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This silly problem about 'sync' has certainly bothered me since a long time:

What do you mean by "Sync the iPhone"?

I used to get confused when doing such stuff because I do not know if my Mac has data A, and my iPhone has date B, to sync them will mean to make Mac have the exact 'B' or 'make the iPhone have the exact 'A'?

For example, I took many photos in my iPhone, and never know how to get them out with this 'sync' functionality, because my Mac has no photo and if I understand the wrong way and do the sync all my photos in Mac would disappear, right?

A similar scenario is my Mac stores some mp3, and I truly hope to use 'sync' in a safe manner to copy the mp3 from the mac to the iPhone. Yeah, I know it is quite a stupid question. Finally I take the courage to ask.

Can anyone explain me about the semantics of 'Sync mac with iPhone' etc?

Many thanks.

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closed as off topic by terdon, Keltari, 8088, Scott, Brad Patton Apr 26 '13 at 0:06

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lol stackoverflow.com/questions/16174642/… –  zell Apr 26 '13 at 21:12
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3 Answers

up vote 2 down vote accepted

First off, photos you have taken on your iPhone with default photo app will NOT sync back to your computer via iTunes. On a Mac you must use the "Image Capture" application that typically launches when you connect an iPhone.

The photo "sync" function in iTunes only allows you to transfers pictures from your Mac to your iPhone and not the other way around.

Now as far as other content is concerned you can generally follow this rule:

If you buy it in iTunes either on the computer or mobile, when you perform a "sync" iTune will try to move your purchased content to which ever side doesn't already have it. This applies to:

  • Music
  • Movies
  • Apps
  • Books
  • Audiobooks

You can prevent some of this syncing by modifying settings in iTunes when your device is connected.

As others have mentioned others things get synced also:

  • Music play counts and skip counts etc
  • Movie view status and bookmarks
  • Audiobook bookmarks
  • Apps user data and settings backups

With the introduction of iCloud, some of these latter items will now sync automatically without connecting the device to your computer.

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The data on your iPhone is almost always updating (I.E. Song counts). It essentially does a diff and takes whatever is newer, so if something doesn't exist on the Mac, then it shouldn't delete it from the Phone. If your phone is set to sync photos in iTunes, iTunes will then grab all the photos from your phone. Same thing goes with music, (I think) it will automatically find new purchases of music, movies, and apps and automatically inform your mac that there are X,Y,and Z changes. HOWEVER PLEASE NOTE, if you delete a song from your music library it will be deleted from your phone.

At least this is how it worked with synchronizing my iPhone to iTunes in my Windows. I almost never lost data and if I did it's because I had done it on my laptop not my phone.

* OTHER WARNING: Your iPhone can only sync with ONE computer. YOU WILL LOSE DATA IF YOU SYNCED WITH ANOTHER DEVICE PRIOR TO SYNCING WITH THIS ONE. Also, it will inform you of this change.

I could also be missing things here...

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Actually I use multiple computers all the time. I just backup my phone on each computer before I sync different content not that I have different content since my content is in the cloud. –  Ramhound Apr 25 '13 at 19:24
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What's copied where during a sync is something you can configure in iTunes; when you plug your device in, click on it where it appears in the iTunes sidebar, and you'll find the settings for different types of data under "Photos", "Music", &c. I don't have a copy of iTunes handy, but as I recall, you can choose a folder from which to sync photos to the device, and choose which albums on the device are synced to the computer; the same holds true for other types such as music and movies.

The case where there are different versions of the same data is called a conflict; when one occurs, iTunes will pause synchronization and pop up a dialog to ask you which version of each file to keep.

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