I moved recently, and my iPhone was only setup to sync with my old computer that I left behind. — How can you setup an iPhone to sync with a different computer, without losing your app and device settings?
Preparing to replace/migrate your device
Make sure that you've first done the following:
- Complete an encrypted iTunes backup of your iPhone on your new computer via USB. — You can do this without syncing:
- Click on your iPhone in the left-column of iTunes or find it in the navigation menu.
- Make sure that the “Encrypt iPhone backup” option is turned-on. (Without the device backup being encrypted, some settings are not backed up.)
- Click the “Back Up Now” button.
- Make an iCloud backup as well on your device itself in the “Settings” app, just in case. — This is optional, but recommended as a good fallback.
- Download or import any content (apps, music, books, podcasts, etc.) to iTunes on the new computer if you want them on your device after this. — The synced content will need to be transferrable from this machine, and if it's not, you can't migrate it and will have to sync other content instead.
- If you're erasing the same device and restoring it on a new computer, you might want to write down or email yourself screenshots of which apps and other content you have, as you'll need to manually reselect this in iTunes later during the first of two device restores.
- You may be able to transfer some of this from the device itself using the “Transfer purchases” menu option, found within the “Devices” menu under the “File” menu when in iTunes.
… Once you've done all of this, follow the steps below. — You'll need to do multiple restores of your device to get everything correctly migrated.
Restoring to the new device (the first time)
When you have your new device (or, if you chose to erase your current device to restore it on a new computer)… do not choose the option to restore the device from iCloud when setting it up.
Instead, choose to restore it from iTunes. — If you connect the device to your new computer (the one with the backups you made above), you should be prompted automatically with this option.
- If you'd synced your device with this particular computer originally, the encrypted backup you made above should restore all of the content nearly exactly as it was, and iTunes will have already begun syncing your apps over automatically.
- If it was with a different computer originally, as this article focuses on, you'll initially be minus any content and apps… even though your settings such as your wallpaper, passwords, and known Wi-Fi networks should be available already.
One manual step, if you're missing your apps and content…
Manually select all of the content in iTunes (apps, music, books, podcasts, etc.) to restore based on what was installed before. — Don't worry about the homescreen layout or anything right now, as this will be automatically fixed later using the second device restore that we'll complete below.
You may be prompted that your device was previously “synced with another iTunes Library” and that all of your content “will be erased,” but that's fine… because we made two backups already!
Once you start syncing, this is important: …DO NOT OPEN ANY APPS ON YOUR DEVICE YET! — The reason for this is that iTunes, when restoring data from a backup, will not overwrite newer files. By opening apps, it will create newer files on the device and these will not be overwritten by the second device restore that we'll complete next.
… If you already opened an app, erase the device and start over. 🚫
The final step: A second restore to the new device
Once all of your apps are installed, this is the magic, final step: ✨
- Right-click your device on the left-hand column of iTunes to get a context menu, and click the “Restore from backup…” option shown there. (Yes, we're restoring it again.)
- From the screen that appears, select the same backup that you initially restored from again.
… What this does is keeps the existing synced content that you manually reinstalled above (…hopefully you didn't open any apps yet!), but overwrites all of the device and app settings again with a fresh copy. — This is critical because, during the original restore, the apps weren't available yet… but now they are. 🙂
Because your device settings are also restored again, your homescreen layout should be the exact same layout as it was before now, too. 👍🏻
Once you're done with everything above, check through the “Settings” app on your device again to be sure that everything is correct, and also check each app that had a configuration that you were particularly concerned about migrating.
And, if you ever switch computers again, just follow these steps once more to migrate your device over to it. 👍🏻