Wi-Fi Sync Not Working? Here’s How to Fix it for All iOS Devices

Feb 17, 2013 - 34 Comments

Wi-Fi Sync One of the best general iOS features is wifi syncing, which, just as the name implies, allows you to sync content, data, pictures, music, whatever, to and from an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch and a computer running iTunes, without ever connecting the device with a USB cable. Of course, this feature is only useful when it’s working, and a wide variety of users are encountering an issue where wi-fi syncing just stops working. Either the device refuses to show up iTunes, or it disappears immediately when attempting to sync content to it. The solution below will resolve either of those problems and is quite simple.

Before beginning the troubleshooting process, make sure you have already enabled the iOS wi-fi sync ability for the device. The primary reason wireless syncing doesn’t work is because it wasn’t set up in the first place! This only needs to be done once, but it must be enabled separately for each iOS device you intend to use it for. Meaning you’ll turn it on through iTunes for an iPad, iPhone, and whatever other hardware separately.

Fix for Wi-Fi Syncing & Wireless iOS Devices Not Showing Up in iTunes

The solution for wireless syncing not working and devices not showing up is almost always just to kill the Apple Mobile Device Helper process, both in OS X or Windows.

Fix for Mac OS X

  • Launch “Activity Monitor” (found in /Applications/Utilities/)
  • Use the search box in the upper right corner and search for “AppleMobileDeviceHelper”
  • Select that process and then click the red “Quit Process” button
  • Leave Activity Monitor and then relaunch iTunes

Fix Wi-Fi Sync Problems

Confirm the process is to be killed

Fix wi-fi sync not working in iOS and iTunes

Fix for Windows

  • Hit Control+Alt+Delete to summon the task manager then choose the “Service” tab
  • Locate “Apple Mobile Device” OR “AppleMobileDeviceHelper.exe” (depends on Windows version)
  • Right-click and restart the service, or select it and choose “End Process”
  • Relaunch iTunes again to find the iOS device visible via wi-fi

Apple Mobile Device service

Remember, you just want to restart the process either manually or by killing it, you do not want to disable the Apple Mobile Device service completely or else your iPhone or iPad will never show up.

Regardless of which operating system you use, relaunching iTunes should cause the iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, iPad Mini, whatever it is, to immediately appear in the Devices list of the iTunes sidebar, or in the titlebar if the sidebar is hidden.

iPhone showing up wirelessly in iTunes

Once the iOS device is visible again in iTunes, you’re good to go.

Note: Some readers are finding that AppleMobileDeviceHelper is not running when iTunes is not running, that is normal. If you find the process running after iTunes is quit, kill it anyway.

My iOS Device is Still Not Showing Up Wirelessly in iTunes!

Still not working? Try the following:

  • Double-check that you have configured wi-fi sync to be on by connecting the iPhone/iPad/iPod to iTunes and enabling Wi-Fi Sync under the “Summary” tab and by checking the box next to “Sync with this iPhone over Wi-Fi” – if this is already checked try unchecking it and checking it again
  • Wi-Fi Sync enabled in iTunes looks like this

  • Toggling wireless networking on and off again in iOS Settings:
    1. Open Settings and tap “Wi-Fi”
    2. Flip Wi-Fi from ON to OFF and wait about 10 seconds
    3. Flip Wi-Fi from OFF to ON again

    Toggle Wi-Fi on and off on iPhone

  • Be sure that both the computer with iTunes and the iOS device are connected to the same wireless network router, be sure no IP conflicts exist. If an IP conflict is found, use manual DHCP and set a static IP far out of the conflict range.
  • Try forcing a manual sync from the iOS device by going to Settings > General > iTunes Wi-Fi Sync > Sync Now
  • Disable “Use Cellular Data for iTunes” by going to Settings > General > Cellular > iTunes > OFF
  • Review our troubleshooting guide on what to do when iTunes won’t recognize an iOS device

In about 95% of cases, all wireless syncing issues can be fixed by just killing the Apple Mobile Device process, relaunching iTunes, and toggling Wi-Fi on and off again. Nonetheless, if you have another troubleshooting trick for related problems, let us know in the comments!

