Let’s face it: iTunes is not great. Even though it got a little better with iTunes 12, it has since devolved into another slow mess of mostly useless features. You can use your iOS device without iTunes or, even better, use a good iTunes alternative. But if you need to keep iTunes installed and just don’t want it to automatically open and sync when you plug your iOS device in, here’s how to make it happen.

RELATED: How to Never Use iTunes With Your iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch

Why would you want to keep iTunes around if you don’t really use it? Here’s an example. I don’t use iTunes, but I often charge my phone on my PC’s USB port. I also like to keep a local backup of my iPhone in addition to my iCloud backup. It makes me feel better. And I sometimes use a third-party file manager (in my case, iFunBox) to copy photos and videos over to my computer because iCloud for Windows can be cantankerous. But, to do that, I have to authorize my phone with iTunes on my PC first before anything can connect to it. Honestly, it’s the very first thing I do when I get a new phone because more than once, I’ve had a phone that had a busted screen but still worked. I could connect it to my computer and back it up or copy files, but only because it was already authorized. The busted screen would have prevented me from doing the iPhone end of the authorization process.

Whatever your reason, it’s super easy to tell iTunes to stop opening and starting up a sync everytime you plug your iOS device in. We’re working with iTunes 12 for Windows in these examples, but the steps should be almost identical in iTunes for OS X.

Stop a Specific Device from Syncing with iTunes

If you only want to stop a specific iOS device from syncing with iTunes, you must first connect that device to your computer and open up iTunes. With the device plugged in, click its icon on the iTunes toolbar.

On the Summary settings page, in the Options section, turn off the “Automatically sync when this <device> is connected” check box and then click Done.

That’s it. When you plug that device into the computer, iTunes will no longer automatically sync the device. You can still sync the device manually any time you want, of course.

Stop All Devices from Syncing with iTunes

If you use more than one iOS device, you can also stop them all from syncing with iTunes completely. To do this, you do not need to have any device plugged in. In iTunes, click the Edit menu and then click Preferences.

In the Preferences window, click the Devices tab.

On the Devices tab, select the “Prevent iPods, iPhones, and iPads from syncing automatically” check box and then click OK.

From now on, no device should automatically sync with iTunes. And that’s all there is to it. Whatever your reason for wanting to prevent iTunes from automatically syncing with your iOS device, it’s pretty easy make it stop.

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Walter Glenn is a former Editorial Director for How-To Geek and its sister sites. He has more than 30 years of experience in the computer industry and over 20 years as a technical writer and editor. He's written hundreds of articles for How-To Geek and edited thousands. He's authored or co-authored over 30 computer-related books in more than a dozen languages for publishers like Microsoft Press, O'Reilly, and Osborne/McGraw-Hill. He's also written hundreds of white papers, articles, user manuals, and courseware over the years.
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