What to Do When You Can't Access iTunes on Your iPad

Try one of five simple fixes to get your iTunes working again

At the end of 2019, Apple replaced iTunes with Apple Music on Macs running macOS Catalina (10.15). On iOS devices, they replaced iTunes with the iTunes Store app.

You can still connect your iPad to a Mac running an updated OS and select the iPad in Finder to update or restore the iPad, or back up the iPad contents, including the music that now resides in the Music app. However, a connection to a Mac is no longer necessary because the iPad wirelessly updates to iCloud and can access any music previously available in iTunes through the iTunes Store app. If you have trouble accessing the iTunes Store app on the iPad, delete the app and then reinstall the app. Your music will not be affected.

The information in this article applies to iPad users who update their iPads using iTunes on a Mac running Mojave (10.14) or earlier. 

When an iPad Can't Connect to iTunes

An iPad needs to connect to iTunes on a Mac for important system updates and backing up your applications and data. When your iPad doesn't connect to iTunes, you can check a few things before you run out and buy a new cable.

Check for iPad Recognition

First, make sure the computer recognizes the iPad. When you connect the iPad to your computer, a small bolt of lightning should appear in the battery meter located on the upper right side of the screen. This symbol lets you know the iPad is charging. Even if the battery meter reads "Not Charging," which means your USB port isn't capable of charging the iPad, you at least know the computer recognized your tablet.  

If you see the lightning bolt or the words "Not Charging," your computer recognizes the iPad is connected.

Check the iPad Cable

Next, make sure the problem isn't with the USB port by plugging the iPad into a different port from the one you previously used. If you use a USB hub or plug it into an external device like a keyboard, try a USB port on the computer itself.

Two USB-Connector cables plugged in
renatomitra / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

If plugging the iPad into a different USB port solves the problem, you may have a bad port.

Most computers have enough USB ports that a single broken one is not a big deal, but if you find yourself running low, purchase a USB hub at your local electronics store.

Low Power Causes iPad Problems

Make sure the iPad isn't running too low on power. When the battery is close to being depleted, you may find that low-power mode results in unexpected behavior as the device tries to extend its useful life. If your iPad is connected to your computer, unplug it and check the battery percentage, which is located on the upper right side of the iPad next to the battery meter. If it is less than 10 percent, let the iPad recharge completely.

If the words "Not Charging" replace the battery percentage when you plug the iPad into your computer, plug it into a wall outlet using the adapter that came with the iPad.

Reboot the Computer and the iPad

One of the oldest troubleshooting tricks in the book is to reboot the computer. While you're waiting for the computer to come back up, reboot the iPad by holding down the suspend button on the upper right corner of the device. After several seconds, a red button with an arrow will appear, instructing you to slide it to power off the device. After the screen goes completely black, wait a few seconds and hold down the suspend button again. Apple's logo will appear in the middle of the screen while the iPad boots back up.

If a standard reset doesn't work, do a force restart by holding the suspend and Home buttons until the iPad shuts down and turns back on.

When your computer and the iPad restart, connect the iPad to iTunes again.

How to Reinstall iTunes

If iTunes still fails to recognize the iPad, it's time to try a clean copy of iTunes. First, uninstall iTunes from your computer—uninstalling iTunes won't delete all of the music and apps on your computer.

A woman with an iPad and laptop
Marco VDM / Getty Images

Uninstall iTunes on a Windows-based computer by going to the Start menu and choosing Control Panel. Look for an icon labeled Programs and Features. Within this menu, scroll until you see iTunes, right-click on it with your mouse and select uninstall.

After you remove iTunes from your computer, download the latest version.

Troubleshoot Rare Problems With iTunes

Still having problems? Sometimes glitches with drivers, system files, or software conflicts are ultimately the root of the problem. These errors are more complicated to fix.

Young man intently looking at many Post-it notes
Les and Dave Jacobs / Getty Images

If you run anti-virus software, shut it down and try to connect the iPad to your computer. Anti-virus software is known to sometimes conflict with other programs on your computer.

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