iTunes 12.3 Not Copying Purchased Content from iOS Devices

If you download new content to an iOS device, or update apps, this content should be copied to your iTunes library when you sync the device. A number of people are reporting that iTunes 12.3 is no longer copying purchased content from their iOS devices. I am seeing the same thing on my iPhone and iPad, both running iOS 9.0.1.

This seems to be a bug, and I have filed a bug report with Apple. For now, I can’t find any workaround that will allow you to copy this content to an iTunes library.

Update: Apparently, this is the new behavior. Apple responded to someone who filed a bug report, saying:

This issue behaves as intended based on the following: Apps are no longer transferred from iOS 9 devices.

Apparently, this is related to App Thinning, a feature whereby iOS devices only download the resources they need to run apps on the specific device. To get the full app, you need to download it to iTunes.

This is a bit problematic. I have poor bandwidth, so I need to remember to no longer update apps on my devices, so I don’t have to download them four times.

However, I also tested this with music download from the iTunes Store, and it is not being copied either. So while the app sync issue may have a reason, the music sync does not.

28 thoughts on “iTunes 12.3 Not Copying Purchased Content from iOS Devices

  1. So this applies only for Apps, or for any purchased content (ebooks, songs etc.), as the title of the post suggests? I don’t see why the App Thinning explanation would influence other content…

    • I tested with music, and it’s not being copied either. I don’t have time right now to test with videos, because my bandwidth is slow, and I need to download some other content today. I’ll try later.

  2. Kirk, are you saying one must now download an app within iTunes and then, sync iTunes with the iOS device to get the full update of the app? …If such is the case, then, what is being downloaded when an app is updated first on the iOS device (something I’ve been doing on my iOS 9.0.1 devices)?

    • You can download the app to your device, but if you have multiple devices, or if you want to have a copy of the app in your iTunes library for backup, it won’t get synced from your device.

      • So you need to remember which apps you bought from your devices and then redownload into your main iTunes library on your computer? Wow that is a pain. There needs to be a way for the device to at least tell iTunes to download the full version or something the next time iTunes gets a chance, even if it doesn’t pull the iOS-specific version from the device into your computer. I am not going to remember to do that!

        • You could check your Purchased list, and find which items are not in your library, but there may be valid reasons for them not being in your library (such as you’re not using them any more), so you won’t simply copy everything. The other possibility is to turn on auto-downloads of apps, in iTunes’ Store preferences.

          • Yesterday (9/23), I downloaded / purchased, on my iPhone 6 iOS 9.0.1, one of the Red Cross apps (albeit it was Free). Afterwards, I found the app had auto downloaded to my iPad Air 2 9.0.1. Subsequently and when I was back to my iTunes 12.3, which I always keep open – though sometimes collapsed, the Red Cross app had also been auto-downloaded to iTunes, which would be consistent as I’ve got iTunes Prefs for Store Auto Downloads of new Apps, purchased from other devices, inclusive of Apps. …Am I misconstruing something in this discussion, as my cited example is the same behavior as I’ve always had?

            • This is not new behavior, if you’ve got your iTunes set to auto-download. That option has been available for several years.

          • Thanks, I think I do actually have it set that way back home. I am currently on a military deployment out of the country for a couple of months so I wasn’t able to check but noticed my iPad wasn’t uploaded new things to my laptop, but that isn’t the main iTunes library I use at home. I appreciate the reminder of the other feature.

          • Apple does not want to sync is an explanation for its inability to correct the syncing bug caused by IOS 9. I am not syncing my devices anymore. ( can’t anyway gives me an error message) am just backing them up

  3. Kirk, someone at on the Apple forum suggested this (haven’t tried it yet, but it seemed to work on their end):

    “go to iTunes Preferences > Store and check the Automatic Downloads for Apps. When you download an App to your iPhone for example, it will then download the full version of that App to iTunes when you sync. Which basically will mean it behaves exactly as you expected it to, it will appear that it has simply transferred the App from your iDevice to iTunes.”

    What do you think the deal is with purchased songs on an iDevice synching to your iTunes library? Bug? If “transferring purchases” has been disabled from iOS9 that seems to imply more than just apps. This could be the new normal.

    If this is the case, I guess the best (only?) option to have a backup of songs/videos in your computer’s iTunes library would be to download them from iCloud in the “purchased” section of iTunes, right?

    • Yes to both. Automatic downloads of apps, and manual downloads of purchased content. However, I can see people who, like me, have poor bandwidth at home wanting to perhaps download a movie on their iPad when at work, then copy it to their iTunes library at home. It would be a shame if this is no longer possible.

  4. I’ve distanced myself from this utter contempt from apple since the syncing debacle from ios7 so it’s not a surprise to read this post.

    I recently bought an ipad mini 4, and HAD to “update” to 12.3 itunes for syncing purposes (this itunes is too old to workwith this device (12.1.2!!) blah blah blah BS blah..), and now… it’s back… not syncing at all. PREPARING TO COPY ITEMS…

    “Non syncing is back”, Kirk, that can be your next posts headline.

  5. If you download apps via iTunes, then sync to assorted devices, do they thin as they sync, or do they then take up the full amount of space on every device?

