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Syncing with iTunes

With iCloud, the iPad can be a truly stand-alone device, no desktop computer needed. iCloud is also great for keeping your iPad and your Mac in sync, sharing settings, music, photos, and so on. An alternative is to use iTunes to sync your iPad and your Mac or Windows computer. There are several advantages to doing so:

  • Each day you sync your iPad, iTunes stores a backup of its content. You can restore all your data from these backups if you lose your iPad. You can do the same with iCloud backup, but it can take a lot longer to restore an iPad because it has to transfer the data across the Internet.
  • Syncing with a computer is a good way to get a large number of photos from your collection on your iPad if you aren’t using iCloud Photo Library.
  • Syncing is how you get your music stored on your computer onto your iPad if you aren’t using iTunes Match or Apple Music. If you have a large collection of music, you can opt to copy only a selection of it to your iPad at any one time.

You might get a message asking if it is okay to sync your iPad to this computer the first time you connect your iPad and open iTunes. The message won’t reappear after you have connected the iPad to the computer.

After connecting the first time, iTunes should automatically open when you connect your iPad. While connected to your computer, you can always click the Sync button in iTunes to re-sync and apply any changes to the iPad.

You can also choose Sync over Wi-Fi connection in your iPad’s options in iTunes. This allows you to sync when your iPad isn’t connected to the computer by the USB cable. It only needs to be on the same network as your Mac or PC that is running iTunes.

As we look at some of the syncing options for the iPad, the Mac version of iTunes is used as an example. The Windows version of iTunes is similar but not exactly the same.

Syncing Options

After your device is in sync, you can change some general options for your iPad from the Summary screen in iTunes. Most of the options are self-explanatory, such as Open iTunes When This iPad Is Connected.

  1. Using iTunes 12.2 or newer, look for a button representing your iPad at the top of iTunes. After you select it, the items in the rest of the iTunes window will pertain to your iPad, with settings and content categories listed on the left.
  2. You can configure your backups. iCloud backups are convenient for those without regular access to a computer, but it uses Internet bandwidth and can be a problem if you have a slow connection. Backing up to your computer is a good option if you regularly sync to your computer anyway.
  3. You can set your iPad to connect via Wi-Fi. From then on, you only need to be on the same network as your computer to sync with iTunes.
  4. A handy chart of your iPad’s storage is shown.
  5. Any changes you make on this screen, or any other iTunes sync screen, requires that you click Sync to re-sync with the new settings.

One option that dramatically changes how your iPad syncs is Manually Manage Music and Videos. This option turns off automatic syncing of music and videos and enables you to simply drag and drop songs and movies from your iTunes library onto the iPad icon on the left. (You might need to scroll down the Summary page to locate this checkbox if your screen size is too small to show the entire page at once.)

Syncing Music

The simple way to sync music is to select Entire Music Library in iTunes on your computer. If you have more music than can fit on your iPad, though, you must make some choices. Syncing Movies, TV Shows, Podcasts, Tones (ringtones for messaging and FaceTime), iTunes U, and Books all work in a similar way to syncing music, so you can apply what you learn in these steps to those items as well.

  1. Select your iPad at the top of the iTunes window.
  2. Click the Music button of your iPad’s settings in iTunes.
  3. Select Sync Music, if it isn’t already turned on.
  4. Click the Selected Playlists, Artists, Albums, and Genres button.
  5. Check off any playlists in the Playlists section that you want to include.
  6. Check off any artists for which you want to include every song by that artist.
  7. Check off any genres to include in their entirety.
  8. Check off any albums you want to include.
  9. Use the search box to quickly find specific artists.
  10. Click the Apply button if you want to apply the changes now.

Syncing Photos

The process for syncing photos from your computer to your iPad is very similar to how you move music, videos, and other data to your iPad. So let’s use photos as an example. The steps here are very similar if you want to sync something else, like movies, to your iPad. You would just choose the Movies tab in iTunes instead of the Photos tab.

  1. Select your iPad.
  2. Choose Photos.
  3. Click the checkbox to indicate that you want to sync photos.
  4. You can choose from any applications that are compatible with iTunes and store photos. For instance, on Mac you can choose the new Photos app or the old iPhoto or Aperture apps, if you have them. You can also simply select a folder to use as the location for your photos. The rest of the steps here assume you are using iPhoto.
  5. Click All photos and albums to sync all your photos. Only do this if you have a fairly small collection.
  6. Choose Selected albums to select which albums to sync.
  7. You can also have photos taken over a recent period of time automatically sync. For instance, you can have it sync all photos from the past 6 months.
  8. Choose which albums you want to sync. Albums are collections of photos, like music playlists, that allow you to compile your favorite or related photos into a group.
  9. When you are satisfied with your selections, click Apply to begin the transfer.

Syncing Everything Else

Music and photos are two out of many types of items you might want to sync between your computer and your iPad. In most cases, if you use iCloud for that type of item, there is no need to ever sync it via iTunes.

If you look in iTunes, you have the ability to sync Info, Apps, Tones, Music, Movies, TV Shows, Podcasts, Books, and Photos. Each has a similar screen to the Music and Photos syncing settings screens we have already examined. Let’s take a look at each and see why you may or may not want to sync them using iTunes.

  • Info: This means syncing Contacts and Calendars. If you use iCloud, this happens automatically as you make changes. There is no need to sync.
  • Apps: Since your Mac or PC cannot run iOS apps, these settings in iTunes allow you to keep copies of your apps on your computer so you can restore them to your iPad in case of a problem. You can also use the iTunes interface to arrange the apps on your Home screens.
  • Tones: This refers to ringtones and sounds used by Messages, FaceTime, and other things where your iPad sends you an audible alert. If you are creative and good with GarageBand on the Mac, you can create ringtones with it and use iTunes to sync these new ringtones to your iPad. You can also download iOS-compatible ringtones, which are .m4r files, and sync them this way.
  • Music: If you are using Apple Music or iTunes Match, you don’t need to use iTunes to sync your music. If you don’t have much music, and want to save a few dollars, you can simply sync your music with iTunes on your computer.
  • Movies and TV Shows: These two categories are used mainly to sync videos you have purchased in the iTunes Store. However, it also works for other videos you store in iTunes. Videos that are part of your photo collection are synced under Photos.

    One thing to keep in mind is that once you purchase a movie or TV show episode, you can always re-download it from Apple later. So if you buy 22 episodes of a TV season and watch them all, you don’t need to keep them on either your iPad or your computer. You can remove those items from iTunes to save some storage space, and then download them again from Apple if you want to watch them again later.

  • Podcasts: Thanks to the stand-alone Podcasts app that comes with your iPad, there’s not much of a need to sync podcasts across from your computer to your iPad. You can simply download episodes directly to your iPad. See “Listening to Podcasts” in Chapter 4.
  • Books: Books work in much the same way as Movies. When you buy a book from Apple, you can re-download it later. If a book is just text, it is a quick download. If you buy a book on your computer in iBooks, you can easily find it and download it in the iBooks app on your iPad, too. Syncing can also be useful for those who import other types of books into the iBooks library on a Mac, and then want to get it to their iPad later on.
  • Photos: As noted earlier, the main reason to sync photos is if you aren’t using iCloud Photo Library and you want to take some recent or favorite albums on your computer and put them on your iPad for viewing.
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