How to Connect iPhone to Mac

Connect your iPhone and Mac to sync music, photos, notes, and more

If you've got multiple Apple devices, you need to know how to connect your iPhone to your Mac. Connecting these devices not only ensures they have the same data, but it also unlocks some cool productivity tricks. You may think that all you need to make the connection is a cable, but there are more powerful and flexible options.

This article covers iPhones running iOS 11 and iOS 12, and Macs running macOS 10.13 and 10.14.

How to Connect iPhone to Mac Using iTunes

An iPhone and a Mac laptop on a table.
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One of the simplest ways to connect iPhone to Mac is iTunes. Syncing devices using iTunes lets you move music, video, books, files, and other content. There are two ways to sync using iTunes:

  • Connect iPhone to Mac with a Cable. Just take the cable that came with your iPhone, plug one end into the phone and the other into a USB port on your Mac. Then iTunes should open automatically. Check out How to Sync an iPhone to a Computer for step-by-step instructions.

Make Sure You Have the Right Cable. Different cables need different devices. The iPhone 5 and newer models use the Lightning connector (older models use the larger Dock Connector). The cable that came with your iPhone fits it. Your Mac is another story. All modern Macs have USB ports, but MacBooks from 2015 and later, MacBook Pros from 2016 and later, MacBook Airs from 2018 and later use USB-C. Make sure your syncing cable has a Lightning connector and the right USB type for your Mac (or get an adapter).

How to Connect iPhone to Mac Using iCloud

A laptop, phone, and tablet, all with the same photo on clouds on their screens
image credit John Lamb/Digital Vision/Getty Images

If you prefer wireless syncing, cut iTunes out of the equation and just use iCloud. Just make sure your Mac and iPhone are signed into the same iCloud account and have the same sync settings. Then, any change to the data on one device will be synced up to iCloud and then down to the other device, so they're always in sync.

Sign into iCloud using your Apple ID. You probably did this when you set up your iPhone and your Mac, but if you didn't, follow these steps.

Signing into iCloud on iPhone

  1. Go to Settings.

  2. Tap your name at the top of the screen.

  3. Tap iCloud.

  4. Sign in with your Apple ID username and password

Signing into iCloud on Mac

  1. Click the Apple menu in the top left corner.

  2. Click System Preferences.

  3. Click iCloud.

  4. Sign in using your Apple ID username and password.

  5. Follow the onscreen prompts to set up iCloud.

iCloud Syncing Options

Data that can be synced using iCloud includes Apple News, calendars, contacts, email, Homekit data, notes, reminders, Safari bookmarks and files, Siri data, Stocks, and usernames and passwords from your Keychain. (You also need to use Apple's pre-installed apps for these data types.)

Once both devices are signed into iCloud, give them the same sync settings. For instance, to use iCloud to keep your contacts in sync, follow the first three steps above and check the Contacts box on Mac and move the Contacts slider to on/green on iPhone.

iCloud can also sync photos between your devices. This is great, but the photo syncing options are more complex than for other types of data. To learn the ins and outs, read How to Use iCloud Photo Library and How to Turn on Photo Stream and iCloud Photo Sharing.

How to Connect iPhone to Mac Using Continuity

Apple's Handoff feature shown on a Mac and iPhone
image copyright Apple Inc.

One of the great things about Apple devices is how well they work together. Apple's Continuity features let you do things like answer iPhone calls using your Mac, or write an email on a Mac and send it from your iPhone.

To use Continuity, you need to:

  1. Be signed into the same iCloud account on all devices.

  2. Have all devices connected to the same Wi-Fi network.

  3. Turn on Bluetooth on both devices.

  4. Turn on Handoff on both devices. On a Mac, go to System Preferences > General > check the Allow Handoff between this Mac and your iCloud devices box.

  5. On an iPhone, go to Settings > General > Handoff > move the Handoff slider to on/green.

Continuity Features

Three of the coolest Continuity features that connect iPhone to Mac are:

  • Handoff. This lets you, well, hand off items between your devices. It can let you: transfer a web page you're viewing on your Mac to your iPhone; start writing an email on one device, then finish and send it on the other; get directions in the Mac Maps app and send them to iPhone for use while you drive. Learn how to set up and use Handoff in Everything You Need to Know About Handoff.
  • Making and answering phone calls. If your iPhone is in another room, you can answer its calls using your Mac. To enable this option, on your iPhone go to Settings > Phone > Calls on Other Devices > move the Allow Calls on Other Devices slider to on/green. To select which of your devices can make and receive these calls, move the sliders in the list below to on/green.
  • Universal Clipboard. When you copy text, images, and other data, every device signed into your iCloud account can paste it. So, if you copy text on your iPhone, it's also automatically copied to your Mac and can be pasted there.

Continuity and Handoff run on iOS 8 and up, and macOS 10.10 Yosemite and up. Universal Clipboard requires macOS 10.12 Sierra or newer.

Other Ways to Connect iPhone and Mac

Photo of two iPhones, with a cloud between them, sharing data wirelessly
image credit: Andrew Bret Wallis/Photodisc/Getty Images

Syncing isn't the only way to connect iPhone and Mac. Both devices include features for sharing services and content to make your digital life simpler. Some examples include:

  • Personal Hotspot. This turns your iPhone into a Wi-Fi hotspot and shares its internet connection with your Mac. Learn more in How to Set Up and Use Personal Hotspot on iPhone.
  • AirDrop. Need to quickly swap a few files between devices? Use this quick wireless file-transfer tool. Learn more in How to Use AirDrop on Your iPhone.
  • iMessage. Did you know you can send and receive iMessages from your Mac? Just open Messages on the Mac and sign into your iMessage account. Learn more in Everything You Need to Know About Messages, the iPhone Texting App.
  • iCloud Music Library. If you subscribe to Apple Music or iTunes Match, or bought music at the iTunes Store, all of your devices can have the same music using iCloud Music Library. Just enable the option on your iPhone (Settings > Music > move the iCloud Music Library slider to on/green) and your Mac (open iTunes > iTunes menu > Preferences > General > check the iCloud Music Library box).