How to Automatically Download Purchases on iOS and iTunes

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One of the great things about iCloud is that it works seamlessly on all your devices to make sure that they all have the same content on them. That means that there's no difference in what music, movies, apps, and other content is available to you whether you're using an iPhone on the go, an iPad at home in bed, or a Mac at work.

In order to keep all your devices in sync, though, you need to use one of the iCloud's most useful features: Automatic Downloads. As the name suggests, it automatically downloads any song, app, or book you buy from Apple to all of your compatible devices that have the feature turned on. With Automatic Downloads, you'll never again have to wonder whether you've put the right iBook on your iPad for your plane flight or the right songs on your iPhone for your car ride.

You have to apply these settings to every device you want to automatically download content. It's not a universal setting that gets automatically changed by doing it once.

How to Enable Automatic Downloads on iOS

Setting up Automatic Downloads on the iPhone or iPod touch is simple. Just follow these steps:

  1. Begin by tapping on the Settings app.

  2. Scroll to the iTunes & App Store menu and tap that.

  3. This is where you can manage your Automatic Download settings. You can control Music, Apps, and Books & Audiobooks (if you have the Apple Books app installed, which now comes preinstalled with iOS 8 and higher).

    You can also choose whether new app Updates will automatically download, too, which saves you having to manually update them via the App Store app.

    For any of the kinds of media you want to be automatically downloaded to your device, move the corresponding slider to on/green.

  4. On the iPhone, you'll also have a Use Cellular Data slider (it's just Cellular on iOS 6 and earlier). Slide this to on/green if you want your automatic downloads to be sent over the 3G/4G LTE mobile phone network, not just Wi-Fi. This means you'll get your downloads sooner, but it will also use battery life or could incur data roaming charges. Cellular downloads only work with files of 100 MB or less.

To turn off Automatic Downloads, simply move any of the sliders to the off/white position.

How to Enable Automatic Downloads in i​Tunes

The Automatic Downloads feature of iCloud isn't limited to iOS. You can also use it to ensure that all of your iTunes and App Store purchases are downloaded to your computer's iTunes library, too. To enable automatic downloads in iTunes, follow these steps:

  1. Launch iTunes.

  2. Open the Preferences window (On Windows, go to the Edit menu and click on Preferences; On a Mac, go to the iTunes menu and click on Preferences).

  3. Click the Downloads tab (in some older versions of iTunes, click Store instead).

  4. The first section of this tab is Automatic Downloads. Check the box next to the type of media — music, TV shows, or movies — that you want to have automatically downloaded to your iTunes library.

  5. When you've made your selections, click the OK button to save your settings.​

With these settings tuned to your specifications, new purchases at the iTunes Store and App Store will be automatically downloaded to your devices once the new files have finished downloading to the device that you bought them on.

To turn off Automatic Downloads, just uncheck the boxes next to any media types and click OK.

How to Enable Automatic Downloads in Apple Books

Like on the iOS, Apple's Apple Books app comes pre-installed on Macs and iOS devices. To ensure that all of your Macs automatically download any iBooks purchased on any device, follow these steps:

  1. Launch the iBooks program on your Mac.

  2. Click the iBooks menu.

  3. Click Preferences.

  4. Click Store.

  5. Click Download new purchases automatically.

How to Enable Automatic Downloads in the Mac App Store

Just like you can automatically download your iOS App Store purchases to all compatible devices, you can do the same with purchases from the Mac App Store by following these steps:

  1. Click the Apple menu in the top-left corner of the screen.

  2. Click System Preferences.

  3. Click App Store.

  4. Check the box next to Automatically download apps purchased on other Macs.

Automatic Downloads and Family Sharing

Family Sharing is a feature that lets all the people in a single-family share their iTunes and App Store purchases with each other without having to pay for them a second time. This is a terrific way for parents to buy music and let their kids listen to it for one price, or for kids to share their favorite apps with their parents.

Family Sharing works by linking Apple IDs together. If you use Family Sharing, you may wonder whether turning on Automatic Downloads means you'll get all the purchases from everyone in your family automatically on your device (which could be a hassle). 

The answer is no. While Family Sharing gives you access to their purchases, Automatic Downloads only works with purchases made from your Apple ID.