iOS 5: How to Use Wi-Fi Sync with iTunes

For those using the new iTunes 10.5 and running iOS 5 on their iPad or iPhone, you can pull off one of the most requested new features – syncing your device without tethering to a computer. Wi-Fi sync will keep your device backed up over your home or office Wi-Fi network.

First, a few requirements. You have to be running iTunes 10.5 on the computer – Windows or Mac. I would advise that your Mac should probably be running the latest version of OS X to make it go more smoothly. The iOS device must be updated with iOS 5 – not an easy task on day one, based on our own staff’s experience and apparently our readers too.

Finally, have both the computer running iTunes 10.5 and the iOS device on the same network.

Here’s how to set up WiFi Sync for the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch on iOS 5:

  1. Fire up iTunes on the computer with which you want to sync.
  2. Connect the device to the computer with your USB to Dock cable and perform at least one sync. This has to be done before you can wirelessly sync.
  3. In iTunes go to the Summary page of your device and under Options at the bottom check Sync with this [device] over Wi-Fi (device will say either iPad, iPhone or iPod)
  4. On your iOS device open Settings
  5. Tap on General
  6. Tap on iTunes Wi-Fi Sync
  7. Choose the computer you want to sync with
  8. Plug the device into a power source. Some have said this was a requirement, but I am able to sync without it plugged in.
  9. Tap the Sync button

iTunes Wi-Fi sync settings

You are now ready to sync without connecting your iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch to your computer.

Now, if you want to sync you can go into the Settings of your iOS device and choose General and then iTunes Wi-Fi Sync. Tap on Sync Now and it will start.

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I was really excited about this feature and am really glad to have it. It seems to work well, although I’ve experienced a few glitches in the few times I’ve tried to make it work. You won’t want to do a major sync, with lots of content this way, the process can move slowly.

Comments

  1. Turtle49 says

    With iTunes on my win xp PC, you have to have iTunes up and running before you can sync. Why wouldn’t they run iTunes sync as a system service so that the only requirement is to have your PC up and running?

    This seems like poor implementation to me. The only thing it saves is grabbing a cord to actually plug in… Maybe backing up to the cloud will be more seamless.

    • Damian Castillo says

      I agree with Turtle49.  On my 3GS, I can’t sync. unless I have iTunes running and for some reason, it says it can’t sync. until I connect my iPhone to the computer.  So I guess it does not work for me.

      I followed the instructions above and did one sync. operation with my iPhone connected to the PC.  But if I disconnect my iPhone from the PC and plug it into a power source, it would let me sync.

      It says “Sync will resume when “Computer Name” is available.”
      iTunes is running, it’s set to sync with my iPhone through wifi, but it does nothing.  the “Sync Now” button is not active for me to pick.

      • Sheridan_kamal says

        I’m also using 3GS, the wifi sync is not working for me too. Is there any solution so far?

      • Brettmurphy says

        I had to restart my PC and reset my router for mine to work – using an iPad 2 with Windows XP. I have still not got it to work unless iTunes is open on the PC. No matter what option I have set. If anyone has any ideas for the PC then please call it out.

      • ArtisticDivaIi says

        I was receiving this same message and nothing I tried work. I have an older (2005) MacBook running the latest version of Leopard, the latest iTunes. All other devices (Apple Tv, iPad and iPhone 4) have been updated to ios5. I’m also utilizing a 2Wire router from AT&T.

        What worked for me was changing my router security protocol (I guess that’s the proper terminology) from WEP to WPA. After making that change everything sync’d perfectly and worked just as advertised. I hope this helps those having this particular issue.

      • Lolamaelovely says

        I have the 3GS and am able to sync without cords as long as iTunes is open on my computer.

      • Ian says

         I have exactly the same issue…I reboot the PC and synch works. Then next time I close the lid I have to reboot again to get wifi synch again…sucks but I think it has to do with something with my laptop…poor implementation by Apple on Windows

  2. Mark Kendzora says

    How I got mine to work…
    -Follow the above instructions
    -Make sure when you select wifi sync on iTunes you hit the apply button in the lower left corner
    -After you sync with the connection to your computer, eject your iphone from the computer, then reboot your computer from a power down state…

    Had problems initially also, but it works now…
    Hope this helps someone!

  3. HDr says

    Attention: it says “when connected to the same network as the main computer AND charging the phone” the last will AUTOMATICALLY SYNC.

    SO:
    1. you don’t have to start iTunes
    2. you can manually sync when not charging
    3. it will AUTOMATICALLY sync when charging, there is no need to do anything special other than plug the phone for charging, anywhere in the perimeter of your WiFi network.

    This is my understanding, correct me if I’m wrong. It’s all possible because the iCloud.

    • Noah Wiles says

      HDr.  Thanks for the suggestion.  This worked for me.  It seems that iTunes acts a little buggy at first when you try to set this all up, but after having setup wi-fi sync on my iPad and iPhone 4, it took me reconnecting my iPad physically (with wire), making sure the “wirelessly sync with this iPad” option was still selected and then doing another sync over the physical wire BEFORE disconnecting to try the wi-fi sync and then it suddenly started working for both my iPad and iPhone 4.  I like it!!

