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How To Transfer Music to iPad: Sync iTunes Songs to Your iOS Device

Copy digital music onto your iPad and turn it into a portable music player




Courtesy of Apple


The iPad might be a stellar tablet device for surfing the Internet, running apps, and watching movies, but it's also a great digital music player too. The iPad comes with a music app pre-installed that lets you play your song collection, but what's the best way to get your iTunes library on it?

If you've never used your iPad for playing digital music, or need a refresher on how to do it, then this step-by-step tutorial will quickly show you how.

  • Setup time: 5 Minutes maximum.
  • Sync time: depends on number of music files.
  • Difficulty: easy.

Checklist Before Syncing iTunes Songs

There are a few things that need to be in place, checked, and considered before you start transferring iTunes songs to the iPad. To ensure the process goes as smoothly as possible, work through the following steps before connecting your device.
  1. Ensure iTunes is installed on Your System -- if you haven't already got iTunes set up on your system, then the latest version can always be found on the iTunes website.
  2. Ensure the iTunes software is up-to-date -- having the latest version of iTunes installed on your computer is always recommend. This is normally an automatic process when your system boots (or iTunes is launched). However, you can also manually check to make doubly sure by forcing an update check within the iTunes application. You can do this by clicking the Help menu and choosing Check for Updates (for Mac: click the iTunes menu tab and then Check for Updates). Having ensured that the latest version of iTunes is installed on your computer, shut down the application.
**Note** One thing to keep in mind is when transferring songs between iTunes and the iPad, the process is only one-way. This type of file synchronization means that iTunes updates your iPad to mirror what is in your iTunes library. Any songs that are deleted from your computer's music library will also be removed on your iPad.

Connecting the iPad and Selecting it in iTunes

To hook up the iPad to your computer and view the device in iTunes, follow the steps below.

  1. Before running the iTunes software, use the cable that came with your iPad to connect it to your computer.
  2. iTunes should automatically run when the iPad is plugged into your computer. If it doesn't, launch it manually.
  3. When the iTunes software is up and running, look in the left window pane to locate your iPad. This should be displayed in the Devices section. Click on the name of your iPad to view its details.
If you still don't see your iPad, we've written a troubleshooting article on solving iTunes Sync Problems that may fix your issue.

Transferring Music Using Automatic Syncing

This is the easiest method of transferring songs to your iPad and is the default setting. To start copying files:
  1. Click on the Music menu tab at the top of the iTunes screen (located below the 'now playing' window).
  2. Make sure the Sync Music option is enabled. If not, click the check box next to it.
  3. If you want to fully automate the transfer of all your music, select the Entire Music Library option by clicking the radio button next to it.
  4. To cherry pick certain parts of your iTunes library, you'll need to choose the Selected playlists, artists, albums, and genres option -- click the radio button next to this. You will now be able to choose exactly what gets transferred to the iPad by using the check boxes in the Playlists, Artists, Albums, and Genres sections.
  5. To commence automatic syncing to your iPad, simply click the Apply button to start the process.

Transferring Music Using Manual Syncing

To have ultimate control over how iTunes copies files over to your iPad, you might want to change the default mode to manual. This means that iTunes won't start automatically syncing as soon as the iPad is plugged into your computer. Follow the steps below to see how to change to manual mode.
  1. Click on the Summary menu tab at the top of the screen (underneath the 'Now Playing' window).
  2. Enable the Manually Manage Music and Videos option by clicking the check box next to it. To set this new mode, click the Apply button to save settings.
  3. To start selecting the songs you want to sync to the iPad, click the Library option in the left window pane (this is under Music).
  4. To copy songs individually, drag and drop each one from the main screen to your iPad's name (in the left pane under Devices).
  5. For multiple selections, you can use keyboard shortcuts to select multiple songs. For the PC, hold down the [CTRL] key and choose your songs. If using a Mac, hold down the [command] key and click the files you want. Using these keyboard shortcuts will enable you to drag multiple files to the iPad in one go saving a lot of time.
For more information on using keyboard shortcuts in iTunes, read these articles:


  • Using playlists in iTunes is a fast way to transfer multiple songs to your iPad. They are quick and easy to create and you can follow the manual syncing tutorial (above) in the same way for dragging and dropping playlists to your iPad.
  • Before transferring songs to the iPad, it's wise to keep an eye on how much storage space is left. You'll notice that there's a capacity meter near the bottom of the iTunes screen which gives you a visual view.
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