How To Setup Wi-Fi Sync for the iPad in iOS 5

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One of the very new ‘PC Free’ features of iOS 5 is Wi-Fi sync – wireless sync between your iPad or iPhone and your PC.

This will allow you to keep photos and videos, music, and apps in sync without having to connect your iPad to your PC via the sync /charge cable.

Once this feature is enabled, every time you connect your iPad to a power source it will automatically sync and and backup any new content purchased on the iPad to iTunes. You can also manually force a sync by going to Settings > General > iTunes Wi-Fi Sync and tapping ‘Sync Now’.

You do need to turn this on in iTunes in order for it to work. It’s very easy to do this – here’s how:

— Connect your iPad to your PC via USB / sync cable.

— In the Devices section in the left-hand pane of the iTunes window, click on your iPad’s name and you’ll see it highlighted in blue

— Then in the main window of iTunes scroll down just a bit so you can see the Options section

— You should see that the second checkbox under Options is ‘Sync with this iPad over Wi-Fi’ – click on that to make it checked / selected.


That’s it. That should have your iPad happily wirelessly syncing for you.

iOS 5, which includes this very cool new feature is set to be released next Wednesday, October 12.

Patrick Jordan

Founder and Editor in Chief of iPad Insight. Husband, father to a lovely daughter, Commander of the Armies of the North, dog lover (especially Labs), Austinite, former Londoner, IT consultant, huge sports nut, iPad and mobile tech blogger, mobile apps junkie.

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50 thoughts on “How To Setup Wi-Fi Sync for the iPad in iOS 5”

    1. It requires a PC for a one-time, one checkbox action. From there on, wireless sync is active.

  1. Thanks for this reminder. I just signed up for the Apple iOS developer program and have been overwhelmed with all the new stuff I’ve got learn. One of the things that was puzzling me was this sync. I saw the options on my iPad and iPhone but couldn’t figure out why it didn’t work. I just assumed since I activated iCloud, it was one or the other.

    You just helped me prove I’m and idiot. I didn’t scroll down far enough in the iTunes window to notice the Option to Sync with this iPad over Wi-Fi.

    I also just noticed that since activating this option, my iPad and iPhone both are still showing in the iTunes window; even though they’re not tethered to my MacBook Pro.


  2. great feature but im running mac osx 10.5.8 on an older macbook and in my itunes 10.5 version there is no option to sync over wifi, will i have to update my macbook to a newer os before i can use this feature and also the photo stream feature too?

  3. Patrick,
    Have you had any issues with this? I updated my iPad to iOS 5 yesterday and turned wi-fi synch on. Sometime later I noticed that my iPad was listed on the menu of iTunes (like it would be when its tethered.) Problem was my iPad was sleeping and not connected to a power source. I “ejected” it and sometime later it showed up again. It did this 3 more time before I turned the synch off.

  4. You don’t have to have your iPad connected to a power source after you enable wifi sync. If you don’t want it to sync when sleeping disable it in iTunes

  5. You may have to restart Itunes for the wifi sync to start working, at first my ipad 2 could not find my imac or vise versa. I just restarted Itunes and bingo, it started syncing wirelessly. Its the old “have you tried turning it off and on again?” routine :)

  6. I’m having trouble with the WiFi sync. I have it all setup in itunes on my PC, but whenever I check the settings in my iPad 2, it says that it will sync when my pc (it shows my PC name) is available. My PC is on, and everything is connected to WiFi, so I have no idea what is going on. Reset the wireless router, rebooted everything, but it isn’t working.

    1. Go into iTunes on your PC and click on your iPad name under the Devices section in the left-hand pane. Then on the Summary tab in the main pane scroll down a little to see the Options section – and make sure you have a tick in the checkbox for ‘Sync with this iPad over WiFi’.

  7. Here my own experience in how I got it up and running:

    My notebook uses Win 7 Ultimate/32bit with all latest updates, my iTunes is on and I just upgraded my iPad 1 to iOS5. All units are logged in to the same wireless network of a TP-Link TP-WR1043ND.

    After the upgrade to iOS5 Wi-Fi sync to iTunes didn’t work although all other wireless features, like access to my 3 Airport Express units which connect via optical connection (BTW, a most unknown but existing feature in AP Express) to independent HiFi equipment in living room, study room and bedroom and the wireless connection to my Apple TV2, were all still working fine.

    The procedure:
    1. iPad wired connected to iTunes (iPad appears on iTunes)
    2. in Summary menu ticked “Sync with this iPad over WiFi”,
    3. clicked on “Apply”
    4. disconnected iPad from iTunes
    5. closed iTunes
    6. restarted iTunes
    7. again wire connected iPad (iPad appears on iTunes)
    8. in Summary menu UNTICKED “Sync with this iPad over WiFi”,
    9. repeated steps 3-7
    10. repeated steps 2-6
    11. restarted PC
    12. in parallel, hard reset on iPad (simultaneous depressing of HOME and SLEEP/WAKE button until Apple logo appears)
    13. restarted iTunes
    14. wire connected iPad to iTunes (iPad appears on iTunes)
    15. removed wired connection of iPad (iPad REMAINS visible in iTunes)
    16. on iPad go to: General > iTunes Wi-Fi Sync “Sync Now” is active!
    17. click on “Sync Now” starts sync process
    18. from then on as long once the iTunes is fired up, the iPad appears on the iTunes list, ready to be synced
    – manually as per Step 16-17, or
    – automatically triggered once it is connected to the power.

    Now it works smoothly and not less faster than when wired synced!

