and you’re still having trouble syncing iPhone to a computer, the problem might be your iPhone. Read on, dedicated troubleshooters. We’ll find your solution yet!
One quick note: If you have iCloud sync set up for your iPhone, that data won’t sync with iTunes. So if your trouble syncing iPhone with iTunes is just that it won’t sync your photos, that may be because you already sync them with iCloud. Check your iCloud settings (Settings → iCloud) before you get upset about an iPhone not syncing with iTunes.
8. Check Your Charging Port
Over time, lint, dust, and other gunk can get crammed into your iPhone’s lightning port. That can make it hard to sync your iPhone. So one of the first things I do when my iPhone won’t sync is check to see if something is jammed in the port.
There are a few different ways to clear out the port. A lot of tutorials online will recommend using a toothpick to scrape out the port. I can see the logic here, but toothpicks are wood and a few things could happen. The tip could break off in the port, causing more problems, or it could damage the port.
I suggest trying a toothbrush that you’ve never used before — it’s naturally anti-static and hard enough to loosen debris but soft enough not to damage the port itself. For a more high-tech solution, try something like Cyber Clean. This product is a kind of gooey putty that you can push into ports, speakers, etc. and pull out again with lint and dust stuck to it. The Cyber Clean website even has a handy how-to guide.
Another great option is using compressed air. This is one of my go-to products at work for cleaning out my keyboard and mouse, and it can work wonders on your iPhone, too.
9. Restart & Reset Your iPhone
It’s the age-old question that all tech support personnel love: “Have you tried turning your iPhone off and back on again?” I myself recommended this to many people when I worked in technical support. And to be honest, it worked more often than not.
Turning your iPhone off and back on again helps resolve issues with the software. Software tells your iPhone what to do and how to do it. So if something is wrong, restarting those programs can help.
To restart, simply turn off your iPhone the old-fashioned way. Hold down the Sleep/Wake button, also known as the power button, on the upper right-hand side of your iPhone. When the screen says “slide to power off,” do so. Give your iPhone a minute or two, then power it back on. Try your sync again.
Still having trouble? A hard reset comes next. To do this, hold your power and home buttons at the same time. Let go when the screen changes. Your iPhone should turn off and back on again on its own.
It’s possible that you accidentally changed a setting that is keeping you from syncing your iPhone. You can reset your settings to factory default by going to Settings → General → Reset → Reset All Settings. Enter your iPhone pass code, and follow the prompts.
If all your restart and reset attempts haven’t helped, there’s a way to completely restore your iPhone to its original programming using iTunes. Check out our guide to doing a DFU restore for the step-by-step instructions. Remember, it’s important to back up your iPhone before you wipe the device.
10. Repair Your iPhone
If your iPhone won’t sync to iTunes and you’ve tried everything else, it’s time to look into getting it repaired. It’s possible that the hardware on your iPhone is damaged and that’s what’s keeping you from syncing your iPhone. The port may be damaged, too, or something may have shaken loose inside your iPhone that’s keeping it from working properly.
You have a few options for repair. You can go to an Apple store and spend some time with the Genius Bar crew, or you can visit a third-party repair shop or use a mail-in service for repair. We go into all of these options in detail in our iPhone repair option guide. Check it out to find out which repair option works best for you.
Now You Know What to Do if Your iPhone Won’t Sync!
I know I just gave you a lot of information about what to do if your iPhone won’t sync. Hopefully, you have a better idea about what to do and how to fix this annoying issue. Have you been here before? Tell us about your experience and which fix worked for you, and check out our other how-to articles for tips on how to keep your iPhone working well.