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Posted by: Paul Horowitz in iPad, iPhone, iTunes, Tips & Tricks

34 Comments

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  1. Catherine says:

    AppleMobileDeviceHelper is only running on my Mac when iTunes is open… So I can’t follow these directions. Can I kill it when iTunes is open?

  2. Simon says:

    Same as Catherine! AMDH only running with iTunes open. Paul, did you actually try this before writing up this post???

    • Paul says:

      The instructions have been clarified to relaunch iTunes after the fact, thanks for the heads up! The exe can run without iTunes open in Windows, though that seems rare on the Mac side of the equation. Either way killing the process continues to work to get wireless syncing functioning again in most cases. Hopefully that helps!

  3. Jack says:

    What seems to work for me is to just turn wi-fi off and then back on again. I would not consider this a “fix”, however. It is just a workaround for a problem. The real fix lies with Apple.

    • vdiv says:

      Agree. For year Microsoft suffered with getting ActiveSync to properly work with PocketPC devices. It is not a trivial matter.

      The suggested work-arounds are temporary at best. Apple customers by far are not hackers, they don’t want to try things, they just want them working seamlessly.

  4. Sandman619 says:

    I think further research on this subject is needed:
    • Apple Mobile Device process quits with iTunes, so the procedure is not possible as detailed
    • Apple Mobile Device process may be a minute or more before loading

    Even when Apple Mobile Device process relaunches, my iPhone is not being recognized, unless I restart the iPhone. After quitting iTunes 5 times, iTunes did not see my iPhone until I restarted the device. My iPhone did not list my computer as available under iTunes WiFi Sync until the restart as well

    Cheers !

    • matt says:

      That’s probably why it works, if APple Mobile Device is running after quitting iTunes clearly something is wrong

      • Paul says:

        Correct, sometimes AppleMobileDeviceHelper continues to run even with iTunes not open, particularly in Windows. In that case, kill it before relaunching iTunes, though you’ll still want to go through the steps provided if the iOS device doesn’t appear in iTunes.

  5. Jan says:

    After many many many tries to have wifi syncing working flawlessly this looked promising, but it still doesn’t work reliably on my pc. Sometimes it works, but mostly iTunes loses connection to my iphone 4S. Why apple switches on “Use Cellular Data for iTunes” by default is beyond me and most people don’t even know that. I found that out a couple of weeks ago and I thought switching it off would cure this problem, but sadly not.

    I know a lot of people are having issues with this for a long, long time and apple still hasn’t fixed it. Hopefully this article will wake ‘m up.

  6. Dan says:

    I has issues depending on wether my MBP is on wifi or ethernet. This is because the router assigns a different host name to the laptop, depending on the MAC address it detects. I have to plug it in with USB to re-enable the wifi syncing.

  7. david says:

    yeah, this is not a one-size-fits-all fix. it’s not help for me. my iPad, Apple TV and iPhone still aren’t recognized by my PC.

  8. Craig says:

    I’ve tried all the suggestions and nothing works. The only way to get iTunes to recognize my iPhone is to shut it down and restart, but that causes other issues (i.e., Messages endless login loop), or I can simply use the cable. I have to say that I can remember any time in Apple’s history that there have been so many annoying issues with hardware.

  9. Bernard Safatly says:

    I succeeded to sync over wifi, thanks

  10. Landon says:

    i’m not certain i understand this correctly, but ios 6.1.2 says on the settings>general>sync w/ wifi that the phone will sync wirelessly once it is connected to a power source… if the phone has to be plugged into the wall or some other power source, it seems to defeat the whole purpose of wifi syncing…

    • Mb says:

      No that is just letting you know it will sync AUTOMATICALLY when you have wi-fi syncing turned on and are connected to a power source.

      You can manually sync over wi-fi anytime by pressing sync either on your iPhone or by clicking sync inside of iTunes. I’m syncing right now over wi-fi and don’t have my iPod plugged into a power source. I just clicked sync and off it went. Of course I also have to restart Applemobiledevice sometimes as we’ll.

