How to Stop iPhone and iPod Auto-Syncing in iTunes

An iPhone sitting next to a MacBook Air.

heshphoto/Image Source/Getty Images

When you plug an iPhone or iPod into a computer that has iTunes installed on it, iTunes automatically opens and tries to sync with the device. Apple designed this as a convenience; it cuts out the step of having to open iTunes manually. But there are a number of good reasons for wanting to stop auto syncing for your iPhone or iPod. This article explains why you might want to disable auto-syncing and how to do it.

Reasons to Disable Auto Syncing in iTunes

You may prefer not to have iTunes automatically sync your devices for reasons such as:

  • It's not your computer. Sometimes we plug our iPhones into our work computers or computers that don't belong to us because we want to charge the battery. In that case, you don't want the iPhone to try 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 correct data on it. You don't want to accidentally overwrite the data you need with outdated information 
  • You don't have time. Syncing can take a long time. If you have a lot of data you have to sync, or if you're having problems with syncing some kinds of content (when we've had problems syncing music in the past; sometimes it's taken hours for a basic sync), 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 auto syncing vary slightly based on what version of iTunes you have (though they're roughly the same for all versions).

These settings don't apply to syncing over Wi-Fi, only to connections made directly using the USB cable that comes with your iPhone.

Stopping Auto 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 it

  2. If necessary, click the small iPhone or iPod icon in the top left corner, just beneath the playback controls to go to the Summary screen

  3. In the Options box, uncheck the box next to Automatically sync when this iPhone is connected

  4. Click Apply in the bottom right corner of iTunes to save your new setting.

Disabling Auto Sync in iTunes 11 and Earlier

For earlier versions of iTunes, the process is fairly similar, but the steps and text are slightly different. If your version of iTunes 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. Check it

  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 Manually

You've achieved your goal, but 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.