Is Your New iPhone Paired To Another iTunes Library? Don’t Freak Out Yet

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About a week ago I purchased an iPhone 5, and after having two models replaced and performing three restores via iTunes, I thought I was ready to rock. A few days later Algoriddim released their new video mixing app, vjay, and in order to pretend I am one day destined to become a superstar VJ, I decided to transfer some media using iTunes.

Much to my surprise (and disgust, having been a long naysayer of the iTunes way) my brand new – and recently restored using my own Mac – iPhone 5 wouldn’t sync without erasing everything first. I Googled for help like a consumer scorned, assuming I’d missed something obvious and there was a quick fix. Once it was all over I was left feeling like a fool.

Leave Me Alone, iTunes

I won’t divulge the words that spilled out of my mouth as I tried to sync my sparsely populated iTunes library (literally about 3 songs I’d imported specifically for this task) with my brand new iPhone 5. The iPhone that I’d restored from a backup using this very Mac, and a device that had a total of 0 songs onboard. Despite the hoo-ha generated by Apple’s decision to go “iTunes-less” with iOS 5, iTunes is still required for a great number of tasks.

Transferring media is one of the few of the shackles that continue to tether your iDevice to a PC or Mac at this late stage in the game. You can now download media files and “Open with…” on your device, but if you want to put that file into your library then you’re out of luck.

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I do have a theory as to how my own situation arose, and how it has persisted this long. When I received my first iPhone 4 running iOS 4, iCloud-less and still reliant on iTunes for software updates I was faced with the task of updating to iOS 5 when the update landed. At the time I used my old Windows machine, updated, paired and forgot about it. A few months later this laptop died, and with no backup of my never-used iTunes library I gave up on what I then considered to be the world’s most bloated music player (iTunes for Windows).

Earlier this year I decided I would start again, repair my broken iOS Camera Roll and specifically not pair the device with any computer until I got the new MacBook I had been waiting for. I restored from iCloud, it didn’t quite go to plan, but things eventually worked out by choosing a different backup. The process took hours and hours to complete on a perfectly acceptable ADSL2+ connection of around 10Mbps. Once complete I checked the Settings > General > iTunes Wi-Fi Sync option in the iPhone’s preferences, and sure enough it told me to connect my phone to a PC to pair with iTunes and enable Wi-Fi syncing. I had a blank canvas, or so I thought, and so it stayed. It wasn’t until I got my iPhone 5 with plenty of storage space that I decided it was time to transfer some media, specifically for use with one app because I use Spotify for music listening on the go.

Not wanting to wait all night long to restore my iPhone from an iCloud backup, I backed up my iPhone 4 locally (I had still not connected to a PC, it was still displaying the “Connect to pair” message). Backup worked just fine, as it does with any iPhone you connect regardless of whether it’s paired to your machine or not. I then connected the new iPhone 5, set it up using iTunes and restored my backup. Everything looked good, until I went to sync music only a few hours ago and was given this:

From what I can gather, iCloud and iTunes have remembered my old iTunes library from my previous experiences with Windows. This is despite factory resetting the iPhone 4, getting it to a “blank” state and setting up then restoring my iPhone 5 using this Mac and this iTunes library. I probably don’t need to tell you this, but that’s beyond infuriating. I was left wondering how is anyone ever meant to remove that old library while retaining personal settings using backup methods?

Fixing The Mess

The irritating thing at this point was that clicking Sync in iTunes actually works fine at this stage. It’s only when “sync apps” or “sync music” was checked that the program threw a wobbly, which is beyond infuriating.

Here’s a list of things I tried that I found with help from my old friend Google:

  • De-authorizing and re-authorizing all computers from within iTunes (no, I don’t know what I expected either).
  • Choosing “Manually Manage Music And Videos” and clicking Apply (gave me the same error as above).
  • Various fiddling with preferences, looking around for a “forget Library” button or equivalent that would let me retain my apps, Photos and other data while iTunes sorted itself out.
  • Swearing.

Nothing seemed to work, so here’s what I did:

1. Transfer Purchases & Backup The Phone

I’m not sure where I got the idea for this, but I decided I’d let iTunes do what it wanted to my phone in order to transfer those few songs I wanted in the first place. My current iPhone library is a barren wasteland with no music in it, so if it deletes my library then what do I care? If it deletes everything on the phone I have a backup, and potentially the exact same issues once restored.

2. Attempt To sync Music With iTunes

This is the part that was giving me the nasty error in the first place. Absorb those words fully – “erase this iPhone” and “replaces the contents of this iPhone”. What does that mean to you?

