πŸ₯‡ Device could not be synchronized because the synchronization session could not be started.

8 min


IPhone, iPad, and iPod touch users find they can’t sync their device in iTunes. When you try to do this, the following error message appears:

“The iPhone could not be synced because the sync session could not be started.”

The iPhone could not be synced because the sync session could not be started.

What’s happening? Why doesn’t my iPhone sync with iTunes? And why doesn’t the iTunes sync session start?

We have compiled this post to give you answers to all of these questions and, above all, to tell you how to fix it.

Quick tips:

  1. Close each app and force your device to restart.
  2. Restart iTunes while your device is connected.
  3. Delete your device backups from iTunes.
  4. Update to the latest iOS and iTunes version.
  5. Test your cables and connections.
  6. Remove iTunes and reinstall it on your computer.
  7. Restore your device in DFU mode.

An iTunes sync session that failed to start is hardly the only problem with Apple’s iTunes software. Our troubleshooting tips will help you fix a variety of problems. However, if you get an error message other than the one above, you may also want to read this troubleshooting article in iTunes.

Connected:

  • iTunes doesn’t recognize iPhone XR or iPhone XS on Windows?
  • “Articles could not be synchronized. For more information, see iTunes. “Troubleshooting
  • Backup / sync not working: “Session could not be started on iPhone” iTunes troubleshooting
  • iTunes wireless sync doesn’t work

What happens to this iTunes error?

IPhone, iPad, and iPod touch users may want to sync the device with iTunes for a variety of reasons: to back up, update iOS, or transfer content such as photos, videos, and music.

iTunes syncs progress with iPhone.

However, syncing with iTunes over Wi-Fi is possible; for convenience, this troubleshooting guide recommends connecting your device with a lightning cable. You will then be asked to unlock the device and you may be given the option to trust this computer.

Trust this computer prompt on a connected iPhone.

iTunes will then try to transfer data between your computer and your iOS device. It may take a few minutes to load, but at some point the synchronization will fail and you will see the following error message:

“The iPhone could not be synced because the sync session could not be started.”

Why doesn’t the iTunes sync session start?

There are many different reasons why an iTunes sync session may not start.

The software on one or the other device may be out of date or faulty. The physical connection can be affected by damaged cables or dirty connectors. Or the data that iTunes is trying to sync may be corrupt.

The bottom line is the same: iTunes can’t sync data between devices.

Fortunately, most of these problems can be fixed. And if there is no physical damage, you should be able to fix it yourself.

How do I fix iTunes won’t sync with my iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch?

Follow the troubleshooting steps below if your iPod touch, iPad, or iPhone doesn’t sync with iTunes. We have listed them from fastest to longest to save you time.

Start each step while your device is disconnected from iTunes and try syncing again after each section.

1. Close each app and force your device to restart

Close any app on your iPhone, iPad, or restart iPod touch before trying to sync again. Some users had to do this step twice before their iPhone could sync again with iTunes.

Multitasking view on iPhone

On iPhone X or later and iPads, swipe up from the bottom of the screen and stop in the middle. Double-click the home button on iPod touch or earlier iPhone models.

You’ll see every app open on your device and slide them one by one from the top of the screen to close them.

Follow the instructions below to force the device to restart.

How do I force a restart of an iPhone 8 or newer, an iPad Pro 11 inch or an iPad Pro 12.9 inch?

  1. Quickly press the volume up key.
  2. Quickly press the volume down button.
  3. Press and hold the standby button.
  4. Press and hold until the Apple logo appears.

How do I force an iPhone 7 to restart?

  1. Press and hold the volume button and the standby button.
  2. Press and hold both buttons until the Apple logo appears.

How can I force a restart of an iPhone 6S or earlier, an iPad or an iPod touch?

  1. Press and hold the home button and the sleep / wake button
  2. Press and hold both buttons until the Apple logo appears.

2. Restart iTunes while your device is connected

If iTunes can't sync with your iPhone, close and reopen it.

Close iTunes, whether you’re using a Mac or Windows PC, and then open it again after connecting the device to your computer.

Connect your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch to iTunes with a lightning cable. Unlock your device and select the “Trust this computer” option when prompted. Wait a moment and close iTunes if it opens automatically.

Open iTunes again manually. Wait a minute for it to fully charge, then close it again. Open iTunes again and try another sync session.

3. Delete your device backups from iTunes

Before performing this step, you should make sure that this is a second backup of your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch. You can make a backup in iCloud, make a backup on another computer, or make a copy of your current iTunes backup and save it to another location on your computer.

To copy your iTunes backup to another location, you need to locate the “Backups” folder on your computer.

If you’re having trouble right-click on the backup on the iTunes Devices page below. You then have the option of displaying them in the Finder.

View iTunes device backups in Finder.

If you have a secondary backup of your device, delete the backups in iTunes using the instructions below.

How do I delete backups in iTunes?

