How To Switch Your iPhone To a New Computer

Popeye: I yam what I yam

Note of 11/8/2009: this post was written in the early iPhone days, pre-app store, etc.

I just had to switch the computer my beloved iPhone syncs on. Given that I adore this phone and I yam what I yam, I’m very protective of it. In other words, I read everything I could get my hands on about possible perils of switching. And there was precious little.

As things transpired, with just a little preparation it went seamlessly. And when, with heart in mouth, I actually hooked my phone to the new machine, iTunes recognized it immediately, but defaulted to not syncing anything. My blood pressure began to go down. To actually start the sync, I had to go through the tabs manually to choose what to sync and how.

For others faced with the same situation, here are more details on what I did. (Please note: this is Mac-based advice given in early January 2008.)

  1. Back everything up. Of course.
  2. Get all of your email accounts working on your new machine. I use Mac Mail, and it works perfectly — even for Vanderbilt Exchange mail (but that’s another story for another day). Also, if you merge your iPhone, at least some (and maybe all of your accounts) will stay in tact.
  3. Get your photos set up either in iPhoto or in your folders of choice. This too it will give you a choice of merging.
  4. Get your podcasts and music in order. This was the most work, but also turned out to be the most critical. Judging from the interface, you can sync from two machines, and get the music from one and not the other. But if you’re completely moving off the first computer, you’re going have take care of this.
  5. Get calendar, contacts and bookmarks on your new machine. In my case, it was taken care of in a heartbeat by having a dot Mac account. (Dot mac and iPhones are a beautiful combo.) If you don’t have one, I imagine you can export and import all that information. It’s also possible that merging will take care of the export/import for you.

That’s all there is to it. Here’s hoping Apple adds info like this to the iPhone manual.

15 Responses

  1. Love the instructions, but what about APPLICATIONS? I’m moving to a new computer and didn’t understand that syncing the iPhone would completely wipe out all the applications I’d downloaded. I went back to the old computer and re-downloaded the applications, but all my data was gone (my Trism high scores and dozens of Speed Lists!)

  2. I’m also going through a similar situation. It looks like following the above directions will work out nicely, just make sure all of your information is already on the new computer to avoid any disruptions. I think the best way to keep all of your apps is to “transfer purchases from iphone” before you actually sync with the new computer. I haven’t tried it yet, but it seems like it will work.

  3. 1) Sign into iTunes on your new computer.
    2) Authorize your new computer: Store->Authorize Computer… (if you have any authorizations left–if not, deauthorize a computer on your iTunes account)
    3) Transfer purchases on your new computer: File-Transfer Purchases from…

  4. Ahh…thank you. I’m changing my old PowerBook into MacBook.

    Too bad I don’t have any .mac account, so I should back up iTunes, iCal, Address Book and transfer them manually, right? (I don’t want to use that Migrate apps)

    Thanks again.

  5. I’ve worked in IT for almost 20 years and I’ve seen quite a bit in this industry but I have to say the iTunes/iPhone management has got to be one of the worst I’ve ever had the misfortune to experience in the modern age.

    I’ll never understand why Mac FanBoys, and gals, go on and on about the glorious user experience. It is beyond horrible. It would be criminal if this country had any real consumer protection when it comes to digital rights.

    It’s one of those situations in which the designers of the software had to MAKE IT horrible by design. I’m not just being hyperbolic here either. Left alone the hardware would be perfectly capable of being managed in a simple and user friendly manner but the software designers have gone out of their way to make it difficult so that you are permanently tied to their (Apple) product.

    I’ll be getting a different smart phone soon and I’ve decided I’ll not be selling my iPhone as I will lose out on the satisfaction of smashing his hunk of crap with a hammer and posting it on YouTube.

    What’s really sad about that is that the hardware is fairly decent but it’s the software that is totally unacceptable. Hard to hit data bits with a hammer though, so plastic and glass will have to do.

    I purchased my first Apple product 24 years ago and it was my last until this iPhone. Apple hasn’t changed one bit. Form over function.

  6. Not sure why Andira doesn’t want to use Migration Assistant — I just moved everything from my G4 to my new MAC using it; absolutely seamless. After many years of much more complicated changes, this was a true pleasure.

  7. Wow creeper. You hate Apple a lot. I understand your venom because I have the same for other companies. I could literally copy your rant… replace a few words and post it.
    I gotta say though, having dozens of macs, pro and home… I really haven’t had the issues you’re having. Transferring and syncing email and all kinds of data has always been seamless for me.
    I can’t imagine windows is your alternative.

