How To Sync iTunes Songs to Your iPad

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

Man listening to music on iPad
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Just like other tablet devices, the iPad is often seen as a tool for surfing the Internet, running apps, and watching movies. Yet, this stellar multimedia device is also great at being a digital music player too.

As you probably already know, the iPad comes with a music app pre-installed that lets you play your song collection. But, what's the best way to get your iTunes library from your computer?

If you've never used your iPad for playing digital music, or need a refresher on how to do it, then this step-by-step tutorial will show you how.

Before Connecting

To ensure the process of transferring iTunes songs to the iPad goes as smoothly as possible it's a good idea to check you've got the latest version of the iTunes software. Having an up-to-date version of iTunes on your computer is always recommend.

This is normally an automatic process when your system boots (or iTunes is launched). However, you can also manually check to make doubly sure by forcing an update check within the iTunes application.

  1. Click the Help menu and choose Check for Updates (for Mac: click the iTunes menu tab and then Check for Updates).
  2. When the latest version of iTunes is installed on your computer, shut down the application and reboot. 

Connecting The iPad to Your Computer

Before hooking up your iPad, one thing to keep in mind is how songs are transferred.

When songs are synced between iTunes and the iPad, the process is only one-way. This type of file synchronization means that iTunes updates your iPad to mirror what is in your iTunes library.

Any songs that are deleted from your computer's music library will also be removed on your iPad -- so if you want songs to remain on your iPad that aren't on your computer, then you may want to use the manual syncing method cover later in this article.

To hook up the iPad to your computer and view the device in iTunes, follow the steps below.

  1. Before running the iTunes software, use the cable that came with your iPad to connect it to your computer.
  2. iTunes should automatically run when the iPad is plugged into your computer. If it doesn't, launch it manually.
  3. When the iTunes software is up and running, look in the left window pane to locate your iPad. This should be displayed in the Devices section. Click on the name of your iPad to view its details.

If you still don't see your iPad, we've written a troubleshooting article on solving iTunes Sync Problems that may fix your issue.

Transferring Music Using Automatic Syncing

This is the easiest method of transferring songs to your iPad and is the default setting. To start copying files:

  1. Click on the Music menu tab at the top of the iTunes screen (located below the 'now playing' window).
  2. Make sure the Sync Music option is enabled. If not, click the checkbox next to it.
  3. If you want to fully automate the transfer of all your music, select the Entire Music Library option by clicking the radio button next to it.
  4. To cherry pick certain parts of your iTunes library, you'll need to choose the Selected playlists, artists, albums, and genres option -- click the radio button next to this.
  1. You will now be able to choose exactly what gets transferred to the iPad by using the checkboxes in the Playlists, Artists, Albums, and Genres sections.
  2. To commence automatic syncing to your iPad, simply click the Apply button to start the process.

Using The Manual Sync Method

To have ultimate control over how iTunes copies files over to your iPad, you might want to change the default mode to manual. This means that iTunes won't start automatically syncing as soon as the iPad is plugged into your computer.

Follow the steps below to see how to change to manual mode.

  1. Click on the Summary menu tab at the top of the screen (underneath the 'Now Playing' window).
  1. Enable the Manually Manage Music and Videos option by clicking the checkbox next to it. To set this new mode, click the Apply button to save settings.
  2. To start selecting the songs you want to sync to the iPad, click the Library option in the left window pane (this is under Music).
  3. To copy songs individually, drag and drop each one from the main screen to your iPad's name (in the left pane under Devices).
  4. For multiple selections, you can use keyboard shortcuts to select multiple songs. For the PC, hold down the CTRL key and choose your songs. If using a Mac, hold down the command key and click the files you want. Using these keyboard shortcuts will enable you to drag multiple files to the iPad in one go saving a lot of time.

For more information on using keyboard shortcuts in iTunes, read these articles:

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