How to Sync iTunes Songs to Your iPad

Turn your iPad into a music player by syncing music from iTunes

Man listening to music on iPad

Geber86 / Getty Images

The iPad is a tool for surfing the web, running apps, and watching movies, but this multimedia device is also great at being a digital music player.

Apple's tablet comes with a pre-installed music app that lets you play your music collection and gives you access apps for streaming music, but how do you copy music from your computer onto your iPad?

If you've never used your iPad for playing music or if you need a refresher on how to do it, use this step-by-step tutorial to learn how.

These directions are relevant for all iPad models running any iOS version. However, if you aren't using the most recent version of iTunes, the menu names and screenshots might look different than what you see on your own computer.

Before Connecting Your iPad

To ensure that the process of transferring iTunes songs to your iPad goes as smoothly as possible, it's a good idea to make sure you're running the latest version of iTunes.

Updating iTunes is normally an automatic process when your system starts up or whenever you launch iTunes, but you can also check for updates manually. In Windows, check for an iTunes update through the Help menu. Choose Check for Updates.

Help menu in iTunes for Windows

Here's how to update iTunes on a Mac:

  1. From any application, select Apple Menu in the upper-left corner of the screen, and then choose App Store.

    App Store menu item on a Mac

    You can also open the App Store from your Applications folder or your Dock.

  2. The App Store should go directly to the updates page. If it doesn't, select Updates near the top of the screen.

    Updates tab in App Store for Mac
  3. Check the list to see if iTunes has any available updates. If it does, choose Update and reload the program when it's done.

Plug Your iPad Into Your Computer

When the iPad syncs with iTunes, the process is only one-way. This type of file synchronization means that iTunes updates your iPad to mirror what's in your iTunes library.

Any songs you delete from your computer's music library will also disappear from your iPad. So, if you want songs to remain on your iPad that aren't on your computer, you should use the manual syncing method that we'll cover below.

Here's how to hook up your iPad to your computer and view it in iTunes.

  1. Connect your iPad to your computer using its charging cable.

  2. Open iTunes if it doesn't launch automatically.

  3. Select the mobile device icon at the top of iTunes to open the settings for your iPad.

    Mobile device icon in iTunes

Sync Songs to iPad Automatically

This is the default, and easiest method for transferring songs to your iPad.

  1. Select Music from the section off to the left.

    iTunes Music tab for an iPad
  2. Make sure the Sync Music option is enabled by placing a check in the box next to it.

  3. Decide which songs from your computer to load onto your iPad.

    • Select Entire music library to fully automate the transfer of all your music.
    • Select Selected playlists, artists, albums, and genres to pick certain parts of your iTunes library to sync to your iPad. You'll get to choose which items to sync.
    Sync Music option for an iPad in iTunes

    You can also select Include videos and/or Include voice memos to sync those things, too.

  4. Select Apply or Sync at the bottom of iTunes to sync those songs.

    Apply button in iTunes for syncing music

Transfer Music to iPad Manually

To control which songs sync to your iPad from iTunes, you can change the default mode to manual. What this will do is stop iTunes from automatically syncing music as soon as your iPad is plugged in.

  1. Select Summary from the left side of iTunes.

    iPad summary tab in iTunes for Windows
  2. Scroll down the right pane and check the box next to Manually manage music and videos, and then choose Apply at the bottom.

    Manually manage music and videos option in iTunes for Windows
  3. Select Done to return to your iTunes library, and then start selecting the songs you want to sync to your iPad. You can copy items from Albums if you like to sync whole albums with your iPad, or use Songs to pick individual songs to copy.

    Selected songs in iTunes for Windows

    Select more than one song or other item at once with the CTRL or Command key.

  4. Copy the songs to your iPad by dragging and dropping them into the Devices area on the left side of iTunes.

    iTunes songs copied to iPad

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