      Thanks so much for this web page!!

  11. George says:

    wow – been fooling around with this iPad to PC sync for an hour or two. Restarting the service worked for me, thanks so much.

    iPad Retina
    PC Windows 7

  12. cashxx says:

    I just found out on my macbook if I turn off wifi on my laptop and turn it back on then my iPhone shows in iTunes.

    • cashxx says:

      AppleMobileDeviceHelper never runs, neither while iTunes is open or closed. Only way to get it to kick in is have iTunes open and flip off my WiFi and turn it back on I am finding out.

      Don’t think I have to have iTunes open, but thats how I have tested it and works every time.

      My macbook is usually woken from sleep I wonder if that has something to do with it. Don’t think so because a reboot doesn’t fix it either. Not sure, strange bug but atleast I finally found a workaround. Been months since I seen wifi sync work at all on my iPhone 4S.

  13. Guila says:

    Thank you so much! i looked for a solution everywhere and urs the only one that worked!

  14. Xavier says:

    Thank you for your help! I can finally sync wirelessly after looking for various solutions.

  15. Daniel says:

    Thank you so much!
    I couldn’t make it work any other way, but this article helped me get it fixed.

  16. scoop says:

    i had to reply .. THANK YOU SO MUCH!! this guide finally fixed my problem, I’ve been looking all over the web for a salutation.

  17. xxJDxx says:

    I didn’t have that process showing up in Activity monitor. I tried to initiate manual sync from both my ipad and my iphone. It did not work for the iphone but did work for the ipad. After doing this the Applemobiledevicehelper process did show up. I killed it as per this article and this got wifi syncing for my ipad working again, but my iphone still does not show up.

  18. JackT says:

    I just got this working. I’ve had problems with my wifi camera and my iPhone. Just yesterday, I got wifi thermostats. they would not work.

    I have a Linksys E3000 router. I started the management page, clicked “Wireless”, then clicked “Advanced Wireless Settings”, then “Disabled” next to “AP Isolation”: Fixed. Note that there are two “AP Isolation” lines on this page. “Disable” both of them.

    All devices are happy now.

  19. hellouu says:

    iPhone 4s WIFI issue is a hardware issue and the chip needs to be replaced/repaired. so far, the only one that does this worldwide and permanent is podmod.de

  20. Ahwtukee Al says:

    You do need to have your device plugged in to a “proper” charger. There a many chargers that do charge the battery but are not compatible with the Wi-Fi sync requirement. Try a real Apple cable and charger.

  21. Josh says:

    This doesn’t have anything to do with fixing it for me. My iPhone 5s mostly syncs fine over Wifi. My iPad 2 was flakey even when it used to work, and it hasn’t worked over Wifi in years.

    I’ve wondered if doing a clean install of iOS on my iPad might fix this, but that’s a pain, and it syncs over USB fine, sooo…

  22. Rehma says:

    Thank you so much. You’re a genius man. I was stuck with this problem from a long time. You resolved it in seconds.
    :D

  23. Geoffree says:

    Dear users,
    I’ve been trying to fix this issue for years, as an IT consultant in the the corporate sector; on many different phones / computers. No truly reliable fixes exit.

    Big Picture:
    These products are really just pretty ‘toys’;
    not reliable communications devices.
    We need to accept this and never completely rely on them.
    Search the web. You know I’m right.
    Read all the thousands of ‘problem emails’
    all hoping that ‘Apple will fix this one day’

    Making these devices reliable as well as pretty,
    is not a high priority for Apple, otherwise they would do so.
    Apple’s priority is the selling of new product and new features,
    not reliability.
    There ARE people in Apple who genuinely care and want things to work, but they can’t change the ‘Big Picture’
    It’s Marketing and Profit kids!
    gb

  24. DanB says:

    Thanks mate! I was cursing for a while till I found this thread.

  25. myth says:

    None of these worked for me, it’s still not showing up.

  26. Jay says:

    It worked for me, thank you.

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