    • ncus says

      It didn’t work for me. Connecting iPad and iPhone to power source does not trigger WiFi sync automatically. The Sync button on iOS is grayed out. 

      Probably it’s my router problem.

    • srenit59 says

       I have tried this several times and it still doesn’t work, completely. When I disconnect from computer, “SYNC NOW” on phone, grays out. Do, I need to have 10.5 on iTunes, because it’s running 10.6.1.7?

  4. Wyant202 says

    For some reason- item #3 (Sync with this [device] over Wi-Fi) doesnt appear in my itunes summary menu. Anyone have any solutions?

    thanks

    • mick says

      WiFi sync is not available on computers running Mac OS 10.5 or older.  You need Snow Leopard or Lion…

      I’m bummed because it means I can’t WiFi sync until I buy a new computer.  My PPC Mac Pro can’t be updated any further…

  5. Anonymous says

    I was able to sync wirelessly after i went into the icloud settings and backed up to icloud.  Then the “sync now” message was available.

  6. Noah Wiles says

    By the way, it annoys the hell out of me how quick people are to whine and criticize, like little babies, about awesome technology sometimes not working perfectly right out of the box.  This is especially annoying when you know those individuals would never be able to create something as awesome, much less even understand the science behind how it was done.  Just a little rant.  I’m done now.  :-)

  7. HDr says

    OK so, I have learned something.
    First of all, follow all the steps Kevin posted at the beginning. Thank You Kevin!
    You HAVE to connect, old school, your phone to your computer ONCE.

    After this, I was partially correct. The phone will automatically sync when connected to a power source (ANY power source, not only the computer) or, if not connected to a power source, you can manually activate the sync from settings – general – itunes wifi sync.

    I said I was partially correct because for fully automatic sync you have to meet 2 conditions:
    1. you have to have your computer ON
    2. you have to have iTunes running on that computer.
    It makes sense actually.

    Everything works smooth like the silk if you do correctly the initial setup and if you have the phone on the same wireless network with your PC/Mac.

    If still in doubt, check youtube; I don’t know if I’m allowed, but here is a link:

  8. Pete says

    I had a problem with
    AUTOMATIC wifi sync not working. Wifi sync worked when initiated from my
    iphone, but there was no automatic sync.

    The fix I found was to:
    1) Ensure “Enable Wifi sync” in checked in the iPhone summary page of
    iTunes
    2) Ensure “Open iTunes when this iPhone is connected” is checked in the
    iPhone summary page of iTunes
    3) Ensure that “Prevent iPods, iPhones and iPads from syncing
    automatically” is not checked in the Preferences – Devices settings of
    iTunes.

    I was missing step 2. Once I checked this box, I gained automatic
    wifi sync every time my iPhone was connected to external power within
    range of my wifi network.

    • RatSalade says

      Yes!!  After many frustrating attempts at getting AUTOMATIC updates to work, this is it!  Holy Cow.  Thank you man…  Only thing I would add is that I found that iTunes must also be running or the automatic sync will not occur.  Maybe that is also a configuration that I need to change somewhere, but only a minor annoyance for now.  This is Golden.  Thanks again for posting the tip. 

    • Yleberre says

      THANKS! That’s exactly what I was looking for. And the solution is not easy to find!

    • Ktb7624 says

      Hi
      I initially plugged my new IPhone 4 into a pc that wasn’t mine. Now I can’t sync to my pc. It comes up with the other pcs name not mine. Does anyone know how to change this? It is “greyed” out.
      Thanks

  9. SimonOrJ says

    People,
    there is a setting in Settings -> General called “iTunes Wi-Fi Sync”.

    First, connect your iPhone to the computer.
    Next, on the computer, check in the checkbox “Sync with this iPod over Wi-Fi”.
    THEN, WHILE THE IPHONE IS CONNECTED TO THE COMPUTER, GO TO SETTINGS => GENERAL =>ITUNES WI-FI SYNC AND CLICK ON THAT SYNC BUTTON. 
    Then, every time you want to sync your iPhone with computer through Wi-Fi, you can go to that place and click on the button which will be available every time you visit it.

  10. Jjnbdal says

    Did not work for me. I am running Windows 7 and iphone 4S. The Sync Now on my device is grayed out whether I plugged the phone on the power socket or not. Any Idea?

    Thanks

  11. Bobbobjones says

    This has never worked on a win 7 64 bit machine. Port forwarding, firewalls down and proper config in itunes/network. It simply does not work.

  12. Judy says

    I’m having trouble Bluetooth pairing my iPhone 4G to my MacBook Pro. I see it’s discoverable, pair. Computer says pairing was successful. Dot beside iPhone is green and then it quickly goes red and on the iPhone I receive the following message,”MacBook Pro is not supported. Any ideas??

  13. Richard says

    These superb instructions still work as of 3/10/2013 — on both my iPhone 3GS and my IPad / Retina display, both running iOS 6.1.2 and the latest iTunes and syncing with a Windows 7 desktop.

    Thanks, Kevin!

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