iTunes 12 Sync Problems: Why Doesn’t Syncing from iTunes to iOS Devices Work?

Update: See this article for a possible solution to sync issues with iOS devices.

Syncing isn’t easy; syncing a variety of disparate content from iTunes to iOS devices is complex. There have always been problems with syncing, but lately, these problems have increased.

I get lots of email from readers, both of this website and of my Ask the iTunes Guy column on Macworld, and lately a lot of those emails have been about syncing problems. My friend Rob Griffiths had a problem last month where duplicate tracks in his iTunes library prevented him from syncing his iPhone 6. But he’s still having problems; that wasn’t the only issue preventing him from syncing.

I briefly had an iPhone 6. I returned it because of the size, but I had to restore that iPhone about five times in the week I owned it because of syncing issues.

And I’ve had readers contact me with problems syncing older devices; problems that have increased since the release of iTunes 12 and iOS 8. One reader even broke down and updated from an iPhone 4s to an iPhone 5s, hoping his syncing problems would go away; alas, they didn’t. (This makes me think that many sync problems have something to do with iTunes’ library files.)

Syncing isn’t easy; but Apple really needs to make it work. I know that some of the problems are edge cases, but so many people have problems that Apple needs to seriously pay attention to these issues. If you search Apple’s forums, just in the past 30 days, you’ll find dozens of threads about sync issues. Sometimes, the sync simply doesn’t work; at other times, it blocks at “Waiting for changes to be applied.” It’s impossible for users to resolve these issues, and Apple doesn’t provide much help. The general response from Apple is to restore the iOS device. In some cases, this my work, but in my experience, its effectiveness is limited; sync problems come back a short time afterward.

To be fair, it’s possible that this only happens to a small percentage of iOS users. Many if not most iOS users never sync their devices with iTunes, and many others don’t have much content to sync. But Rob Griffiths, who I mentioned above, doesn’t have a large music library. He’s not an edge case at all.

As for me, I had terrible problems in the last months of iOS 7, having to restore my iPhone 5s several times. I’d want to sync to add a new album to my iPhone, and it would take a half hour, and sometimes those syncs would simply fail. Curiously, since iTunes 12 and iOS 8, I’m having fewer problems.

Syncing is hard; but Apple should do a lot more to make it work.


If you have sync problems, I would appreciate if you could post a comment below. I’m trying to collect as much information as possible to try and get Apple to pay attention to this issue. Please post the device you’re using, and a brief explanation of the problems you’re having. Also, post if these problems are new, since iOS 8, or if you’ve had them for a long time. Thanks!

Also, read my series of articles outlining how I’d fix iTunes.