  8. My iPad2 never remains as a device in itunes, once I disconnect it. So I am unable to sync using wi-fi. Is there something more I need to be doing for the device to remain available in itunes?

  9. @BJH and @Steve – I think you may be missing the key point that I only just grasped recently; the iPad still has to be connected to a POWER source in order to sync over Wi-Fi.

  10. Now I’m going to reply to myself! Having only just discovered that the iPad has to be plugged into a power source to sync by Wi-Fi, I too am running into the problem that as soon as I un-tether the iPad from the computer it disappears as a device from iTunes and thus I can’t sync it. I’m still having to attach to PC in order to do this….

    1. The iPad needs to be plugged into power or be at 50% or above charged to sync over WiFi, so it doesn’t always need to be plugged in.

      On your issue, are you sure that you have the ‘Sync with this iPad over WiFi’ checkbox selected in iTunes > Devices > Summary tab > Options in iTunes on the desktop?

    1. I have the same problem. Sometimes my iPad 2 appears in iTunes, sometimes it doesn’ is really hit and miss. Like I got a video on my iMac in iTunes then it was unable to sync, but a couple of hours later it randomly appeared in iTunes. I have resorted to USB for now. Is this a problem with my wifi? Normally I get less than 3 megabytes so not great…

  11. My iPad1 syncs with iTunes even when NOT connected to the power brick. I can sync while sitting my back porch just fine.

  12. Can you sync more than one ipad at a time, while connected to your pc? That is, can you use a USB hub or similar? Cheers

  13. How can I remove my profile (from a computer that I do use anymore – even I unchecked ‘Sync with this iPad over Wi-Fi’) from iTunes wi-fi sync?? There is no option and I just have one pc authorized. On my ipad show two. I dont know how to do it on ipad.
    I mean, I would kile to delete the one of the profiles on iTunes Wi-Fi Sync under General Tab.
    Any ideas?
    Thank you very much indeed.

  14. This is a beautiful example of why software should be tested before releasing for public consumption. Across any of my devices, this works occasionally at best if at all. Like most who have posted there are many hoops one can jump through to try to ge it to work but most are temporary fixes at best. Another high quality release….an app store full of fart apps and nw new features about as worthwhile. I bet the fart app would work if downloaded. Cables are my friend it seems.

  15. THe USB ports on my Windows laptop has died so I can’t connect my ipad to sync. I can’t even connect it to “tick” the Wifi sync option. How do I change my iTune configuration to select wifi Sync without first connecting my ipad to it? Thanks.

      1. Patrick,

        Does your computer have to be wireless in order to sync your iphone or ipad wirelessly to itunes?

  16. Hey,

    Any thoughts on how to do this wirelessly for 30 iPads and one MacBook Pro? We are setting up an iPad lab in our middle school.


    1. Well, I’ll start by saying I’ve never done a rollout like that – so these are just my quick off the cuff suggestions:

      — Check out Apple’s iPad in Business pages – lots of deployment related guides there:

      — I don’t know the limits on how many devices can sync to one PC (if I’m understanding correctly that that’s what you’re doing) but however many is allowed I guess you’d start with a good naming convention for each iPad, to identify which student they were assigned to.

      — A good ‘middle man’ service like Dropbox may well prove helpful in being able to create a folder structure if you use apps that support Dropbox. It should allow you far more flexibility than iOS and iCloud currently do.

      1. I found that I can sync ALL 30 devices to one MacBook Pro (with a USB hub – multi-device synching); however, I cannot fund any pertinent information on how to do this wirelessly.

  17. To Kevin: Is there an easy way to do the 30 ipads connected to the MacBook on a cart. How do we select all the ipads to sync at the same time without dragging to each one.

  18. TO MB: Make sure that “automatic download” is selected in each iPad and that the login credentials are the same with each iPad. You should be good to go!

  19. What if all the sudden my PC won’t recognize my IPhone ?
    Can’t be able to use the wifi Sync , It requires to connect
    with the IPhone ! What a stupid plan . I am searching
    for an app that provide a wifi Sync in order to do Contacts backup

  20. I HAD THE SAME PROBLEM!!! I just uninstalled itunes, restarted computer and reintalled itunes. Once i opened itunes back up i saw my ipod and ipad syncing without them connected :). Was pretty happy. So if u followed the directions perfectly and it still didnt work, Reinstall itunes and while thats going on, go ahead and restart your idevices.

  21. How can I remove my profile (from a computer that I do use anymore – even I unchecked ‘Sync with this iPad over Wi-Fi’) from iTunes wi-fi sync?? There is no option and I just have one pc authorized. On my ipad show two. I dont know how to do it on ipad.
    I mean, I would kile to delete the one of the profiles on iTunes Wi-Fi Sync under General Tab.

  22. When I launch iTunes I get a login request that asks for my Apple password. But I only want to synch the iPad to my Macbook Pro, not visit the store so I cancel the login request.

    Do I need to login to get synch over wi-fi to work?


    1. Generally when you see that message it means you have recently purchased a new iTunes item (app, movie, music etc) and you’ve got Automatic Downloads setup in the Store section of the Settings app. If you enter your password that new content will be installed to your iPad.

  23. when I try to sync over wifi, IPad displays a network that was created through an old computer. How do I sync with my current network name. Wifi name is accurate

  24. I am a New Ipad owner having purchased mine around 3weeks ago.
    One issue ref Bluetooth that I have noticed is that when I try and Bluetooth connect to my wife’s Samsung phone or tablet they both say that the IPad is trying to pair but the IPad won’t pair with them.
    We have tried all many different ways to work round it but no joy yet.
    as anyone else had the same problem?
    Is there a way to resolve this?

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