How to sync your iPhone and iPad with your Mac in macOS Catalina

macOS Catalina

With macOS Catalina, Apple has replaced the iTunes app with three new apps, Music, Apple Podcasts, and Apple TV. If you still use iTunes on your Mac to sync your iPhone and iPad, don’t worry. You can still use your computer to perform this task. It’s just a little bit different on the new macOS.

Apple occasionally offers updates to iOS, watchOS, tvOS, and macOS as closed developer previews or public betas for iPhone, iPad, Apple TV and Mac (sadly, no public beta for the Apple Watch). While the betas contain new features, they also contain pre-release bugs that can prevent the normal use of your iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, Apple TV, or Mac, and are not intended for everyday use on a primary device. That’s why we strongly recommend staying away from developer previews unless you need them for software development, and using the public betas with caution. If you depend on your devices, wait for the final release.

  • Where to sync your iPhone or iPad on macOS Catalina
  • How to sync music to your iPhone or iPad on macOS Catalina
  • How to sync movies to your iPhone or iPad on macOS Catalina
  • How to sync TV shows to your iPhone or iPad on macOS Catalina
  • How to sync podcasts to your iPhone or iPad on macOS Catalina
  • How to sync audiobooks to your iPhone or iPad on macOS Catalina
  • How to sync books to your iPhone or iPad on macOS Catalina
  • How to sync photos to your iPhone or iPad on macOS Catalina
  • How to sync files to your iPhone or iPad on macOS Catalina
  • How to backup your iPhone or iPad on macOS Catalina
  • How to restore your iPhone or iPad on macOS Catalina

Where to sync your iPhone or iPad on macOS Catalina

Instead of using iTunes to sync your mobile device in macOS Catalina, you’ll use Finder:

  1. Click on the Finder app on the Mac Dock.
  2. Select your device on the left side of the screen under Devices.

Find iPhone on MacOS Catalina

Once you do, you’ll see the familiar interface that’s been carried over from macOS Mojave. From here, you can restore your device, manage backups, and sync content between your computer and mobile device(s). From this screen, you can also manage file transfers between devices.

How to sync music to your iPhone or iPad on macOS Catalina

  1. Click on the Finder app in the Mac Dock.
  2. Select your device on the left side of the screen under Devices.
  3. On the right-hand side, click on the Music tab.

    macOS catalina sync movies

  4. Check the box Sync Music onto your device to activate Music syncing.
  5. Under Sync, you can select Entire music library or Selected playlists, artists, albums, and genres.
  6. Under Options, you can choose to include videosvoice memos, and automatically fill free space with songs.

    sync music on macOS catalina

  7. Select playlists, artists, albums, and genre, where applicable.
  8. Click Apply.
  9. Click Sync to sync music files between your Mac and mobile device.

    sync music options

How to sync movies between your iPhone or iPad on macOS Catalina

  1. Click on the Finder app in the Mac Dock.
  2. Select your device on the left side of the screen under Devices.
  3. On the right-hand side, click on the Movies tab.

    sync movies

  4. Check the box Sync Movies onto your device to activate Movies syncing.
  5. Under Sync, click the Automatically include box.
  6. Use the pull-down menu to select all content or make another choice from those listed.

    select movies to sync

  7. Click Apply.
  8. Click Sync to sync movies between your Mac and mobile device.

    sync movies

How to sync TV shows to your iPhone or iPad on macOS Catalina

  1. Click on the Finder app in the Mac Dock.
  2. Select your device on the left side of the screen under Devices.
  3. On the right-hand side, click on the TV shows tab.

    sync tv shows

  4. Check the box Sync TV Shows onto your device to activate TV Show syncing.
  5. Check the box to Automatically include.
  6. In the pull-down menu, select all unwatched or make another choice from those listed.
  7. In the next pull-down menu, select all shows or selected shows.

    tv show all unwatched

  8. If selected shows were chosen, check the boxes next to the shows you want to sync.
  9. Click Apply.
  10. Click Sync to sync TV shows between your Mac and mobile device.

    sync selected tv shows

How to sync podcasts to your iPhone or iPad on macOS Catalina

  1. Click on the Finder app in the Mac Dock.
  2. Select your device on the left side of the screen under Devices.
  3. On the right-hand side, click on the Podcasts tab.

