28 Jun
2011

How to: Transfer and sync an iPhone 4 to a new computer

… without losing your data and your mind!

I’m not sure why this is such a difficult thing to research. Here’s where it started for me: I got a new laptop (yay!) and eight months later finally decided that I should probably cut ties to my old laptop once and for all (crap!). My iPhone and iTunes account were the last things I was using the old laptop for and after many evenings of research, and not finding anything definitive, I just went with it the best I knew how. Things turned out okay.

For some reason, most of the iPhone support documents and websites out there are either trying to sell you an app or program to help you transfer files, or they assume you no longer have access to your old PC or that you have wiped the data from your phone. I guess there’s no help for those of us just feeling technically inept.

So here’s what I wanted to do — transfer my iPhone data, music, books, apps, contacts and photos to a new laptop.

And here’s how I did it:

  1. Sync your iPhone with the old computer one last time which also makes one last backup copy in case something goes wrong. (Keep in mind this a backup of the phone data, not your photos and music. So if you were to “restore from backup” you’d still be out of luck.)
  2. Copy all photos. Just to be sure I didn’t screw things up, I made a backup copy of my 3,000 iPhone photos and videos. I copied the folder onto a giant external hard drive and transferred them to my new laptop.
  3. Copy all music. Here’s the step that could take awhile! I copied my entire “My Music” folder, including my “iTunes” folder onto my new computer and replaced the existing Libraries > Music folder.
  4. Open iTunes and update the location of your iTunes media folder location. If you don’t do this, your library will show up in iTunes but the links to your music will be broken and you’ll see exclamation points next to each track. Oh noooooes!!! In iTunes choose Edit > Preferences, and under the Advanced tab, change the “iTunes media folder location” to the  place you pasted your files. So on Windows XP it was probably something like:
    C:\Documents and Settings\your name\My Documents\My Music\iTunes\iTunes Music
    but on your new Windows 7 computer it should be:
    C:\Users\Your Name\Music\iTunes\iTunes Music
    Once you click OK, iTunes will update your library and reconcile all the issues. Exclamation points no more!
  5. Sync your iPhone. Now you just plug in your iPhone and sync it with the new computer. No worries of it begin wiped out, and even if you did have some kind of freak accident, you can always sync it with the old laptop and start again.
  6. Authorize your new laptop in iTunes by going to Store > Authorize This Computer. If you have a shortage of authorizations, you can always test things out and then deauthorize your old computer to gain one back.
  7. Set up your automatically syncing folders for photos and your playlists. I usually choose “Manually manage music and videos” on my iPhone so I don’t have to worry about iTunes trying to load up my whole library on my teeny tiny 14GB phone.

That’s it. I hope this ends up helping someone. I read the iPhone 4 user guide PDF several times while shrieking at my screen “That’s it? THAT’S IT? That’s all you can tell me?” Rage! But all is well now.

So, what do you think?