What to do if iTunes doesn’t recognize your iPhone or iPad

Mad At iTunes - itunes won't recognize iphone

If you ever sync your iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad with iTunes, then more than likely you’ve experienced hiccups at some point in time where iTunes has been unable to find or recognize your device.

You have it plugged in, but for whatever reason, it just doesn’t show up in iTunes. What gives?!

In this piece, we’ll go over what to do if iTunes doesn’t seem to recognize your iOS device when you plug it in to your computer so that if and when it happens to you, you’ll be prepared to tackle the situation.

Why isn’t iTunes seeing my device is plugged in?

Sometimes iTunes might be unable to see that you have your device plugged in to your computer and ready to sync, back-up, or restore. It can be frustrating, I would agree, but it happens.

iTunes isn’t exactly everyone’s favorite piece of software just for this reason alone. Apple’s ‘it just works’ slogan doesn’t seem to apply when iTunes comes into the picture.

Fortunately, there are some easy troubleshooting steps you can take to find out why your iOS device isn’t being recognized by iTunes, and we’ll be going over them with you below. We’ll go over some steps for both Mac and PC.

Troubleshooting an unrecognized device on Mac and PC

  • Is iTunes up to date? – If you have an outdated version of iTunes, then it may not be new enough to communicate with your iOS device. Sometimes Apple releases software updates and then follows up with an iTunes update to support that firmware. The same goes for new devices that Apple launches, and then releases an iTunes update to support that device. Try downloading the latest version of iTunes to make sure you’re up to date.
  • Is your computer up to date? – If you have an outdated version of macOS or Windows, then you could be lacking critical drivers that make it possible for your iOS devices to communicate with your computer via iTunes. You can check for software updates in macOS from the Mac App Store’s Updates tab, or you can check for software updates in Windows from Windows Update.
  • Is your iOS device turned on? – If you have your iOS device turned off, then obviously there’s no way iTunes can talk with it. Make sure it’s turned on while it’s plugged in to your computer and this will open up a connection between your device and your computer.
  • Have you trusted your computer/device? – Each time you connect a new iOS device to your computer, both your computer and iOS device will ask to be trusted. You must trust both to make sure a safe connection is established. If you do not, then you will be denied access to syncing the device on that computer until the Lockdown folder is reset.
  • Is security software blocking USB port access? – You may want to look into whether or not security software installed on your computer is keeping your device from being able to communicate with it through the USB port. This is typically a problem with some third-party security software that you may have to contact support for that specific software to resolve.
  • Are there more accessories plugged in? – Try unplugging other USB accessories from your computer, and using a direct USB port instead of a USB hub. In some cases, these devices can cause conflicts or prevent a good connection to iTunes.
  • Is the USB cable/port working? – You should never rule out that your USB sync cable or USB port has pooped out on you. This happens more commonly than you might think. Try using another USB port, or use another USB sync cable that is known to be in working condition.
  • Have you tried turning it off and on again? – Try restarting the computer, as well as the iOS device. Sometimes a driver process may not be working properly on the computer and a restart can jump-start a fluke situation.

Additional troubleshooting steps (Windows-only)

Windows has a few additional steps you can look into because it’s a much more open operating system than macOS is. As a result, there’s more users are allowed to tinker with. Here are some things Windows users can look into to fix an unrecognized device in iTunes:

  • What does Device Manager indicate? – You can open Device Manager on your Windows machine and look for your USB driver to look for any warning symbols that may be appearing. Some abnormal symbols may suggest software conflicts.
  • Make sure your USB driver isn’t disabled – From Device Manager, if you see a down arrow by the USB driver, you have your USB driver disabled. Right click it and enable it to resolve the issue.
  • Make sure your USB driver isn’t corrupted – From Device Manager, if you see a caution symbol or question mark by the USB driver, you have a corrupted or unrecognized driver and need to reinstall it. You can do this by right-clicking on the driver and choosing the Reinstall option.
  • Have you scanned for hardware changes recently? – If you’ve just installed a new USB controller in your computer tower, or are using a new USB hub, you may need to ‘Scan for hardware changes’ from the USB driver in Device Manager. This will allow Windows to configure the new device and perhaps could get you up and running.

Still having issues?

If you’re still having issues after trying all these steps, then you got me! You’re going to have to contact Apple Support, and they’ll have a technical representative go through some more advanced troubleshooting steps to get your device recognized by iTunes.


It’s never a day at the beach when you have problems with iTunes recognizing your expensive Apple mobile equipment. Unfortunately, it happens more often than Apple device users would like. Hopefully however, after following the steps above, you were able to resolve your problem without having to contact Apple.

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