    sync podcasts

  4. Check the box Sync Podcasts onto your device to activate podcast syncing.
  5. Check the box to Automatically copy.
  6. In the pull-down menu, select all unplayed or make another choice from those listed.
  7. In the next pull-down menu, select all podcasts or selected shows.

    select podcasts

  8. If selected podcasts were chosen, check the boxes next to the podcasts you want to sync.
  9. Click Apply.
  10. Click Sync to sync podcasts between your Mac and mobile device.

    finish podcasts

How to sync audiobooks to your iPhone or iPad on macOS Catalina

  1. Click on the Finder app in the Mac Dock.
  2. Select your device on the left side of the screen under Devices.
  3. On the right-hand side, click on the Audiobooks tab.

    sync audiobooks

  4. Check the box Sync Audiobooks onto your device to activate audiobooks syncing.
  5. Check to sync All audiobooks or Selected audiobooks.
  6. Select your audiobooks to sync, when applicable.

    select audiobooks

  7. Click Apply.
  8. Click Sync to sync audiobooks between your Mac and mobile device.

How to sync books to your iPhone or iPad on macOS Catalina

  1. Click on the Finder app in the Mac Dock.
  2. Select your device on the left side of the screen under Devices.
  3. On the right-hand side, click on the Books tab.

    sync books

  4. Check the box Sync Books onto your device to activate books syncing.
  5. Check to sync All books or Selected books.
  6. Select your books to sync, when applicable.

    select books

  7. Click Apply.
  8. Click Sync to sync audiobooks between your Mac and mobile device.

How to sync photos to your iPhone or iPad on macOS Catalina

  1. Click on the Finder app in the Mac Dock.
  2. Select your device on the left side of the screen under Devices.
  3. On the right-hand side, click on the Photos tab.

    sync photos

In the macOS Catalina beta, this page is vague. We will update when the public version of macOS Catalina is released.

How to sync files to your iPhone or iPad on macOS Catalina

  1. Click on the Finder app in the Mac Dock.
  2. Select your device on the left side of the screen under Devices.
  3. On the right-hand side, click on the Files tab.

    sync files

  4. Click the files you wish to sync using the pull-down menus for each applicable app.
  5. Select Apply.
  6. Click Sync to sync files between your Mac and mobile device.

    select files

How to backup your iPhone or iPad on macOS Catalina

You can manually backup your iPhone or iPad on your Mac:

  1. Click on the Finder app in the Mac Dock.
  2. Select your device on the left side of the screen under Devices.
  3. On the right-hand side, click on the General tab.
  4. Click Back Up Now next to the Backup and Restore section.

    macOS catalina backup mobile device

  5. Your Mac is now backing up your mobile device.

How to restore your iPhone or iPad on macOS Catalina

You can manually restore your iPhone or iPad on your Mac:

  1. Click on the Finder app in the Mac Dock.
  2. Select your device on the left side of the screen under Devices.
  3. On the right-hand side, click on the General tab.
  4. Click Restore Backup next to the Backup and Restore section.

    restore backup

  5. Your Mac is now restoring your mobile device.

Great add-ons for Mac

Your Mac could be even more useful with one of our favorite accessories.

OWC 12-port Thunderbolt 3 Dock ($250 at Amazon)

OWC’s dock is a little pricey, but it features almost every port you could possibly want, including four USB-A ports, two Thunderbolt 3 port, a USB-C port, audio jack, optical audio jack, and an SD card slot.

Apple Magic Mouse 2 ($67 at Amazon)

Just connect the Magic Mouse 2 to your Mac by a USB-to-Lightning cable once, and it’ll be paired. This rechargeable mouse has a multitouch surface that lets you customize exactly how it works, from what one- and two-finger swipes do to which side works as “left” and “right” click. Available in Silver or Space Gray to match your Mac.

Final questions and comments

Apple will release macOS Catalina later this year. Until then, there’s a chance the process of syncing mobile devices with Mac will change. If that happens, we’ll update this post. In the meantime, let us know if you have any questions about the new syncing process with macOS Catalina.

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