How to Stop iTunes Syncing Automatically to iPhone

Take control of when iTunes can update library contents to your iPhone

iTunes Device Preferences
Device preferences screen. Image © Mark Harris - Licensed to About.com, Inc.

Why Prevent iTunes From Automatically Syncing to my iPhone?

One of the most popular reasons why users tend to disable the auto-sync feature in iTunes is to make sure that any songs that have been accidentally deleted from their main iTunes library don't also disappear from their iPhone. It may be easy to get your iTunes purchases (music, videos, apps, etc.) back from iCloud, but how about stuff that hasn't come from the iTunes Store?

Unless you have a backup somewhere (like iTunes Match or an external hard drive), the song you just accidentally deleted could be unrecoverable if iTunes has also deleted it from your iPhone.

This is because syncing songs and other files via iTunes is a one-way process. This means that when you delete content in your iTunes library, this change is also mirrored to your iPhone -- sometimes resulting in accidental loss of non-iTunes sourced material.

How to Disable Automatic Syncing in iTunes

Before running the iTunes software, ensure the iPhone is disconnected from your computer. Run iTunes and then follow the step-by-step tutorial below.

  • Time Required: Setup: 5 Minutes Max.
  • Difficulty: Easy
  1. On the main iTunes screen, click the Edit menu tab and choose the Preferences option from the list. If you are using the Mac version of iTunes, then you'll need to click the iTunes menu option, followed by Preferences.
  1. Click the Devices tab near the top of the settings screen to view more options.
  2. Enable the option to Prevent iPods, iPhones, and iPads from syncing automatically by clicking the check box next to it.
  3. Click the OK button to save settings and to exit the configuration screen.

iTunes should now only perform file synchronization to your iPhone when clicking the Sync button.

However, before connecting the iPhone to your computer it is a good idea to exit the iTunes software and then re-run it. This will make sure the settings you have changed are reloaded.

One final note on disabling automatic syncing between iTunes and your Apple device is that automatic backups will no longer take place. Part of the iTunes syncing process involves backing up important data on your iPhone and so you'll need to do this manually after you have disabled this option.

Manually Managing Music and Videos on Your iPhone

Now that you have disabled automatic synchronization between iTunes and your iPhone, there is also another option you can use to switch iTunes into manual mode for music and videos. To see how to configure this option, follow the steps below.

  1. With the iTunes software still running, connect the iPhone using the cable that came with it. After a few moments, your device should be recognized in iTunes and displayed in the left pane (under Devices).
  2. Click on the device. You should now see a summary screen that details information about your iPhone, including backup settings and options. If you don't see this screen then click on the Summary menu tab at the top of the screen (under the 'Now Playing' window).
  1. Scroll down the summary screen until you see the Options section. Click the check box next to Manually Manage Music and Videos option to enable it.
  2. Click the Apply button to save settings and switch to this manual mode.

Rather than all songs and videos being automatically synced to the iPhone, you will now have ultimate control over what songs and videos end up on your device.

  1. To begin selecting songs, for example, to transfer to the iPhone, click Library in the left window pane (under Music).
  2. You can now transfer songs one at a time by dragging and dropping each one from the main screen to your iPhone's icon (in the left pane under Devices).

    Alternatively, you can also select multiple songs (or videos) by using keyboard shortcuts. For the PC, you need to hold down the [CTRL] key and choose your songs. For the Mac, this involves holding down the [command] key and then clicking the files you want.