  8. i totally agree with creeper! i’m a software developer. i can program anything, so, if i were given the functional requirements to create itunes and then given the specs to tie it into the proposed user interface (the one that is actually used), i’d have been raising eyebrows and pleading with the knuckle-heads on behalf of the potential users!

    DRM is a joke. the worst joke is apple trying to funnel all media accesibility through a purchase association with itunes…under the guise of keeping media consumers honest! media theft should be prosecuted only at the level where an individual or group of persons is making protected media available to others without consent of it’s authors. that means, a product like itunes doesn’t and shouldn’t be attempting a microsoft move like “security through obscurity”. microsoft doesn’t even do that any more (for all of you mac lovers who think it is sooo much better than windows…davariable).

    were i to design itunes, i’d have kept it simple (ui rule of thumb). managing anything stored on your ipod should be as simple as using a file management tool, like windows explorer. i’ve stayed away from mac crap ipods for years simply because others allowed just that. i go to where my music or photos are on my hard drive, highlight what i want on my device, and just copy them over. end of story. hell, for managing photos (managing being a laughably loose term here), you can only point to a directory where they are…you can’t select or exclude any single photo in that path. i have to manage my hard drive externally to itunes, *then* use itunes to get it over to my iphone.

    it’s all freaking rediculous. stupid decisions by mac have kept me from using mac since the 80’s. no matter how well designed the ui is on an ipod or iphone, mac will shoot themselves in the foot once again by the design of itunes. zune, and the like, will surpass mac’s market share not because of hardware of functionality…it will be inspite of both. mac looses because after 20+ years, they still have not learned that customers don’t like being held hostage.

    i’ll use any alternative to mac that is available. and if i *really* need to do high-end graphics, which is the only *real* reason to use a mac, i’ll put a pc together and run linux on it. oh, and how ironic is it that an os like linux, completely free, is the kernel for the current mac platform…mac, a dictitorial regime in hardware/software form. roflmao!

  9. oh, and by the way, my solution was to hack. i built a simple tool to pull the mp3s, photos, and notes off my iphone and dump them all on my hard drive where i wanted them. funny thing is, i can just as easily hack that same data back onto any iphone…doesn’t make a bit of difference if that device is on a “registered” computer or not. anyway, who needs itunes? apparently, not me anymore. my iphone runs better than ever…and is *easily* managed now (managable used in the strictest of terms here, lol).

    you cannot restrict users from sharing information. you can only detect and prosecute. there’s a way around anything that can be dreamed up – especially mac…they dream small anyway (no wonder they are, well, a small company by comparison).

  10. Can you imagine if you took your USB
    backup hard drive with all your saved
    files and hooked to a new computer
    and got the warning “All files will be
    deleted if you continue trying to use it
    with this computer”? I own my iPhone
    and I own my computer but Steve Jobs
    says I can’t use them together without
    formatting my iPhone first. I used to think
    Bill Gates was paranoid until bought my
    first iPhone. It reminds me of the movie
    The Caine Mutiny where Humphrey Bogart
    plays the Captain who thinks the crew is
    trying to steal his strawberries. Steve Jobs
    as the Captain “They think they are going
    to steal my mp3s do they? Well I’ll delete
    them all! “… cuckoo cuckoo.

  11. OMG Joe Blow, where can I get your utility?
    I’m afraid if I sync my iPhone I’ll lose all my
    apps. I’ve been playing Racing Live online
    since April and i’ll lose 150 levels of progress.
    Everything else (including Steve’s precious
    mp3s) I transferred using copytrans.
    Keautobody@hotmail.com

  12. Joe Blow, can you please help me out too? I’ve got apps and songs on my iphone that will get wiped out by iTunes. 🙁

    I’m a new user and the PC that I originally synched my iPhone with is now dead……

    lesley.badelles@gmail.com

  13. Wow this is insane I just got new install of win 7, and itunes has deleted all my apps which I hadn’t backed up so even though I can actually look at a list of receipts in my itunes account, it’s telling me all my purchased stuff has been downloaded. I authorised the computer, then it copied all the apps off the phone to the new itunes install.
    Does this mean I have lost all those apps?

  14. I agree w/creeper, itunes and any apple software is retardedly stupid hard to use; i’ve been in IT for over 20 years.

  15. Hi, All. Thanks for all the comments. I’m going to turn them off now for two reasons.

    (1) When I wrote this it was back in the early days of iPhone — pre-apps, pre-3G, etc., etc.

    (2) Two days ago I bought a Droid. So far I totally love it. Phone reception is so much better than AT&T. I’m frankly surprised I like it so much, though, as it goes well beyond the better reception. Hopefully I’ll find time to blog about it soon.