How to sync iOS and OS X Mavericks

It happens to everyone: either you’re moving from PC to Mac, or moving from an old iOS device to a new one. Syncing all your data again can get really annoying. But with Apple’s iCloud, it has become simple.

Let’s take this scenario. We’ve moved from Windows 7 to Mac OS X 10.9.3. We use Gmail as our main email account, but haven’t setup an iCloud email. The biggest problem is transferring our apps from the old iPhone 4s to our new iPhone 5s.

Since we’ve been using iOS, we have our favorite apps and settings already configured. We’ve been syncing our apps with iCloud, but these won’t load into OS X’s iTunes after authorizing. So what’s the solution? Three easy steps:

1. Transfer apps and music

2. Setup iCloud email

3. Sync the new device

Transfer Purchases

Connecting the old iPhone 4s to iTunes, I’m able to see the device. But this iPhone has been synced with iTunes on Windows, and syncing with the Mac will erase all my apps. The solution is to Transfer Purchases. This will import apps into iTunes so that you don’t have to manually download them over again.

To transfer any purchases from the App Store, hold Control and click the trackpad. A small menu will appear with Transfer Purchases. This will copy your apps into iTunes.

Mac OS X transfer purchases

This should also import any purchases from iTunes so that you can sync your music again. If you have music from iTunes, it will be exported to the Music section of iTunes. Unfortunately, if you have music that you’ve downloaded from another source, you can’t export it: you’ll have to manually copy the music from the source to a folder on the Mac.

Mac OS X copy old music

Manually transferring music may take a while depending on how much music isn’t coming from iTunes.

Setting up iCloud mail

It’s easy to setup Gmail with the OS X Mail app or use Gmail in a browser, but Apple also offers an iCloud email address. If you haven’t set it up, go to Spotlight in the upper right corner. Type iCloud and the first result will be the option you want. Follow the instructions to setup your iCloud email, which you can also access through the web.

Mac OS X iCloud setup

You can forward your Gmail to iCloud, but unless you really need iCloud email, it’s not necessary.

Syncing a new device

Now that we’ve exported our apps and imported non-iTunes music, we can sync the new iPhone 5s to the Mac. With iCloud, you can sync Mail, Contacts, Calendars, Safari, Photos, and Documents & Data.

When you first connect the device, it will ask you for trust permissions on both the Mac and iPhone.

You have two options: you can Set up as new iPhone or Restore from this backup. Since the old iPhone 4s was synced through iCloud and the Mac, the latter is what you want. Click Continue and the iPhone will being restoring.

Mac OS X sync and restore new iPhone with iTunes

The iPhone will reboot to finish the syncing process, so don’t worry when it does.

Mac OS X restore from iTunes

You can see after it reboots that it’s preparing to sync the apps that were on the old iPhone. Resotre time will vary, so be patient. You can see in iTunes that it’s installing your apps.

Mac OS X syncing apps with iOS

When syncing music, you may find that since your old iPhone was synced to another computer, it will require you to erase and sync the new iPhone with the Mac. This is one of the annoyances of iTunes because you can only be synced with one library at a time. Approve Erase and Sync to get your music back on the iPhone.

Mac OS X sync iTunes music library

You may have to setup the new iPhone before iTunes will sync your music, but it’s an easy process going through all the steps.

iPhone 5s first setup

Since you sign into iTunes and iCloud, your Mac and iPhone are now connected.

iPhone 4s iPhone 5s sync and restore

Now that you’ve moved from Windows to Mac, notifications will sync on iOS and OS X. Not everything will sync, especially platform-specific apps, but standard ones like Mail will update on both Mac OS X and iOS, letting you know when you have new mail.

This may be the first time you’ve synced iOS with OS X, but other than syncing non-iTunes music, you probably won’t have to connect directly to OS X anymore by syncing though Wi-Fi when the Mac and iPhone are on the same network. The other requirement is that iTunes has to be open.

iOS sync over Wi-Fi

iCloud will continue to sync on both Mac and iOS, but the same issue will always apply – content from outside of iTunes or the App Store won’t sync on iCloud.

As you can see, moving from Windows to Mac and syncing OS X with iOS isn’t that difficult. All it takes is a little preparation to make sure you have everything ready for transfer.

If you’re moving between PC and Mac, check out this article about formatting a disk to use on both systems.

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