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iPhone Troubleshooting & Repair Q&A - Updated April 17, 2014

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How can I transfer or copy music, photos and videos from my iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch to my computer?

By default, Apple's tightly integrated iTunes infrastructure works quite well to transfer or copy music, photos and videos from a Mac or Windows PC to an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch.

Formal iTunes Abilities & Limitations

With the exception of the "transfer purchases feature" -- which allows one to restore purchased iTunes content from an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch to a computer -- as well as copy personal photos and videos (which means photos and videos that you have shot with your device personally), Apple's software generally does not make it easy to transfer or copy content from an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch.

iTunes 7 and newer allow one to use an iPhone or iPad to transfer songs purchased through iTunes to as many as five authorized computers. This only works for songs purchased through iTunes, though. It does not work for songs ripped from CDs or downloaded from other sources which tend to be more common for those with music collections from the days before music streaming.

This restriction was designed to discourage casual piracy, but unfortunately, it also prevents one from easily copying legally acquired content from one's own device to their own computer.

Apple's Solution & Limitations (iTunes Match)

Apple's preferred solution -- which requires iTunes 10.5.1 or newer and an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch running iOS 5.0.1 or newer -- would be for you to sign up for iTunes Match for US$24.99 per year.

Apple explains that iTunes Match:

Determines which songs in your collection are available in the iTunes Store. Any music with a match is automatically added to iCloud for you to listen to anytime, on any device. . . For the few songs that aren't, iTunes uploads what it can't match (which is much faster than uploading your entire music library). Even better, all the music iTunes matches plays back from iCloud at 256-Kbps AAC DRM-free quality -- even if your original copy was of lower quality.
Once your music is in iCloud, you can play it from any of your devices. Just browse the complete list of all your music stored in the cloud and tap to play to it. You can store up to 25,000 songs in iCloud (more if songs are purchased from the iTunes Store), but only what you play or download is stored on your device. . . So you have immediate access to a huge music library without having to worry about the storage space on your device.

In other words, by signing up for iTunes Match, you could transfer (or at least replicate), the music on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch in iCloud and then later download it selectively with iTunes on your Mac or Windows PC.

However, this does mean that (1) all of your music essentially will be permanently stored within Apple's ecosystem and it likely will be difficult to move your music to another service, (2) you will have to pay every year to continue to access your music, and (3) you will need to be online to listen to your music (unless you download all of it or a selection of songs to your device or computer before leaving the grid).

If you do not mind these limitations, iTunes Match is a convenient solution for those who want their own music "in the cloud" but who do not want to switch entirely to a music streaming service like Pandora, Spotify, Rdio, or Grooveshark.

Third-Party Software Solutions

For those who prefer their computerized music "old school" (or at least middle school) and stored locally, but not on physical media like CDs, cassettes, records or wax cylinders, there fortunately are a number of third-party applications that make it easy to transfer one's music, video, and photo collection from an iPhone, iPad or iPod touch to a computer.

Four trustworthy programs are TouchCopy and iExplorer, which are available for both Mac and Windows; PhoneView, which is available just for Mac; and CopyTrans, which is available just for Windows. TouchCopy, iExplorer, and PhoneView extract songs, videos, and photos (as well as much more), whereas CopyTrans only extracts songs and videos, but it has a separate application option -- CopyTrans Photo -- available for photo extraction.

All four programs are straightforward -- essentially you install the software on your computer and connect your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch -- but this video for TouchCopy shows it in action as well:

If there are other excellent programs that you have used (and you are neither affiliated with the company nor a spambot), please feel free to share. Thank you.


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