    This is going to be a pain in any case, because I have fast internet at work, and slow at home, so now I’ll have to do it all at home. (1.5 Mb–I envy you your fast 4 Mb :-))

    I wish Apple would stop assuming that everyone has gigabit etherhoses.

  6. I have problem with this too.

    before iOS9
    When I backup my iPhone to Mac air. All update app in iPhone will transfer to Mac air. It’s so easy when I have to restore my iPhone. no need to remember App, Conguration of App. everything in my iPhone wil be back when I have finished restore.

    but now
    I need to check on my iPhone and download all update App to my mac air before restore my iPhone.

    I think Apple should to have a choice for user to enable/disable transter purchases item.

  7. Yes I’m also facing same issue, can’t backup purchases. I will try again after updating iOS 9.0.2 which is just released today. Please update this patch guys there is clearly mentioned about this bug.

  8. I had iTunes 12.3 and iOS 9.02 already installed. At that point, I could update apps using iTunes or my iPhone. Sometimes apps updated via iTunes did not update on my iPhone when I did a sync. But this also happened before I updated to iOS 9. I do not have the automatic download option checked in iTunes preferences.

    Then I “upgraded” to El Capitan. Now iTunes will not update apps. If I click on the app Update button or Update All Apps, I get a brief flash saying something is being updated and then nothing. And nothing is updated.

    I can update apps directly on my iPhone but they are not transferred. Even if I check the Automatic Download option, nothing happens. But that’s probably because if I check the option, close Preferences and re-open, the check mark has disappeared.

    So I tried signing out and signing in. But when I click Sign In, nothing happens. I’ve tried re-installing iTunes but it made no difference.

    So now iTunes seems dead in the water although it will still backup my devices.

    • I reinstalled El Capitan over top of the old installation and I can now sign into the iTunes store and update my apps through iTunes. I did not re-install iTunes again.

      The only thing that would have changed is my disable of the iBooks book agent. I am not a fan of iBooks handling my ebooks on my Mac although I like it on my iPad, so I choose to uninstall iBooks and disable the BookAgent. To do that I have to disable SIP and then re-enable it. I haven’t done that yet but maybe that was the problem.

  9. This is driving me NUTs!

    Four different Macs, 4 iDevices, latest systems all round and iTunes will no longer sync in EITHER direction! Can’t update iTunes and then use that to update devices, can’t get updated apps back from iDevices.

  10. I have the same problem the apps not syncing to my iTunes on my pc but my music purchases and my iBooks purchases and all my podcast that I download to my iPhone 5s with iOS 9.0.2 are syncing to my iTunes on my pc

  11. This is horrible. I have a bandwidth cap on my home Internet service, thanks Comcast, and as a result I download all my app updates when connected to Wi-Fi elsewhere. I already bump up against the bandwidth cap monthly. Now I cannot have backups of my apps on my home computer.

  12. Apps are also not transferring from my iPhone 6 on iOS 9.0.2 to iTunes on Windows 10. Furthermore, iTunes says I have 189 apps requiring update, but when I click “Update All Apps”, nothing downloads. Is this problem related? Anyone else with this issue?

  13. Iphone 6+ Ipad Macbook Air, Latest iTunes. elCapitan.
    Same issue, if I download a new app – it syncs to iTunes.
    Not one of my previous purchases will sync to iTunes from either my phone or my iPad – this is driving me nuts! Get it together Apple!

  14. Good to know it’s not just me finding this problem annoying. Without Jobs, Apple becomes more and more user-unfriendly!

  15. Even with updating to iTunes 12.3.1 and updating my iPhone to iOS 9.1 I
    Still having the issue of updated apps not syncing to iTunes when I sync. At least everything is I wish apple would get it together

  16. i just found out last week. a couple of years ago i used to always download apps and updates on itunes, then synch to have itunes update them on multiple devices without redownload from internet. i kept doing this until apple disabled the feature. they did not respond to a support request about it. finally i started only downloading and updating apps on ipad air one and only ever use itunes to backup before a new ios release. last week i bought an ipad pro. so i backed up my ipad air and did a restore into the ipad pro. since i had over a thousand apps, i had to repeat the restore ten times where the first time it copied 500 apps and each subsequent time it added about a hundred before hanging. strangely it would resume not restart each time. however it wouldn’t work at all until i updated target device to ios 9.2, turned off passcode, no suto lock, turned off wifi and 3g, set do not disturb. otherwise the restore tried to redownload each app from internet instead of itunes. anyway using this process took 3 days but i managed to get 1000+ apps restored losing only 20 apps. of the 20 i managed to download a few on the app store, a few i could only find in purchased tab and redownload as indicated above. however apps which were pulled from app store for TOS violations do not show up. so i lost my (video d/l) and (video dl) apps which allow easy download of streamed ideos from all sites including youtube. i am still trying to find a way to get those from my old ipad air one to itunes so i can install the ipa, but since transfer purchases stopped working, nothing else works either. i used to be able to extract apps from device using ifunbox or imazing but neither works anymore on ios 9.2. i have never jailbreaked my devices before but will try to jailbreak my ipad air once ios 9.2 is broken. it currently only has those two missing apps on it and the purpose of jailbreaking is to see if ifunbox will be able to extract the ipa from it that way.

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