3. Click Erase and Sync

Something I’d never do had I not backed up the phone, screenshotted my home screen (in case I forgot which apps I was currently enjoying) and checked my iPhoto library to ensure all my pictures were safe.

4. Wait For About 15 seconds.

What… it’s done?

Lose No Data

So in about 15 seconds the operation that promised to “erase this iPhone” and replace the contents of the phone with my blank iTunes library was finished. Did I lose data? Nope. Was I overjoyed? Of course. Did I feel like an idiot? Absolutely. Was it really my fault? Well…

Faced with a dialogue box that warns of the complete removal of data from your most-relied upon device in order to sync music, quite possibly the reason you’d opt for the device in the first place, I’m confident I’m not the only person who would approach with caution. From my understanding of what iTunes was telling me, I stood to lose everything and “start again”. Couple this with a backup made while the problem was prevalent, I had little faith in a solution that didn’t involve a lot of hoops and many, many jumps. In short, I took a chance (or so it felt) and the solution was painfully simple and fuss-free.

So yes, it was my fault. But then again, I don’t feel alone in my idiocy because there are people responding to threads created in 2010 from as recently as this month (November 2012) who are unwilling to click that button and find out the good news. Yes, if you have music on your device then it will be removed. No, it’s not the headache you think it might be – you can just put it back on there. Have faith in Apple’s poorly worded warning labels and you too can transfer media to your iPhone once again.

Have you experienced something like this yourself?

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36 Comments - Write a Comment



Great summary of what many of us have gone through. iTunes is NOT Apple like in it’s simplicity – more Windows like. Idiots. Great job with your advice.

Buster Spyker

LOL IPHONE HAHA easy fix for anyone getting the erase and sync message. Do yourselves a favour and go and get a real phone (Android).



Thank you SO much!!! I visited numerous forums on this and yours was the only one that said to actually do the erase and sync after the transfer. Worked perfectly!!!

Tim Brookes

Glad it helped. That’s exactly why I wrote this article, I knew there would be other people out there just as lost as I was!



I had to restore my laptop after a virus, and reinstall Itunes, logging in with my wife’s account I expected to be able to just use the software. No. I got the ‘erase everything warning’, Scared i looked for other ways to transfer a couple of new tracks. I came upon your article, and thought great I’ll give it a go. I clicked on the ‘go ahead option’ on the ‘this will erase and synch with new computer’ button. AND it DID exactly what it said it was going to do and erased my wife’s entire music library replacing it with the new songs. Luckily I had all the music backed up, so am currently adding it back again.

Ah well, the moral is ALWAYS back-up before hitting erase :-)

Tim Brookes

Yeah, that will always happen with Music/Video stuff you don’t already have in your iTunes library. That’s all the warning is essentially for, however I bet the process didn’t erase your wife’s whole iPhone, all apps, app data etc… now that’s what I was REALLY worried about.

Good job you had a backup of the music!



I lost my music when I tried this! Please help. I was trying to import an audio book I had purchased to my iPhone when I first got the message above. After reading the article above I clicked erase and sync (that is what was instructed, correct?) and the audio book was imported but all my music was deleted from the iPhone. I later restored the iPhone from a backup and none of my music came back and the eBook was deleted! Now I’m worse off than I was before. I still have my music on a hard drive so can go through the silly iTunes rigamarole, but I get this stupid error message every time I try to import anything using my laptop. I don’t know how my phone could be “synced with another library.” I have not used it with any other library or device though my ex-wife did mess with it some before she departed. Is there any way I can just import the music and books I want from my own hard drive without going through this BS? Please help!

Tim Brookes

Unfortunately Dave you’re tied to iTunes, and so will have to pair the two and sync Music and Books that way – from scratch by the sounds of it.

If you bought the audio book it will still be available from whatever service you paid money to – otherwise you will need to import and sync again.

As the article states above, I had no music paired to my device and so I technically “lost” nothing. That is what the warning is for – the media, songs, videos etc… that you have paired. Because your phone would not sync without erasing this means it must have been initially paired with another PC, and that’s why it wouldn’t simply transfer from yours. That warning relates solely to media, rather than what I was initially worried about which is everything on the phone – Apps, Camera Roll, preferences etc…

Provided you have the music (you paid for it, you have MP3s) then you really don’t need to worry. Simply import them back into iTunes on your PC and sync with your iPhone. I find the easiest way to do this is to create an iTunes playlist with all the music I want on my phone and choosing to just sync that playlist.

