Advanced Syncing Options for Your iPad

Syncing data between your iPad tablet and your Mac or PC isn’t complicated. Most of the time it’s a straight connect-and-sync task (or, in the Wi-Fi case, it’s a straight sync task). Still, you need to know how to handle the main sync challenges that might come your way. Here’s how to handle sync conflicts and deal with large sync changes.

Handling sync conflicts

When you sync information between your tablet and a computer, you might think it’s exclusively new data that’s being transferred, such as new songs, new contacts, new calendar appointments, and so on. However, the sync also includes edited or changed data. For example, if you change someone’s e-mail address on your iPad or iPad mini, the next time that you sync, iTunes updates the e-mail address on the computer, which is exactly what you want.

However, what if you already changed that person’s address on the computer? If you made the same edit, it’s no big deal because there’s nothing to sync. But what if you made a different edit? Ah, that’s a problem, because now iTunes doesn’t know which version has the correct information.

In that case, it shrugs its digital shoulders and passes off the problem to a program called Conflict Resolver, which displays the dialog shown here.

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If you want to deal with the problem now, click Review Now. Conflict Resolver offers you the details of the conflict. For example, in the figure, you can see that a contact’s work e-mail address is different in Contacts and on the tablet. To settle the issue once and for all (you hope), click the correct version of the information, and then click Done. When Conflict Resolver tells you it will fix the problem during the next sync, click Sync Now to make it happen right away.

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Handling large tablet-to-computer sync changes

Syncing works both ways: Not only does your tablet receive content from your computer, but your computer also receives content from your tablet. For example, if you create any bookmarks, contacts, or appointments on your iPad or iPad mini, those items are sent to your computer during the sync.

However, it’s implied that the bulk of the content flows from your computer to your tablet, which makes sense because, for most things, it’s a bit easier to add, edit, and delete stuff on the computer.

That’s why, if you make a lot of changes to your iPad or iPad mini content, iTunes displays a warning that the sync is going to make lots of changes to your computer content. The threshold is 5 percent, which means that if the sync changes more than 5 percent of a particular type of content on your computer — such as bookmarks or calendars — the warning appears. For example, this figure shows the Sync Alert dialog you see if the sync will change more than 5 percent of your contacts or groups.

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If you’re expecting this (because you did change a lot of stuff on your iPad or iPad mini), click the Sync Whatever button, where Whatever is the type of data: Bookmarks, Contacts, and so on. If you’re not sure, click Show Details to see what the changes are. If you’re still scratching your head, click Cancel to skip that part of the sync.

If you’re running iTunes for Windows, you can follow these steps to either turn off this warning or adjust the threshold. (For some unfathomable reason, iTunes for Mac doesn’t offer this handy option.)

  1. Choose Edit → Preferences, or press Ctrl+, (comma). The iTunes dialog appears.

  2. Click the Devices tab.

  3. If you want to disable the sync alerts altogether, deselect the Warn When check box. Otherwise, leave that check box selected and move to step 4.

  4. Use the Warn When Percent of the Data on the Computer will be Changed list to set the alert threshold, where Percent is one of the following:

    • any. Select this option to see the sync alert whenever syncing with the tablet will change data on your computer. iPad or iPad mini synchronizations routinely modify data on the computer, so be prepared to see the alerts every time you sync. (Of course, that may be exactly what you want.)

    • more than X%. Select one of these options — 5% (the default), 25%, or 50% — to see the alert only when the sync will change more than X percent of some data type on the computer.

  5. Click OK to put the new settings into effect.