Short Version

I rebuilt my iTunes library and now when I try to sync my iPad and my wife's iPhone, iTunes wants to erase and resync.

I want to know if there's a way to save the stuff added to these devices since last sync.

Longer Version

Earlier today, I added some mp3s to my iTunes library. I could tell that iTunes had moved them to the iTunes music directory, but when I searched for them in iTunes they couldn't be found.

Guessing that iTunes needed to be reindexed, I rebuilt the iTunes library by following instructions from Apple.

Tonight when I plugged in my iPad to sync app updates, iTunes informs me that this iPad is synced to another iTunes library... which, technically, it was.

I'm given two choices -- transfer purchases to this computer or erase and resync.

I'm leaning towards erase and resync. I know that I have some eBooks (not from iBook store) that I added since my last sync which I think I'll need to add again.

My wife's iPhone also syncs to this computer and is a bigger problem. Since her last sync, we took a trip to Disney World and she has a bunch of photos that we don't want to lose. (We could email/upload those)

Is there a better solution that I'm missing?

3 Answers 3


In researching solutions, I found this discussion at apple.com in which somebody suggests "damaging" the iTunes library. This lead to a very useful post which discusses how iTunes uses the data it has to recreate what it doesn't have and gives instructions on how to damage (without deleting) the file -- spoiler: erase the data, leave the file.

Fortunately, I had backed up the iTunes files before I recreated the iTunes library.

I copied my backed up files back into the iTunes directory and launched iTunes and rebuilt what it needed to. There were no apps listed in the Apps display though.

When I connected my iPad, iTunes didn't complain about this being an unknown device. As it started to sync, it prompted my to transfer purchases (i.e. the apps on my iPad which didn't show in iTunes) -- but with no hint of having to erase anything. The sync took longer than normal, but everything is there and I can even find the songs which were originally hidden.

iPad is fine, will sync my wife's iPhone tonight.


The one thing you need to watch out for is any app data that isn't backed up. When iTunes erases an iDevice, it doesn't mess around. It deletes everything. If you plug in and sync often, it backs up your data and you can restore from that backup.

All purchases on the App Store are available for re-download so you won't lose anything in just erasing the devices and re-syncing.

You can pull the images off with iPhoto, which is a really cool app! It's great for rescuing photos, but also for general organization.

  1. You can always import iPhone photos with iPhoto or Image Capture (located in /Applications/Utilities) instead of syncing with iTunes.

  2. Will transferring purchases erase your computer's library? If not, why not transfer your purchases?

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