How do I connect my iPhone to my MacBook?

Connecting your iPhone to your MacBook is usually very simple. The exception is if you've got one of the USB-C MacBooks: the new MacBook Pro 2016 and the 2015 MacBook and 2016 MacBook models. We look at them later in this article. Feel free to jump ahead if that's what you're after.

But before we get to the complicated cases, let's get the simple one out of the way.

How to connect iPhone to MacBook: Get the right cable

Your iPhone will have come with a cable for connecting to a PC or Mac, and for charging. If you bought an iPhone 4s or earlier, this will be a USB-to-30-pin cable.

How to connect iPhone to MacBook: 30-pin cable

If you've got an iPhone 5 or later, it'll be a USB-to-Lightning cable.

How to connect iPhone to MacBook: Lightning cable

This Lightning cable is a bit broken, but you get the idea

But it doesn't matter which, because the end that goes in the laptop, the USB end, is the same.

Plug the Lighting or 30-pin end of the cable into the iPhone. If the plug attachment is still attached to the other end of the cable, remove it so that the USB end is clear. Plug this into one of the UBS ports on your MacBook.

How to connect iPhone to MacBook: Open iTunes

At this point various applications may open automatically on your Mac, depending on your settings; on our MacBook it's always Photos, although you can switch off this response. You may also find that iTunes opens automatically. If not, open iTunes manually or bring up its window if it's open already.

Sometimes at this point you will get a message telling you that a new version of iOS is available for your iPhone. (If iOS is up to date, you won't.) If you want, you can download the update and install it now, but we tend to do this wirelessly over the air. To skip past the message, click Cancel.

How to connect iPhone to MacBook: Update iOS

In iTunes you'll see a new phone-shaped icon near the left end of the top bar - just to the right of the Music/Movies etc dropdown menu. This indicates that an iPhone has been detected by iTunes. Click this icon.

How to connect iPhone to MacBook: iTunes

You're now taken to a summary page showing various useful details of your iPhone: in the top box you'll see its capacity, phone number and serial number, and your version of iOS.

(Here's a protip. If you click the phone number it will cycle through some related identifier numbers: MEID, IMEI, ICCID and then phone number again. These IDs might seem obscure now but there are lots of situations when you'll need to be able to find them out. Likewise, clicking on the serial number will make it cycle through UDID, ECID and Model Identifier.)

In the box below you see details of your current backup preferences (and when you last backed up), and the option to back up manually now. Backing up is important.

Finally, the bar along the bottom of the window shows graphically how much of your device's capacity is taken up by audio files (red), photos (pink), apps (light green), documents and data (dark green/turquoise) and 'other' (yellow).

Click the categories down the lefthand side and you can see the apps, songs, video, ebooks, ringtones and so on that are stored on the iPhone, and sync new files to the device.

How to connect iPhone to MacBook: New MacBook Pro 2016, and 12-inch MacBook

These two machines are a special exception. The new MacBook Pro for 2016, also known as the MacBook Pro with Touch Bar, doesn't have a traditional USB port: it has either two or four USB-C ports. Likewise, the 12-inch MacBook models released in 2015 and 2016 both have just one USB-C port.

And since all the currently sold iPhones (including the just-released iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus) come with USB cables, not USB-C cables, you can't plug them into the new MacBook Pro or either of the 12-inch MacBooks.

There's only one way around this, and that's to buy an adapter. We list the best USB-C adapters and cables elsewhere, but the most obvious choice (albeit one of the most expensive) would be Apple's own (£19) 1m USB-C to Lightning Cable or (£29) 2m USB-C to Lightning Cable.

All you have to do is use this cable instead of the Lighting/USB cable that came with the iPhone. Open iTunes as before and the iPhone's icon should appear.