How to Sync Your iTunes Music Library to an iPhone

It's simple once you know how

Rather than carrying around a separate MP3 player or PMP, it's worth considering the iPhone as a music player so you can carry your iTunes library with you. If you've never synced music to your iPhone, follow this iTunes tutorial to see how simple it really is.

Setting Up iPhone Music Transfer

These steps work for all iPhones connected to Windows or Mac.

Before following this iPhone syncing tutorial, go through this simple checklist:

  • Keep iTunes up-to-date: Ensure that you have the latest iTunes software version installed on your computer before plugging in your iPhone. iTunes should automatically check this when it is run, but you can also force an update check by clicking the Help menu and choosing Check for Updates (Mac: click the iTunes menu tab, followed by Check for Updates). Once you have made sure iTunes is up-to-date, close the program again.
  • Don't have iTunes installed? If not, you can download the latest version from the iTunes website.
  • Remember, iTunes only performs a one-way synchronization: iTunes only performs a one-way synchronization to your iPhone and not both ways. This means any songs found on your iPhone that aren't on your computer will be deleted.

If you've already got iTunes installed, but discover it fails to run or has problems updating, then it's worth downloading and re-installing an up-to-date version from the iTunes website – it may just fix the problem. After this step you may need to restore your iTunes library from a previous backup.

How to Connect iPhone to iTunes

Follow these steps to see how to connect the iPhone to your computer and select it in iTunes.

iTunes shows you how much storage space is left on your iPhone. Check the capacity meter near the bottom of the screen before transferring songs.

  1. Connect your iPhone with your computer with its USB cable.

  2. Launch iTunes.

  3. In the upper left part of the iTunes window, select the iPhone icon, just to the right of the media menu.

    Screenshot of iTunes on Mac showing the iPhone access button
  4. You'll be able to see your iPhone in the left iTunes window pane, under the Devices section. You can select any of the media types if you expand the section with the little triangle.

How to Automatically Transfer Music

The easiest way to transfer music to the iPhone is by using the automatic sync method:

  1. On the iTunes window now showing your device, select the Music menu tab in the left pane.

  2. Select Sync Music to enable it.

  3. To enable the transfer of all your music, select Entire music library.

    Screenshot of iTunes in macOS showing Music and Sync Music sections
  4. If you prefer to select only certain songs from your iTunes library, select Selected playlists, artists, albums, and genres. You can also specify the playlists, artists, albums, and genres below—scroll down and select the media you want to sync.

    Screenshot of iTunes in macOS highlighting sync of selected playlists, artists, albums, and genres
  5. Finally, to start automatically syncing music to your iPhone, select Apply to commence the transfer process.

    Screenshot of iTunes window in macOS showing the Apply button

If you see a message about iTunes being able to sync with just one library at a time, read it carefully so that you understand what will happen, and then press Sync and Replace.

How to Transfer Music Manually

If you don't want iTunes to automatically transfer music to your iPhone, it's possible to configure the program for manual syncing. This method offers more control over what iTunes syncs to your iPhone.

  1. Near the top of the main iTunes screen, select Summary in the left panel.

  2. Select Manually manage music and videos to enable this mode, then select Apply to save the settings.

    Screenshot of iTunes window in macOS showing the Summary category and Manually manage music and videos checkbox
  3. Select Apply to save the settings.

  4. Select the back arrow at the top of iTunes and and locate the Library section in the left pane. Select Songs. You can also select Albums, Artists or Genres.

  5. Drag and drop songs from the main iTunes window to the left pane where your phone is listed. If you have several songs you want to sync at once, hold down Ctrl or Command and then select each song.

    Screenshot of iTunes in macOS dragging multiple songs to iPhone manually

As an alternative to manually dragging songs to your iPhone, consider using iTunes playlists. These are easy to setup and will save you heaps of time when syncing. If you have previously created iTunes playlists that you want to sync to the iPhone, just drag and drop these in the same way onto the iPhone icon in the left pane.