How to Disable iPhone and iPod Automatic Sync in iTunes

An iPhone sitting next to a MacBook Air.

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When you plug an iPhone or iPod into a computer with iTunes, iTunes opens and tries to perform an automatic sync with the device. This is designed to be convenient since it prevents you from having to open iTunes manually. But there are some good reasons for wanting to disable automatic sync with iTunes. This article explains why you might want to stop auto-syncing and how to do it.

Why You Might Want to Disable Automatic Sync in iTunes

Some of the reasons you may want to stop iTunes from automatically syncing with your devices include:

  • It's not your computer. Sometimes we plug our iPhones into our work computers or computers that don't belong to us to charge the battery. In that case, you won't want the iPhone to sync with the computer.
  • It's not your primary computer. Even if the computer belongs to you, if it's not the one you normally sync with, it won't have the right data on it. You don't want to accidentally delete the data you need with old information. 
  • You don't have time. Syncing can take a long time. If you have a lot of data to sync, or if you're having problems syncing some kinds of content, it can take a long time. If you're in a rush, you won't want to wait.

Whatever your reason, the steps you need to follow to stop automatic sync differ based on what version of iTunes you have.

These settings apply whether you sync your iPhone to iTunes over Wi-Fi or if you use the USB cable that comes with your iPhone.

How to Stop Automatic Sync in iTunes 12 and Newer

If you're running iTunes 12 and up, follow these steps to stop automatic syncing:

  1. Connect your iPhone or iPod to your computer. iTunes should launch automatically. If it doesn't, launch the program.

    Screenshot of iTunes
  2. If necessary, click the small iPhone or iPod icon in the top left corner, just beneath the playback controls. This takes you to the Summary screen.

    Screenshot of the iPhone Summary screen in iTunes
  3. In the Options box, uncheck the box next to Automatically sync when this iPhone is connected.

    Screenshot of iPhone syncing options in iTunes
  4. Click Apply in the bottom right corner of iTunes to save your new setting. From now on, your iPhone or iPod will not auto-sync when you connect it.

How to Disable Automatic Sync in iTunes 11 and Earlier

For earlier versions of iTunes, the process is fairly similar, but the steps and onscreen options are slightly different. If your version of iTunes is older and doesn't have these exact options, find the ones that are the closest match and try those.

  1. Before you plug the iPhone or iPod into the computer, open iTunes.

  2. Open the Preferences window.

    • On a Mac, go to the iTunes menu -> Preferences -> Devices.
    • On a PC, go to Edit -> Settings -> Devices. You may need to click Alt+E on the keyboard to reveal this window since the menu is sometimes hidden by default.
  3. In the pop-up window, click the Devices tab.

  4. Look for the checkbox labeled Prevent iPods, iPhones, and iPads from syncing automatically. Click that checkbox.

  5. Click OK at the bottom of the window to save your changes and close the window. Auto-sync is now disabled. Quit iTunes and plug your iPod or iPhone into the computer and nothing should happen. Success!

Remember to Sync Your iPhone or iPod Manually

With these changes made, your device won't automatically sync every time you connect it. That means you have to make sure you remember to sync manually from now on.

Syncing is what creates backups of the data on your iPhone or iPod, which is crucial for restoring data after problems with your device or transferring your data if you're upgrading to a new device. If you don't have a good backup, you'll lose important information, like Contacts and Photos. Get in the habit of regularly syncing your device and you should be fine.

You can also set your iPhone to automatically back up to iCloud. Learn about this option in How to Backup iPhone to iCloud and iTunes.