How do I sync an old iPhone to a new computer and retain its contents?
September 4, 2010 2:00 PM   Subscribe

My iPhone was upgraded from 3G to 4. I've given the old 3G handset to my wife, to use sans SIM. How do I sync it to another computer, and retain everything that's on it?

Trying to answer this question by googling proved futile: there are just too many variations of similar problems out there.

So, my wife will use the 3G basically as an iPod Touch. It still has all the apps I've installed on it, as well as music, videos and photos, and can still buy stuff off iTunes (on the device) using my Apple account. This is as it should be.

However, I don't know how to set the 3G up to sync with iTunes on a desktop computer, while retaining everything that's on it. I want to set it up to sync with my WinXP home computer (my new iPhone 4 syncs with my work Mac).

When I've connected the iPhone to the computer, iTunes did show its contents, although imperfectly (can't remember now what was different), but I'm scared that when I hit the Sync button it will erase or change what's on there now. And I'm not completely sure whether what I want is actually possible.

The home computer obviously has a different media store (music, videos) than my work computer. I wouldn't mind wiping the music and videos off the iPhone first, but I really want to retain the apps and all settings.

Is it OK with Apple if I have the same app installed on 2 devices? What if I buy a new app on one -- how do I get that on the other, or can't I? (I'm using the same Apple/iTunes account on both.)
posted by snarfois to Computers & Internet (5 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Apple only lets you sync your music/apps/ringtones/whatever with one computer at a time. So if the phone was previously synced with computer A, and now you want to sync it with computer B, it'll first erase it before syncing.

If you have purchased content on the iPhone that you don't want erased, first transfer it to iTunes by selecting File-->Transfer Purchases.

It's ok that you have the same app installed on more than one device. If you buy a new app on iPhone 1 and want to get that app on iPhone 2, you have two options:

1) Plug the iPhone with the app into the computer with which the other iPhone is synced, and then click File-->Transfer Purchases. Then sync the other iPhone with the computer that now has the app.
2) Download the app through the app store. Since you've already purchases it with the iTunes account, and you're still using that account with the other phone, you'll be able to download that app via that account as many times as you like (as long as the app is still available in the iTunes store).
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 2:13 PM on September 4, 2010

For what it's worth, for future app purchases, my husband and I use the same apple I'D for app purchases, so that we only buy apps once but use them on two devices.
posted by leahwrenn at 2:27 PM on September 4, 2010

when i say purchased, i mean purchased through iTunes. you can only transfer purchased music from the phone to the computer via iTunes. i'm sure there are programs out there that will pull the music off for you, so you don't have to use an external hard drive or a network or something. maybe someone who knows of a good one can chime in.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 2:41 PM on September 4, 2010

Response by poster: What about free apps? Does iTunes see those as "purchased" apps, which can be transferred using Transfer Purchases?

So, syncing old iPhone with iTunes on computer B: are you saying I'll have to start from scratch? I won't be able to retain the current settings on iPhone? Can I use File: Transfer Purchases on this iTunes (computer B) to save me the effort of re-downloading all my apps?
posted by snarfois at 4:27 PM on September 4, 2010

Free apps are considered purchased.

You won't lose settings, just the content. But since the content is either able to be transferred from the phone (or via networking, USB key, networking, whatever) it's not gone forever.

You can use File-->Transfer to avoid the hassle of re-downloading all your apps again. You could also turn on home sharing in iTunes to transfer content easily from one computer to another.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 8:20 PM on September 4, 2010

« Older FSL and Linux installation   |   Just accidentally took an extra 200 mg of lamictal... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.