How to Make iTunes Sync More Quickly with an iOS Device

I’ve received a number of emails recently from readers asking how they can get iTunes to sync more quickly with their iPhone or iPad. The slowness of iTunes syncing is very annoying, and I see it here. I’m not talking about the time it makes to transfer content from my Mac to my iPhone, but the amount of time that the multi-step sync process takes even before items get copied.

At the top of the iTunes window, in what’s called the iTunes LCD, you can see the sync progress. First you see Step 1, which is iTunes warming up. Step 2 is iTunes backing up your device. It then goes through several other steps, but it is often at Step 6 or Step 7 that things get slow.

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When iTunes is “Waiting for changes to be applied,” you can wait several minutes. I suspect that what’s happening here is that iTunes is comparing the content to be synced with a database on the device. The larger the storage on the device, the longer this takes. But some people find that the device simply won’t sync at all, and stop the sync at that point.

I wish iTunes had some sort of sync log so you could see what happens, and what slows down syncing, or where it’s getting stuck. I’ve found, through trial and error, a couple of ways to speed up syncing, but some sort of log or report could confirm this.

The best thing to do — and the most annoying — is to restore your device. I’ve found that wiping an iOS device and re-syncing all my content speeds up the sync process; at least for a while. But if I’ve had trouble syncing specific types of content, such as music or apps, I uncheck that type of content, sync the device, recheck it, then sync again. This seems to clear out the local database on the iOS device.

From the number of emails I’m getting, this problem seems to be affecting more and more people. In my case, it got a lot worse when iOS 7 was released. Let’s hope that IOS 8, and iTunes 12, will improve sync speed.