How to Sync an iPhone to a New Computer Without Losing Data
By far the easiest way to sync an iPhone to a new Mac or Windows PC is to transfer all iPhone files and backups from the old computer to the new one. The necessary data is stored in several different locations, and we’ll cover what files and where they go for both Mac OS X and Windows.
A few quick notes:
- If you only want to sync and not worry about content, the /MobileSync/Backup/ directory is all you need to copy over
- If you want to painlessly sync music and video, you will need to transfer over the potentially large iTunes folder
- Using a local network is the generally quickest way to move the necessary files over, but copying them to a USB drive, DVD, hard drive, etc, is fine too
This guide is aimed for iPhone users, but this would work with an iPad or iPod touch too.
Syncing an iPhone with a New Mac by Copying Sync Data
- Quit iTunes on both Macs and disconnect the iPhone from both Macs
- Open the Home folder and copy the iTunes directory from the old computer to the new one, located at:
- Now open the user library directory and copy the backups from the old computer to the new one, located at:
- To be certain everything is in order, copy over iTunes Preferences files as well:
- Now connect the iPhone to the new Mac, launch iTunes, confirm that everything is in order, and authorize the new computer
You should be able to even sync from an old PC or a Mac to a new PC/Mac if you use sharing between Mac and Windows to copy the iTunes and Backup folders and put them in their appropriate places.
Syncing an iPhone with a New Windows PC
The instructions are basically the same as above, but the files and folders you are looking to copy are in different locations. For Windows 7 users, you’ll want to copy the following directories and their contents from the old PC to the new PC:
Replace “USERNAME” with the users account name, obviously. Older versions of Windows have iPhone backups located at the following location instead:
C:\Documents and Settings\USER\Application Data\Apple Computer\MobileSync\Backup
Now launch iTunes and connect the iPhone and it should sync as normal. Go ahead and authorize iTunes with the new computer as well.
Why is this process necessary before syncing iOS to a new computer?
To put it simply, because data is meant to go from the computer to the iPhone, not from the iPhone to a computer with iTunes. All of this is made a bit better for iCloud users, but you will still need these directories copied over before you can use Wi-Fi sync and sync flawlessly to a new machine without losing data.
As mentioned before, if you just want to quickly sync a new iPhone, all you need to do is copy the backup, but in order to preserve all other iTunes content, music, and preferences, you’ll want to copy everything over.