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What to do when iTunes doesn't recognize iPhone - 9 tips

Blake Sullivan Updated on Jun 23, 2022 4:18 PM

It happens sometimes. You connect your iPhone to your PC or Mac using a USB cable but iTunes doesn't recognize iPhone. The computer doesn't respond to the device in any way, and the device icon won't pop up in iTunes either. In some issues of iPhone not showing up in iTunes, an unknown error or a "0xE" error could appear and drive you mad.

That's where this article comes in, helping point you in the right direction of diagnosing why iPhone won't connect to iTunes and troubleshooting the issue - which also works if Finder (or Apple Music) in a Mac won't recognize iPhone. If you're experiencing trouble connecting to iTunes Store, follow the steps in this Apple Support Page: What to do if your iPhone can't connect to the iTunes Store

Why won't iTunes recognize my iPhone

A lot of things can cause connection problems between iPhone and iTunes. If you're using a damaged USB cable, or the Lightning port of iPhone is blocked by gunk or small particles of lint, your computer or iTunes will not recognize your device. This is the same with computer's USB port.

It's also possible that iTunes won't recognize iPhone due to the software glitches sitting on your device - which can be easily detected and fixed by iOS System Recovery - or bugs from machine.

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How to fix iTunes not recognizing iPhone

As it's not immediately obvious why your device is not recognized by iTunes when plugged in, you're required to run through a few steps to narrow down the issues. Here're some basic fixes:

  • Power on your iPhone, and let it be unlocked and on the Home screen.
  • Download and install iTunes properly on your computer.
  • Tap Trust on your iPhone after plugging it to the machine to allow iTunes authorization. If you mistakenly choose Don't Trust instead, tap Settings > General > Reset > Reset Location & Privacy. Then, reconnect the iPhone to iTunes and the prompt will show up again.

If these attempts fail, take a look at the following approaches to get iTunes to recognize your iPhone 6, 7, 8, X, XS, XR, 11, 12, or newer.

1. Check Lightning cable

Take a few seconds to check if the USB cord is damaged, bent or fraying. When there's no visible breaks on the cable, use another Lightning cable to connect your iPhone to computer and test if iTunes detects and shows the device.

General tips: Make sure that the Lightning cable you're applying is certified by Apple and comes with the MFi badge. An uncertified third-party cord can also potentially damage the connector and stop your iPhone from connecting iTunes.

2. Clean the charging port on your iPhone

If the genuine Apple USB is in good condition, your next step is to establish if the faulty Lightning port on your iPhone leads to the issue. You're suggested to work under a bright LED desk lamp and be very careful so that anything inside the small port won't be damaged.

First, look closely at the connector to check for signs of oxidation on its chip. Secondly, use a dried anti-static brush to softly remove any dirt, dust and debris. Finally, make iTunes recognize your iPhone by plugging the device firmly into the computer.

3. Inspect the computer's USB port

Not helping? There might be something wrong with the USB sockets on your computer. To exclude this possibility, unplug all other USB accessories from your computer and gently clear out the residue from the socket. Then, connect the USB cable to each port directly to verify if it could fix iTunes not detecting iPhone problem. Switch to another Apple USB cable if necessary.

To find out if an iPhone not recognized by iTunes is the result of the unexpected bugs on your computer, plug your iPhone to iTunes in a different laptop or desktop computer.

4. Use the latest version of iTunes

iTunes may also can render that your computer doesn't recognize your iPhone if it's running an out-of-dated version. Should this be the case, update the iTunes to the latest version to sort it out.

On a Mac: Open App Store from the dock on your Mac and click on Updates from the top. If it lists an iTunes update, choose Install to upgrade iTunes.

On a PC: If you get iTunes from the Microsoft Store, iTunes will automatically update itself when new versions are released. If iTunes is downloaded from Apple's website, click on Help > Check for Updates from the top menu bar of the iTunes window, then follow the on-screen instructions to install the most recent version.

It's also worth having the latest software on your Windows or macOS computer.

5. Restart the iPhone and computer

When the updated iTunes won't recognize iPhone that's turned on and connected to the computer, odds are that the software crashes on your device or computer and fails to respond to the command of the connection. Relax, often a simple restart can get you out of this iPhone-to-iTunes connectivity problem.

1. Restart your iPhone:

In an iPhone X, XS, XR, 11, 12 or newer:

Press and hold Volume up/ down button and the Side button. When you see the power off slider, release the buttons and move the slider to the right to power off the device. Then, press and hold the Side button and release the button if the Apple logo appears.

In an iPhone SE (2nd generation), 8, 7, 6, or earlier:

Press and hold the Side (or Top) button. When you see the power off slider, release the button and move the slider to the right to power off the device. Then, press and hold the Side button and release the button if the Apple logo appears.