You might want to think about something like Google music (if you live in the US) or iTunes Match or similar. There’s also Spotify, but that requires a monthly fee (I think it’s worth it, though).

Good luck, happy to help in any other way I can.



Thanks so much for giving me the courage to press that scary button!



Finally got the courage to update from os4 and went smoother than expected, but took me a couple of weeks until I was ready to push that button – thanks for the reassurance, wouldn’t have bothered if I hadn’t found this article.
Thanks for taking the time to post!


Tim Brookes

Glad it all worked out ok for you in the end Michael. I also waited way longer than I should have to hit the button, so something clearly needs to be changed within iTunes to stop others feeling the same!


Kevin C.

Thanks for the write-up, this assuaged my fears. If the warning had simply said “this will erase your _music_ library” then I would have been okay with that.

In the end I did just as you said (just press yes) and it worked perfectly fine, nothing deleted.

Tim Brookes

Yeah me too, judging from the amount of attention this article is still getting 6 months after publication it sounds like Apple need to revise that warning, eh?

That or let us add music to our libraries in other methods (yeah right, like that will ever happen).

Matt Zubia

What if I have downloaded music for free, I did NOT purchase some songs.. so If I erase and sync with my new iTunes, will I be able to get Not purchased songs back also?? ….

Tim Brookes

Did you download those songs free from iTunes? I.e. they were promotional or just free to grab? If so then yes – they will be treated as a past purchase by iTunes.

If you got them elsewhere (i.e. a music store) then you should be able to redownload them from the service you originally used.

If they are songs given to you as MP3/AAC by a friend or that you have downloaded for free from say BandCamp then no – you will not be able to recover them without going back to the original source.

The lesson is to keep a backup of your music, even if you transfer it to a mobile device like an iPod or iPhone! If you have backups then simply re-import into iTunes and add the music again.

Does this help?



I put great trust in you’re method and it worked! I spent two days sitting in front of my laptop cursing and threatening all my apple products but I,m very glad now, thanks :)



Your my hero. i thought it would replace my baby and wipe her clean but everything is still there and the rest of my music is there. your a hero thanks so much!

Tim Brookes

Glad it helped you out, now spread the word and fill up that library! :)



Thanks a lot for this. Really really helpful as I was putting together playlists for a wedding having restored my computer! Lifesaver.



Dude, you rule! Googling like crazy and all I was seeing was lectures from Mac snobs explaining to people why Apple needs to wipe their phones. I didn’t even change computers–just bought the iPhone 6 and activated as a new phone.

I was dreading having EVERYTHING wiped off of my phone, but after reading this I pushed the “scary” button, looks like it’s just replacing the music.




Thanks mate! 2 years on and this article looks like it’s still giving people the confidence to hit the button.



This great article gave me the courage to press ‘Erase and Sync’. and it’s perfect



you are a genius. thanks for giving me the courage. i have stared at that stupid dialogue box for 6 weeks

Tim Brookes

Nothing genius… let’s not forget that I initially pressed the button not knowing what would happen. A fool maybe :)


barney rubble

thanks very helpful…. was sorting out mums phone on new PC after old one died and got the same dialogue…. was worried it was going to wipe the phone! what a stupid message on apples part! very confusing and misleading… wouldn’t have got it done without reading this!

Tim Brookes

Very true, and now we’re into iTunes 11 on OS.X 10.10… and the same warning still pops up!



I’m honestly SHOCKED that worked. I’m so glad I found your article, otherwise I would have given up and never pressed “erase and sync”. THANK YOU! :)

Tim Brookes

Ah the warm feeling you get when you realise you haven’t lost everything on your phone :)



Your article helped me understand that option with a new iPhone 6 after upgrading from a 5, and before that a 4, and before that a 3G.

Tim Brookes

Glad to hear it Rich, hope you’re enjoying the new phone!


Kayla Scaggs

So, if I press this “erase and sync” button, it deff won’t erase my apps? Because I need to apply the manually manage music and videos option, but it keeps popping up to do that.



I have had the same problem, I took the leap and pressed the button! All fine!! Thanks for this, I’ve been putting it off lol. I did a back up first tho, just to be sure ;)


Frank Pillock

You, sir, are a god among men!

My wife is sexing me again because of this article.

Happy days!



OMG THANK YOU SO MUCH! You literally saved my life :)


Sam Peña

Thank you so so much for this!!!! It had been over a year of avoiding pushing that “DELETE EVERYTHING IN YOUR LIFE” button! THANK YOU!!



You, sir, are a scholar and a saint.

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