How to Fix It When iTunes Is Not Recognizing Your iPhone

When you can't connect to your music, these solutions can help

iTunes is Apple's entertainment hub, storing all your music, movies, TV shows, and more. To enjoy iTunes across all your devices, Apple lets you sync iTunes on your computer and iPhone using a USB connection. While this usually works well, sometimes iTunes doesn't recognize your iPhone, which can be frustrating and confusing.

Here's a look at why this problem might occur and how to fix it and get iPhone and iTunes in sync again.

With macOS Catalina, Apple Music replaced iTunes. These troubleshooting steps apply to systems with older iTunes versions as well as newer systems with Apple Music.

Causes of iTunes Not Recognizing iPhone

There are a few reasons why iTunes doesn't recognize an iPhone. There may be a physical issue, such as a faulty USB cable or USB port on the computer. Debris may clog the iPhone port, or there could be a software problem.

Whatever the source of the issue, there are some easy troubleshooting steps with a high chance of getting an iPhone and iTunes back to communicating.

Person trying to connect iPhone to iTunes on a laptop
Stevica Mrdja / Getty Images

How to Fix It When iTunes Won't Recognize Your iPhone

Many times, iPhone-to-iTunes connectivity problems stem from issues you can easily fix. Try each troubleshooting step to see if it solves the problem. If it doesn't, move on to the next suggestion.

  1. Make sure iTunes is installed on the computer. If you don't have iTunes, the program can't recognize the device. It's easy to install iTunes on a Windows PC or Mac.

  2. Check the USB cable. A faulty USB cable could cause the iPhone-to-iTunes connection issue. Make sure the USB cable is in good condition. If it's frayed or cut, use a different USB cable and see if this solves the problem.

    Use a genuine Apple USB cable. USB cables made by other companies may not trigger a connection between the devices.

  3. Clean the iPhone's port. Sometimes, debris buildup causes an iPhone port to fail. Use a dry, anti-static brush or toothbrush to clean it out gently. Then, connect again and see if this fixes the issue.

  4. Check the USB port on the computer. Start by unplugging all USB devices from the computer. Move the iPhone's cable to another port and reconnect. If this works, it's an issue with that specific port, and you'll need to repair it.

    If you use an external USB device for the cables, disconnect it and connect the iPhone's cable directly to the computer. It might be a connection issue between the USB device and the computer.

  5. Restart the iPhone. A small software glitch could cause a faulty connection. Restart the device and connect again.

  6. Restart the computer. A mild software bug or malfunction may cause iTunes to malfunction. Turn off the computer and let it sit for a few minutes before turning it back on again.

  7. Make sure the iOS device is unlocked and on the Home screen. Connect the device, immediately unlock it, and ensure it's on the Home screen. Then connect your iPhone to iTunes.

    After you unlock the iPhone, leave it unlocked for a few minutes before trying to connect.

  8. Download the latest version of iTunes. An old version of iTunes may not recognize your iPhone. Update iTunes and then attempt to connect the iPhone again.

  9. Update operating system software. Update Windows or update macOS and see if this takes care of any software glitches or hidden bugs that caused the iPhone-to-iTunes connection problem.

  10. Make sure to tap Trust This Computer. If you're connecting your iPhone to your computer for the first time, you should see the Trust This Computer alert on the Home screen. When you see this alert, unlock the device and tap it immediately to designate the computer as a trusted device.

    Did you accidentally tap Don't Trust? There's a fix. Go to Settings > General > Reset > Reset Location & Privacy. Once you connect your iPhone, you'll see the pop-up again.

  11. Check the System Information. This only applies if you use a Mac. Connect the iPhone and check the System Information, which shows active devices. If your iPhone is displayed, but you can't connect, you might be experiencing a software issue.

  12. Disable or uninstall security software. If you use a Mac and the iPhone was listed in the System Information, disable or uninstall antivirus software and other security programs one at a time. See if any program causes the problem.

    Third-party antivirus software can block external USB devices, such as the cable connecting an iPhone to a computer. This helps protect computer data in the event an unknown USB connects to the device.

  13. Reinstall the Apple Mobile Device USB driver. This applies only to Windows PCs. This driver tells the PC what to do with Apple devices. When it malfunctions, it doesn't read the device correctly. Reinstall the driver and see if this solves the problem.

  14. Uninstall and reinstall iTunes. A malfunction deep within iTunes can sometimes be resolved by uninstalling and reinstalling the software.

    You don't lose your music and other content by uninstalling iTunes. However, if you're concerned, create an iTunes backup before you move forward.

  15. Reach out to Apple Support. The Apple iTunes support website offers many helpful features, including a searchable knowledge base and the ability to ask the community a question. You can also set up an appointment at the Genius Bar of your local Apple Store.

  • How do I back up an iPhone with iTunes?

    If you have macOS 10.14 or earlier, or Windows, connect your iPhone to your computer with USB or Wi-FI. Then in iTunes, select your phone > Backup > This computer > Back Up Now.

  • How do I unlock my iPhone with iTunes?

    To unlock with iTunes, turn off your device then boot into recovery mode. On your computer, select Restore.

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