How to Sync an iPad With iTunes

Transfer movies, music, and other content to your iPad

watching clips online

sturti/Getty Images

Now that you can back up your iPad to iCloud, it isn't as important to sync it to your Mac or PC, but you may still want to move files from iTunes on your computer to your iPad. If you have a huge media library on your computer, you can move a few selected items at a time to save space on your mobile device by syncing only the music, movies, TV shows, podcasts, or audiobooks you need. Beginning with iTunes 12.7, Apple removed the iOS App Store from iTunes, so you no longer sync apps to your iPad using iTunes on a computer.

Instructions in this article apply to iPads running iOS 12 or iOS 11.

Connect Your iPad to Your Computer

  1. Before you sync your iPad with iTunes, connect it to your PC or Mac using the cable that came with the device.

  2. Launch iTunes manually if it doesn't open automatically when you connect your iPad.

  3. ITunes should automatically sync your iPad based on the options you previously set up or the default settings. If iTunes does not automatically begin the sync process, manually start it by selecting File > Devices > Sync [iPad name] from iTunes the menu bar.

    Forcing a sync in iTunes

If you haven't done so already, place a check in the box in front of Automatically sync when this iPad is connected in the Options section of the iPad Summary screen. Open the Summary screen by choosing the tiny iPad icon in the top left corner of the iTunes screen and selecting Summary in the Settings menu.

iPad summary screen in iTunes

How to Sync Music From iTunes to the iPad

You probably have years of music in your iTunes library on your computer. You can transfer selected music when you sync the iPad by changing the settings in iTunes. This allows you to listen to music on your iPad wherever you go.

  1. Connect your iPad to your PC or Mac and launch iTunes if it doesn't launch automatically.

  2. In iTunes, choose the iPad icon at the top of the left panel to open its Summary screen. 

    Selecting iPad icon in iTunes
  3. Select Music from the list of options in the left panel.

  4. Check the box next to Sync Music at the top of the main screen and choose from the options. Syncing your entire library is the default setting, but choose Selected playlists, artists, albums, and genres, if you prefer to specify which music to sync.

  5. This screen has four sections: Playlists, Artists, Genres, and Albums. Place a check mark next to every item you want to sync with your iPad. 

  6. Select Sync at the bottom of the screen.

    Entering music syncing preferences

How to Sync Movies From iTunes to the iPad

The iPad is a handy device for watching movies. The process of syncing movies from iTunes is straightforward, but because the files are large, it can take a while to sync them. You probably don't want to try and sync your entire movie collection at one time.

  1. Connect your iPad to your PC or Mac and launch iTunes if it doesn't open automatically.

  2. Select the iPad icon at the top of the screen to open the iPad Summary panel.

  3. Choose Movies in the iPad Summary panel.

  4. Put a check next to Sync Movies at the top of the main screen.

  5. Check Automatically include and select all to sync all movies or to make a different selection from the drop-down menu, such as 1 most recent or all unwatched

    Movie sync settings in iTunes
  6. To control exactly which movies are synced, do not select Automatically include. When the option to automatically include all movies isn't checked, you can check individual movies from the list that appears. Each movie selection tells you how long the movie is and how much space it will take up on your iPad.

    Specific movies available for sync in iTunes
  7. After you make your selections, select Apply at the bottom of the screen.

If you are at home, you can watch movies on your iPad without downloading them from iTunes. Find out how to use home sharing to watch movies.

How to Sync Other Data to the iPad From iTunes

To sync other data, follow the same general steps as when your sync music. You can sync TV shows, podcasts, books, audiobooks, and photos. In each case:

  1. Connect your iPad to your PC or Mac and launch iTunes.

  2. Choose the iPad icon at the top of iTunes to open the iPad Settings panel.

  3. Select one of the options in the left panel (TV Shows, Podcasts, Books, Audiobooks, or Photos).

  4. Choose Podcasts (for example) in the Summary menu and click the box next to Sync Podcasts at the top of the main iTunes screen.

    Syncing Podcasts in iTunes
  5. Make your selections as you did with music and movies. You can opt to sync all to your podcasts to the iPad or make individual selections.

    Selecting individual podcast episodes
  6. Click Apply or Sync at the bottom of the screen.