iTunes: How to Copy Playlists to iPhone, iPad or iPod

Apple iTunes has been redesigned, and figuring out the new interface can be a bit daunting. Copying playlists to an iPhone, iPad or iPod is a bit different depending on the version you are using. Here’s how it’s done.

iTunes 12 – Option 1

  1. Connect your device to the computer.
  2. Select the icon for your device, located at the upper-left portion of the screen.
  3. Select the “Music” option on the left pane.
  4. Ensure the “Sync Music” check-box is selected.
  5. In the “Playlists” section, check the playlists you wish to sync with your iOS device.
  6. Select “Sync” and your playlist should sync.
    iTunes sync playlist option 1

iTunes 12 – Option 2

  1. Connect your device to the computer.
  2. Ensure the “Sync Music” check-box is selected under device icon > “Music“.
  3. Select the music note icon located at the upper-left portion of the screen, then choose the “Playlists” tab at the top center portion of the screen.
    iTunes 12 Playlist tab
  4. Playlists are listed in the left pane. Select the playlist(s) you wish to sync, then drag them to your device listed in the “Devices” section on the left pane. They will then sync to your device.
    iTunes Drag Playlist

iTunes 11

  1. Connect your device to the computer. A button should appear for your device in the upper-right portion of the screen. Click it.
  2. Select Add To… This will make a contents menu available on the right side.
  3. Select Playlists at the top of the screen.
  4. Drag any playlist from the left side to the right side.
  5. Click Done, then select the Sync button in the lower right corner of the screen to sync your changes.

You have successfully transferred a playlist to your Apple device. If you liked the old way of doing things, you can always enable the left sidebar again.


  1. Laurie says

    I tried both ways too with no luck….until I selected ALL Artists under Option 1 in addition to the Playlists, and then sync. Once I did that, my Playlists show on my iPod Touch now. I’m syncing with MacBook Air w/OS X Yosemite ver 10.10.5 and on the iPod, iOS 8.4.1 Once I selected (and yes, I manually checked off each one), and then sync’d – it worked!!! AND, I didn’t get that stupid “can find the session id” error. Good luck!

    BTW – Mitch, you are awesome with your screenshots and instructions! Love your page. Thank you!

  2. Sonnig says

    OMG! Option 1 worked so easily. I do not know why iTunes does not make basic processes clear. My next phone won’t be an iPhone because of this. Meanwhile, thank you!

  3. Catherine Gilbee says

    Thank you so much for explaining this! Brilliantly simple explanation. What a relief to be able to enjoy my music and audiobooks again.

  4. patrick says

    omg thank you i was looking everywhere for how to do this and this was the first page that actually showed me how!

  5. Michael says

    As long time iPod user (since 2002) I have watched with dismay as each iteration of iTunes the process of getting content from iTunes to my iPod becomes progressively more convoluted.

    So thanks for such a simple solution.

  6. Maria says

    Regarding option one, for version 12, when I tick the syc music box, it says “are you sure you want to remove everything you already have on your ipad and replace it all with this playlist?”………………
    NO, that’s not what I want! I just want to add a playlist compilation!!!!! Why is that so much to ask of this poxy ipod rubbish? All other options do not follow what I see on my screen.

  7. Cathy says

    ugh, so frustrating. I cannot sync music either, and these methods did not work. I get the same message with the sync button as the above user. All other options are grayed out. Help!

  8. Barb johns says

    And I thought it was my 60 year old, less than technical mind that was keeping me from figuring this iTunes program out. Thank you for making it clear…they should hire you.

  9. NIgel says

    I’m glad to see I’m not the only one facing these issues. Apple appears to be increasingly ‘losing its way’ with its software development. Nick is absolutely correct when he decries how non-intuitive iTunes has become (and it’s not the only Apple product in that boat now) and how absolutely pathetic the search help function has become. All I want to be able to do is transfer 3 songs from my iMac playlist to and iPad playlist using version 12 of iTunes and it seems that it is impossible to now do. Once upon a time it was a simple case of highlight, drag-and-drop, done. Couple of seconds. Now, short of re-compiling the playlist on the iMac and adding the three songs to it and re-syncing the devices completely, it seems it can’t be done. Keith has hit the nail on the head, as I get the same problem with facing the prospect of having to erase all existing music to install the new selection. I don’t want to erase anything – just add a couple of songs. Why is that so difficult? I don’t have a Computer Science degree, sadly. I just want to be able to use it as a Joe Average and have it perform extremely basic functions in an intuitive way without being cornered into spending more dollars on half-baked programs (eg. iExplore) to be able to get the same functionality out of my Mac that I was able to get out of it 5+ years ago just using the OS.

  10. Kathy says

    I agree with Nick..i have spent 2 hours trying to tick my selected playlists in this version of itunes. I hope your suggestions work…thanks for them. Clearly someone got a payrise for this – but it is not very user friendly!! It is frustrating and irritating they change processes which ain’t broke!

  11. Nick says

    Thanks you for the guide. I spent 30 minutes simply trying to find the way to copy a playlist to my iPod (I’d created others back in iTunes 10, simply checked manually sync and playlist tree would come up so you could select from there) and was in disbelief about two things…first, how NON-intuitive it was. Second, how absolutely useless iTunes help was when I entered “add playlist to ipod” in the help search…a pack of things came up, and the first ten didn’t relate. Apple is the worst in search help…Adobe is a close second…lol Microsoft is better for crying out loud! Don’t they have enough money to hire someone who is actually GOOD at making the user experience intuitive (instead of just slick and different). While they’re at it, hire another person to help them understand that, while the UX group may like to keep themselves busy changing things, it’s NOT changing good things that no one’s complaining about that makes the users happy. Sheesh, absolutely terrible. And they’ll keep on doing it.

  12. Keith says

    I ran into a problem with iTunes 12 Option 1, Step 4 (or Option 2, Step 2). When I select the Sync Music checkbox, a warning box appears asking, “Are you sure you want to remove existing music” etc. “from this iPod and sync with this iTunes library?” I’m sure I DON’T want to remove everything else and sync the entire library. I just want to copy a single playlist to my iPod without changing anything else. But the options are “Cancel” and “Remove and Sync.” What do I do?


  13. Cris says

    Thank you for the guide. I used ‘iTunes 12 – Option 2’ and it worked!

    Now, can iPod be made to play tunes in the order I select? The playlist is in the desired order, and “Copy to play order” is clicked (but no checkmark appears beside it). All the tunes get to the iPod but arrive there in a random order.

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