2. Restart your computer

In a Windows PC, click on the Start button, hit the Power button and choose Restart.

In a Mac, choose Apple menu from the top of the screen and choose Restart.

When all is done, connect the unlocked iPhone to computer and iTunes should now find the device and read the media content.

6. Use a tool to troubleshoot

What if the computer still doesn't recognize your device after restarting? Get iOS System Recovery to resolve the stubborn software-related problems on your iPhone (or iPad, iPod touch, etc.)

Under the Standard recovery mode, it keeps track of all the potential errors and bugs that could prevent your iPhone from being recognized by iTunes and get them repaired without damaging your device data. If it's a more complex issue, like that the device is frozen or disabled and won't connect to iTunes, the Advanced recovery is ready to save your bacon.

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Quickly go through these steps to get an iPhone and iTunes back to communicating.

  • Open up the program on your PC or Mac, and go to More tools.
  • Select iOS System Recovery when you can't see iPhone iTunes.
  • Click on Start button. Then, do as prompted to attach your iPhone to the computer.
  • Choose "Standard Mode", with which all your data will keep safe and sound, and hit Confirm button to apply the change.
  • The tool will detect your phone instantly and list all its compatible iOS firmware packages to solve the issue when you can't connect iPhone to iTunes. Pick the most recent one and hit Next button.
  • The firmware package will be downloaded right now. When it ends, click Fix button.
  • After the recovery process, reconnect your iPhone to computer and the device should show up in iTunes now.

Watch Video: Solve iTunes Not Recognizing iPhone (Mac & PC)

7. Take a look at System Report in a Mac

If the iTunes or Apple Music on a Mac can't detect your iPhone or read the content to sync with the machine, check out the System Information or System Report to diagnose if the problem lies with the operating system bugs.

  • Unlock your device and go to the Home screen. Then, plug it into your Mac.
  • Hold down the Option key, click on the Apple menu icon. From the resulting list, select System Information or System Report.
  • In the left sidebar, locate and hit USB.
  • In the right panel, if your iPhone is situated under the "USB Device Tree", update your Mac computer to the latest version of macOS and everything should come back to normal.

If any antivirus software or other security programs have been installed in your computer, your phone is likely to be regarded as an infected virus to the machine. If this is why iTunes won't detect your iPhone, simply uninstall all these applications first and then reconnect the device.

8. Update the Apple Mobile Device USB driver in a PC

In a Windows PC, an Apple Mobile Device USB driver will be automatically installed when an iPhone is plugged into the machine. If the driver is out-of-dated or corrupted, your iPhone can't be recognized by iTunes.

One remedy to make iTunes recognize your iOS device and do the data syncing or restoring again is updating the driver. The detailed instructions, as Apple suggests, are as such:

When iTunes is downloaded from Microsoft Store:

  • If your device is attached to the Windows computer, unplug it.
  • Unlock the phone, get to the Home screen and hook it up to the machine using a USB. Shut down iTunes if it appears.
  • In the bottom left corner of the display, click and hold (or right-click) the Start button and go to Device Manager.
  • Expand the category named Portable Devices.
  • Locate your iPhone, right-click the name of your device and select Update driver from the context menu.
  • In the window that pops up, choose "Search automatically for updated driver software.".
  • Once done, click on Start button and navigate through Settings > Update & Security > Windows Update to make sure that your computer is running the latest version of Windows.
  • Launch iTunes and see if you can see iPhone in iTunes screen now.

When iTunes is downloaded from Apple website:

  • Disconnect your device from the PC, then reconnect it. Make sure your phone is unlocked and on the Home screen. Close iTunes window if it shows up.
  • Enable Run command by pressing Windows and R key.
  • Enter this command into the opening box: %ProgramFiles%\Common Files\Apple\Mobile Device Support\Drivers
  • Hit OK button.
  • In the opening window, right-click the file that starts with "usbaapl64" or "usbaapl" and ends in ".inf" and hit Install. You can see the type of the file by right-clicking it and choosing Properties.
  • When the installation finishes, unplug your device and restart the computer.
  • When the PC boots up, connect your iPhone to the computer and run iTunes.

If the Apple Mobile Device USB driver doesn't appear or shows with an error symbol, go through this article for some helpful troubleshooting steps.

9. Have your iPhone or computer serviced

If you still can't get your iPhone to say connect to iTunes after charging, restarting, etc., or your iPhone or the charging accessories have the severe physical damage that make iTunes not recognize your device even in Recovery mode, your final step is to contact Apple Support. If the device is purchased recently, or you've bought AppleCare+ for the handset, Apple experts will provide free and one-stop service and support to get the device repaired.

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