How to Sync Your iOS Device with macOS Catalina

Sync Ios Device Catalina Cover

If you’ve upgraded your Mac to macOS Catalina, you might have noticed that the iTunes app is missing. Instead, it’s been replaced by three different apps – Music, Apple Podcasts and Apple TV.

What this means is that there’s no dedicated app to sync your iOS device to your Mac, which used to be the greatest features of iTunes. The new method is slightly different on macOS Catalina and doesn’t involve the use of any apps but rather the use of Finder. We’ll show you how to do this below.

1. Open Finder on your Mac. (You can do so from the Finder icon in the Dock.)

Sync Ios Device Catalina Finder

2. Connect your iOS device to your Mac. You’ll be able to see it in Finder’s sidebar.

Sync Ios Device Catalina Device Finder

Note: If you can’t see the sidebar, make sure it’s enabled by going to “View -> Show Sidebar in Finder.”

3. Once you do so, you’ll see the same device-syncing interface that was previously present in iTunes. From here you can manage backups and sync content from your Mac to iOS device and vice versa.

To back up your iOS device, simply specify whether you’d like to back up your device to iCloud or to your Mac (local backup). You can only choose one, so you’ll have to turn off iCloud backups if you’d like to continue syncing your device to your Mac. Once done, simply click on “Back Up Now” to back up your device. Similarly, you can restore a previous backup onto your iOS device by clicking “Restore Backup.”

Sync Ios Device Catalina Backup

You can also choose to show your device whenever you’re connected to the same Wi-Fi network. This will let you manage your syncing options remotely.

Sync Ios Device Catalina Show On Wifi

Using the different tabs for each media content, you’ll be able to sync specific or all media content to your iOS device. This includes Music, Movies, TV Shows, Podcasts, Audiobooks, Photos and Files.

In each tab, if you enable the option to Sync (for example Sync Music), you can choose whether you’d like to sync your entire library or specific content only.

Sync Ios Device Catalina Sync Movies

The content for Music, Movies / TV Shows, Podcasts, Books / Audiobooks, Photos comes from the Music app, Apple TV app, Podcasts app, iBooks app and Photos app respectively. Thus, if you’d like to add more content to your device, you need to make sure that it’s already added in the respective app before syncing it to your device.

If you’re syncing photos from the Photos app on your Mac to your iPhone, you’ll need to disable the iCloud Photo Library sync on your device.

The Files tab will allow you to sync specific app-related data from/to your iOS device.

Sync Ios Device Catalina Files

You can also choose to back up your Contacts, Calender info, etc., from the Info tab.

Sync Ios Device Catalina Contacts

That’s it. It’s that simple to sync your iOS device to your Mac in macOS Catalina. Any questions about the process? Let us know in the comments section below.

Shujaa Imran Shujaa Imran

Shujaa Imran is MakeTechEasier's resident Mac tutorial writer. He's currently training to follow his other passion become a commercial pilot. You can check his content out on Youtube


  1. Whenever updating an iOS device in iTunes, iTunes had a feature that you could see the progress of a download or install in the top right corner. Now that iTunes is gone, is this feature available somewhere in Finder or elsewhere? It’d be nice to know how long I have to wait to download iOS device updates to my Mac.

  2. When I plug in my iphone, the sync goes on forever. The default is to auto sync as soon as it is plugged in. Anyway to STOP the auto sync? Another way to ask is, is there a way to see the iphone sidebar without plugging it in?

  3. If you right click on your phone/device in the Finder window it gives you the option to “Remove from Sidebar.” Any idea how to get it back if that happens? Asking for a friend…

  4. Similar comment to Emma. In iTunes we had a nice big progress bar which also displayed constantly refreshing text showing how many songs/photos/books etc were still to be copied. It seems in Catalina, all we get is a constantly filling and emptying circle with no feedback as to what media is currently being copied. Am I missing something?


    Forgive my amateur video. However, it does work. Get your photos back on your iOS device now. Super easy. Time consuming for those of us with thousands of pics… But easy. No non-apple software required. Give my video a look. It’s 4 minutes well spent.


  6. THANK YOU for putting this article together!!! I consider myself pretty “techy”, and I’ve been a very dedicated Apple-user since 1985. I still remember the 1984 Apple commercial during the Olympics. Apple is not that company anymore, unfortunately. But I just wanted to leave a comment to say thank you, and to also say that I am an Apple fan who is beginning to not be much of an Apple fan. I hate Windows, so I won’t switch to that. But my days of upgrading every year when something “cool” comes out from Apple are O V E R. (are you listening, Apple?). I have no clue what’s happening internally over there (I say “over there” because I live close to their “spaceship”). I won’t take up all of this space with my complaints. I’ll just say that Apple was always known for, “IT JUST WORKS”. Yes, I know that was a Steve Jobs expression, and I understand that he is no longer with us. But Apple, come on guys and gals!!!! You’re taking us backwards. Not only that, but so many people that I come into contact with every day and we start talking, the topic always ends up being, “What’s going on with Apple??”. Listen, I understand that you’re a huge entity, Apple. (if you’re reading this by some small miracle). But even Rome fell, and who knows, but the USA (and Apple along with it) could take a dive also. You’re not perfect (we all know that!!! LOL). But this iOS13.(whatever) and macOS Catalina 15. (whatever) are hellish to work with because of the problems it’s filled with. Quick example, then I’ll sign off. I am a successful man in my mid 50s who lives and works in Silicon Valley. I’ve been here since 1975. I know the ins and outs of Apple and when something new comes out (software), I can usually figure it out very quickly. But now that I’ve read this “how to” article written by Shujaa Imran (and he or she did a fine job with it!), I’m still confused. I’m still trying to understand how to get it to Sync over WiFi. I’m in the Finer now on my split-screen (I bought the big 5K LG screen made for Mac at the online Apple Store and I have the newest, fully upgraded MBP 13 inch with Touch Bar and additional everything! The whole package cost me $4,4000. And now I sit here every day going, “Duhhhhhhh……how do I back this up? What does that Sync button mean in relation to the tabs at the top of the Finer window, and so forth….I’ll stop blabbing now, but geez I had to say something. I know Apple is probably not reading this, but I KNOW there are lots of advanced users out there who feel my pain, so to speak. Thanks.

  7. When I plug my iphone on – I only see start picture for a short time – then the screen is blank – and no change to take backup and so. (newest software on my iphone and imac)

    whats wrong

  8. I have a large number of books in epub format on my MacBook, none of which were purchased through Apple. When I try to sync them to my iPhone, only some of them actually do. I’m assuming this is due to some internal rules stemming from Apple’s desire to force us to purchase all of our media through their stores. I’d love to hear of a solution to this situation. Perhaps it’s time to move back to Android.

  9. I have successfully sync’d my iMac.(OS Catalina 10.15.1) with my iPhone and iPad but cannot sync mail between the 3 devices. Ny clues please?

  10. How do I sync Word docs with Goodreader app on my Ipad? Once again has totally messed up my workflow.

    Thanks in advance for the help!

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