iPhone and iPad

How to Sync Your iPhone and iPad

Bryan Wolfe 13-12-2019

It wasn’t that long ago when the only way to sync your iPhone and iPad was through iTunes on your computer. Now, the process is much easier thanks to iCloud.


Let’s look see how to sync your iPhone and iPad data using iCloud so you can access your content everywhere.

Syncing iPhone and iPad Content Through iCloud

The simplest way to sync files across your Apple devices is through iCloud. First introduced in 2011, iCloud allows you to store data like documents, photos, and music on Apple’s servers.

You can then access and download it on iOS, macOS, and Windows devices. The service also allows you to back up iOS devices directly for setup and restore purposes.

With iCloud, your data stays secure both when it’s in transit and in storage. Apple uses secure tokens for authentication, and end-to-end encryption protects specific sensitive information.

To sync data across your Apple devices, you need to make sure you have enough iCloud storage space. If you don’t have enough, you’ll see a message on your iOS device before your attempt.


We’ve covered how to manage your iCloud Drive files from any device How to Access and Manage iCloud Drive Files From Any Device iCloud Drive is a handy tool, but accessing your files can be a little confusing since Apple's cloud storage experience really differs depending on your platform or device. Read More if you need help creating space. And if you need to buy more, you’ll find many great uses for spare iCloud storage.

Check Your iCloud Storage

To see how much storage space you have available on iCloud:

  1. On your iOS device, go into the Settings app and tap [Your Name].
  2. Select iCloud > Manage Storage.

You can also check your iCloud storage on a Mac or PC:

  • On macOS, click the Apple icon at the top-left of your computer and select System Preferences. From there, click iCloud, then Manage.
  • On your PC, open iCloud for Windows.

About Syncing All Data

To sync data across your iPhone and iPad, we assume you haven’t set up at least one of the two devices yet. If both devices are already set up, you’ll need to erase your iPhone or iPad using a factory reset How to Factory Reset Your iPhone and iPad Wondering how to factory reset your iPhone or iPad? Here's how to back up, reset, and restore your iOS device's data easily. Read More and then sync through an iCloud backup.

To get started with syncing, make sure your devices are on the same Wi-Fi network. You’ll also need an up-to-date backup on iCloud.

On the source device:

  1. Go into the Settings app, then head to [Your Name] > iCloud. Select iCloud Backup near the bottom of this list.
  2. Be sure the iCloud Backup toggle is enabled, then tap Back Up Now.
  3. Wait until the full backup completes.

Then on the target device:

  1. Turn on the device and begin the setup process. Follow the onscreen directions until you see the Apps & Data screen.
  2. On this screen, tap Restore from iCloud Backup.
  3. Select the most recent backup, which should have the current date.
  4. Wait for the restore process to complete.

You’ve now synced your iPhone and iPad using iCloud data.

Syncing Specific Categories Through iCloud

You may not want to sync all the data on your different devices through iCloud. Instead, you might wish only to sync data from specific categories or apps. Perhaps you just want to sync your photos or information from the Reminders app.

To only sync certain data:

  1. Make sure that you’re logged into each device using the same Apple ID. See our Apple ID FAQ The Apple ID FAQ: 10 Most Common Issues and Questions Answered Have questions about your Apple ID? We answer the common questions on how to reset your Apple ID password, removing your credit card, and more. Read More if you have questions.
  2. Next, in the Settings app on one of the devices, tap [Your Name] > iCloud.
  3. Disable the apps or categories you no longer wish to sync. From now on, changes made on this device (for those categories or apps) won’t sync with your other Apple devices.
  4. Repeat steps 1 to 3 on other devices, if necessary.


About Syncing App Data

Many of the iOS apps in the App Store use iCloud to store data. This makes their information easy to sync across your devices when you install the same app.

If you don’t see your favorite app in the list described above, you should contact the developer. Perhaps they’ll add iCloud syncing in a future update.

About iCloud Backup

Moving forward, be sure to use iCloud Backup on a regular basis across your Apple devices. With iCloud Backup, you can easily set up a new device (like you just did) or restore information on an existing device.

Your iPhone or iPad will automatically run every night when you’re not using it. For this to happen, make sure of the following:

  • Confirm iCloud Backup is turned on by going into Settings > [Your Name] > iCloud > iCloud Backup. Tap the toggle to activate.
  • Your device is charging and connected to a Wi-Fi network.
  • The device’s screen must be locked to begin the process.
  • You have enough iCloud storage to perform a full backup.

What Information Does iCloud Back Up?

By default, the following information is backed up using iCloud:

  • App data
  • Apple Watch backups
  • Device settings
  • HomeKit configuration
  • Home screen and app organization
  • iMessage, text (SMS), and MMS messages
  • Photos and videos on your iOS device
  • Purchase history from Apple services, such as your music, movies, TV shows, apps, and books
  • Ringtones
  • Visual Voicemail password (requires the SIM card that was in use during backup)

Some app information is already stored in iCloud, and therefore syncs across all your devices. This includes contacts, calendars, bookmarks, mail, notes, voice memos, shared photos, iCloud photos, Health data, call history, and files you store in iCloud Drive.

We’ve shown how to transfer Google Contacts to iCloud How to Transfer Google Contacts From Android to iPhone Need to know how to transfer contacts from Android to iPhone? Here are several methods to sync your contacts. Read More if you still have some on that service, too.

What About Direct Syncing Between Devices?

You might wonder whether you can directly sync your iPhone and iPad using a Lightning or USB-C. Unfortunately, that’s not possible.

iOS doesn’t support this functionality, so you’ll need to use iCloud as detailed here. By doing that you can transfer photos from one iPhone to another 8 Quick Ways to Transfer Photos From iPhone to iPhone We show you how to transfer photos from iPhone to iPhone whether you're switching to a new device or sending pictures to a friend. Read More .

Why Not Just Use iTunes to Sync?

As mentioned, syncing data between iOS devices was once only possible through iTunes. Using this method is still possible, although it’s cumbersome at best. It requires backing up one device to your computer, then restoring the other device using the same machine.

With this method, you’re limited on the types of files you can transfer. Besides, the process takes longer than the options mentioned above. But we’ve looked at how to sync your iPhone to iTunes How to Sync Your iPhone to iTunes and Back iTunes is there to sync your iPhone and back up your data to your PC. Here's how to set up iTunes for syncing. Read More if you need to know.

Syncing Your iPad and iPhone Made Easy

In summary, syncing data between iOS devices has become a simple process thanks to iCloud. Whether you want to sync all your data or select files, the process is safe and secure. If you have any issues, have a look at our iCloud troubleshooting guide to fix them.

And if you’re interested in help organizing your iPad web content 4 Ways to Organize and Manage Web Content on Your iPad These essential tips and apps will help you manage the wealth of information on the web in an organized way on your iPad. Read More , check out our article for tips.

Related topics: Cloud Backup, iCloud, iPad, iPhone, iPhone Tips, Wireless Sync.

Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the site alive. Read more.

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