  1. Open iTunes.
  2. On macOS: Go to iTunes> Settings.
  3. On Windows: Go to Edit> Preferences.
  4. Click on Devices and select a device backup.
  5. Hover over a backup for more details.
  6. Click Delete Backup and confirm Delete.

Delete device backups on the ITunes Devices tab to fix synchronization problems.

How do I reset sync history in iTunes?

If iTunes can’t sync, Apple has recommended resetting sync history in iTunes.

To do this, go to Settings> Devices> Reset sync history. Otherwise no data will be deleted. However, you may be asked to merge or replace the content the next time you sync.

However, this is no longer an option in iTunes 12.8 or later. Apple has removed the Reset Sync History button, at least in the MacOS version of iTunes.

Probably turned out to be not a useful troubleshooting tool.

4. Update to the latest iOS and iTunes software

It is common for software to develop bugs that can cause this to cause your iPhone to not sync with iTunes. The best and only solution to this is to use the most up-to-date software available, as developers often release updates to fix these bugs.

Make sure you have the latest version of iOS on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch and that you have the latest version of iTunes on your Mac or PC.

How do I update the software on my iPhone, iPad or iPod touch?

  1. Go to Settings> General> Software Update.
  2. Wait for your device to check for updates.
  3. Download and install any updates found.
    The screenshot shows that the iOS 12.1.4 software is up to date

How do I update iTunes on my Mac?

  1. Go to Apple> System Settings> Software Update.
  2. Wait for your Mac to check for updates.
  3. Download and install any updates found.
    Screenshot of macOS system settings for checking for updates

How do I update iTunes on my Windows PC?

  1. Open iTunes and go to Help> Check for updates.
  2. Follow the instructions to download and install updates.
  3. If the Check for updates option is not available: Open the Microsoft Store.
  4. Go to More> Downloads and Updates> Get Updates.
  5. Follow the instructions to download and install updates.

5. Test your cables and connectors

Report this adIt’s time to test your hardware. Errors in your lightning cable, the USB port on your computer, or the lightning port on your iOS device can cause your iTunes sync session to fail to start.

Testing your hardware is relatively easy, but troubleshooting can be tedious or expensive.

First connect the flash cable to another USB port on your computer. Use one that you are sure works.

If possible, try another USB device on the same port to see if it has full functionality.

USB keyboard connected to MacBook Pro.

Now check the lightning connector on your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch.

Shine a flashlight in and look for a build-up of fluff or debris. This dirt can interfere with the connection and should be carefully removed with an antistatic brush or a compressed air jet.

Finally, try using a different lightning cable. Even if your device is charging, it may not be able to transfer data.

Check the cable for fraying or kinks, which can be a sign of damage. If you are using a third-party lightning cable, check the Apple MFi certification database for this cable to ensure that it is authenticated by Apple.

6. Remove iTunes and reinstall it on your computer

ITunes may be corrupted and you may need to reinstall it. There are several ways to remove and reinstall iTunes depending on whether you’re using a Mac or Windows PC and where you originally downloaded it from.

How do I reinstall iTunes on my Mac?

iTunes is built into macOS, which means you can’t just uninstall it. Instead, the best solution is to reinstall all of macOS in recovery mode. This can take several hours.

It shouldn’t affect your data, but we do It is highly recommended to back up your Mac before proceeding,

  1. Go to Apple> Shutdown and wait for your Mac to shut down completely.
    Shut down your Mac.
  2. Turn on your Mac and hold Command + R,
  3. Press and hold both buttons until you see the Apple logo or a spinning globe.
  4. Enter your firmware password when prompted.
  5. When the macOS Utilities window appears, choose Reinstall macOS.
  6. Follow the on-screen instructions and wait for the reinstallation to complete.

Utilities for MacOS recovery mode.

How do I reinstall iTunes on my Windows PC?

The instructions for removing and reinstalling iTunes on a Windows PC vary depending on your version of Windows and the location from which you downloaded iTunes. In part, this can make the instructions lengthy and a bit more complicated.

For this reason, we recommend that you follow the instructions on the Apple website to remove and reinstall iTunes on a Windows PC.

7. Restore your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch in DFU mode

The last step is to restore your iOS device to factory settings. If you do this, all content and data will be deleted, so you should do so Make sure you have a backup before proceeding,

Save progress bar.

We recommend restoring in DFU mode (Device Firmware Update), as this will remove and reinstall all software and firmware components on your device. This is the most complete level of recovery possible.

We wrote a completely different post that explains exactly how to access DFU mode on an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch. Follow the instructions there and then restore your device from a backup.

iOS: All about DFU and recovery mode

If the iTunes sync session still doesn’t start, we recommend retry the restore in DFU mode Not Restore data from a backup. Set up your device as new and try syncing with iTunes again.

If this works, your backup is the problem.

You can still import data from iCloud, sync from iTunes, or install apps from the App Store. Unfortunately, you cannot restore all data from a backup.

Hopefully this comprehensive guide answered all of your questions and fixes the iTunes error message “Sync session failed to start”. Let us know which step worked for you or contact us in the comments if you continue to have problems.

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