Here's a sadly common story. You plug your iPhone into your computer, but nothing happens: no icon appears, there's no response of any kind. How do you get iTunes to recognise the device?

Apple uses iTunes (or Finder, on Macs that have upgraded to macOS Catalina) to manage all of its iOS devices - a task which includes fixing, updating and restoring any software. But what if iTunes doesn't recognise your iPhone, iPad or iPod?

This seems to particularly affect owners of iPod classic, iPod nano and iPod shuffle devices, and Windows computers. But the same problem can affect any iOS device and both Windows and Mac computers. In this feature we'll look at some steps to follow if you've got a non-responsive Apple device, and how to get iTunes to 'see' your iOS device.

Check the connection

Before heading into any software-based troubleshooting steps, first make sure that it isn't a physical problem with the cable. Quickly go through these steps.

  1. Check the cable is securely connected to both your iOS device and your computer.
  2. Try a different socket on your Mac or PC, and see if that helps.
  3. Check the Lightning port (or USB-C or, if you're really retro, 30-pin connection socket) on your device for debris. Sometimes dust gets into the slot and prevents the device from making a good connection.
  4. Try using a different cable to connect the device to the computer. If this helps, you need to replace your cable.

Not helping? Let's move on.

Troubleshooting iTunes for Windows

If you've got a Windows computer and it cannot 'see' the Apple device when you connect it, follow these steps:

  • Turn off your PC and your iOS device, then turn them both back on again.
  • Update iTunes on your Windows PC. Open iTunes and choose Help > Check for Updates.
  • Watch your iOS device when you plug it into your computer, and check for an alert. Click Trust.
  • If you see the 'Trust This Computer?' alert repeatedly, you may not have iTunes installed. You should install the latest version of iTunes for Windows.

Note that you don't need to put your device into Recovery Mode when following these steps.

What to do when iTunes can't see or recognise an iPhone or iPad: 'Trust This Computer?' alert

Check Apple Mobile Device Support

When you install iTunes for Windows you should also install a program called Apple Mobile Device Support. Follow these steps to check:

  1. Open Search (in the upper-right in Windows 9, lower-left in Windows 10) and search for Control Panel.
  2. Click Uninstall a Program.
  3. Check that Apple Mobile Device Support is listed in the current programs.

If you can't see Apple Mobile Device Support then you need to reinstall iTunes for Windows.

What to do when iTunes can't see or recognise an iPhone or iPad: Apple Mobile Device Support

If you're experiencing trouble installing iTunes for Windows, or see "error 7" or "error 2" after installation, follow the steps in this Apple Support Document: If you can't install or update iTunes for Windows.

What to do when iTunes can't see or recognise an iPhone or iPad: Install iTunes for Windows PC

Troubleshooting iTunes for Mac

It's less likely (but still possible) for a Mac to be unable to recognise an iPod or iOS device. In this case, you should check the following:

  • As above, check your USB connection: check the socket for dust and residue, try a different USB port, try a different USB cable.
  • Make sure you've tapped the Trust button on your iOS device when you connect it to your Mac.
  • Restart your iOS device.
  • Restart your Mac.
  • Check for software updates on your Mac. We've found, for instance, that you need to update to macOS Catalina to get a Mac to connect with an iPhone on iOS 13. If this is necessary, the Mac should tell you - see screenshot below.
  • If you've got any security software installed, this could be causing a problem between iTunes and your Mac. Follow this Apple Support document to resolve the problem: Resolve issues between iTunes and Security Software.

What to do when iTunes can't see or recognise an iPhone/iPad: macOS update

Further reading

We hope this tutorial has helped you solve the problems getting iTunes to see your iPhone. For more general advice, see How to use iTunes.