WARNING: This blog contains random thoughts on technology, software engineering, and general all-round nerdery. Read at your own risk. Nerd is contagious.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Fix for long iPhone sync times in XP/Vista

Update: This problem exists in XP as well, so I've updated the post title.

So I've been having some ridiculously long sync times and I couldn't figure out why. I have a pretty fast dual-core machine with 2GB of RAM running Vista Ultimate and iTunes 7.4.1

Ok, here are the relevant sync items:
  • Lots of contacts
  • Lots of calendar events (dating back a LONG time)
  • No ringtones
  • 1GB of music (all mp3s, none from Apple Store)
  • 6 pictures in 2 folders (4 and 2) in 50GB user "Pictures" folder
  • No Podcasts
  • No Videos

I went and systematically unchecked everything to sync and added everything back one by one, and the one that causes the long delay for me is syncing photos.

If i have photos unchecked, everything syncs and it's fast (7 seconds). It turns out that even iTunes will search the entire folder for sync-able items, even though you have only certain sub-folders selected.

In particular, I have about 50GB of photos in "E:\Digital Pictures" which Vista considers as "Pictures" (I moved my "Data" folders to a separate drive a while ago, like so: http://www.edbott.com/weblog/?p=1371 )

Even though I'm *only* syncing with 2 sub-folders with a total of 7 pics (435K total!), it seems that all the other folders in Pictures also get searched in the sync, even though I don't have them selected. The delay is caused if at least 1 photo is to be synced.

Solution: Don't have your iPhone Pictures sync folder in your My Pictures folder (or, I guess any folder with LOTS of pics)
I hope that helps someone else, because it is now a huge relief that I can now sync my iPhone without having to go get a cup of coffee :-D

Narrowing it down farther...
Since I don't want to to move my pictures around or mess with user data folders, these are some questions I hope people can help answer by talking about their own sync experience. Is it because...
  • there are 50GB of photos in that folder (even though we're sync 7 of them)?
  • it's the *special* Pictures folder for a user (My Pictures in XP)
  • the user data has been moved to a separate drive than the Vista install (e: instead of c:)
  • there's something in my 50GB Pictures folder that iTunes doesn't like?
(I also posted this on the excellent HowardForums)


Blogger SpoonerStreet said...

Man! Nice work! I have 75 gigs of photos and my iPhone sync was taking over an hour. Thanks for figuring this one out.

2:03 PM

Anonymous SL said...

I have the exact same problem and your suggestion works great. Thanks!

8:22 PM

Anonymous dik said...

OMG, thanks for that, my wifes new iPhone was giving me grief... sorry, she was AND the phone!!



4:29 PM

Anonymous em said...

when the ipod/iphone is connected and itunes is running the ipod should show up on the left hand side under 'devices', right click on the ipod and then select 'reset warnings' and then disconnect the ipod and close down itunes.
reconnect the ipod/iphone and itunes will then start up, a box will appear to which you click on 'dont send' and all should work normally again.

4:23 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

This totally works!!! Thanks a lot!!

10:19 PM

Blogger polarbear said...

i did wat was suggested, then i realised something even better without having to move the photos.

just delete the Ipod Photo Cache folder that is in the My Pictures folder. itunes will create another on its own.

2:58 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...


12:34 PM

Blogger Matthew said...


This is the first place I finally found a true answer to my problem!

This is definitely a glitch and needs to be resolved, but I cannot tell you how thankful I am that you solved my problem.

10:20 PM

Anonymous Simon, UK said...

Brilliant, my iPhone 3G was taking almost an hour to sync. Just read the above and put my photos into a separate folder and it took about 5 minutes! Thanks very much for taking the time to post what for me was exactly the right solution.

4:36 PM

Blogger mamakohl said...

Gold Star!! Excellent answer - thank you! This is exactly what happened.

Brilliant, man.

5:05 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ok, this seemed to work until I tried to add my Contacts sync back in. I still haven't tried the photos since the Contacts are taking forever. Any suggestions on the Contacts? This seems to be a repetitive issue w/ my iphone.

9:03 AM

Blogger Dani said...

You are THE man!

4:16 AM

Anonymous Tonio said...

Riz, your post is really helpful, thanks a great deal. Question though : why does it take soooooooo long to sync photos? Isn't there some kind of bug in Apple's software ?
Any solution anyone to reduce the time when you do want to sync many photos ?
XP/iPod Classic 80Gb/My photos are on an external 120Gb USB2 disk

1:48 PM

Anonymous jmarcink said...

Brand new iPhone....
Had the same setup.
Moved the iPhone pictures to their own location.... Worked like a champ!

The reset of the warnings did not help me, but the move did!
this is the first place I looked for this answer... thansk for making it easy!


7:18 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...


Thanks to you my new phone doesnt sync all night like it was. There are a lot of people that are exporting their Outlook calendars, converting them and reimporting them and I believe this is hanging it up not the calendar.

Thanks so much!


7:56 AM

Anonymous jojo said...

dude.... you save hours of my life. finally i can solved it also. thx man

8:36 AM

Blogger Greg said...

Thanks! You've saved me a headache!

10:25 PM

Blogger Ursa said...

Oh my gosh, THANK YOU!!

Sync was taking 12+ hrs and now I know why... I have over 16,000 photos in my library. I only wanted to sync about 70 of them.

After moving them to a separate folder, sync took about 45 seconds. I can't tell you how much frustration you just relieved.

Major props for this suggestion!

8:45 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh! That was awesome! Thank you!

8:40 PM

Blogger Mat said...


Thanks a lot! Deleting the photo cache did the trick.

8:53 AM

Blogger Matty said...

I was having a problem with my Iphone dumping a lot of music when I synced and taking forever to reload it. I never suspected it was the photo cache-thought it was because I had too much music in my master library. Thanks for this.

3:34 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Still lots of blogs with people describing this problem, without knowing the fix. I had sync run overnight and it still wasn't done. Leaving for vacation, I was in panic. Then found this blog, removed all photos from pulldown selected main directory, and sync'd in less than a minute. Then just moved back the photos I actually wanted to put on iphone, leaving the rest elsewhere, and sync took time proportional to the number of photos, and you could see in status window what was happening (preparing photo 100 of 500, etc.). Problem is, if iTunes is uselessly scanning for photos in folders you didn't even checkmark, it doesn't tell you what it is doing. Maybe they've fixed this iTunes problem now.

11:12 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...


Hi guys,
I've just rename the "iPod Photo Cache" to another name and then the itunes can sync my selected photos. It will rebuild it folder "iPod Photo Cache".

8:30 PM

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12:04 AM

Blogger Bruce said...

Still a live issue as of today -- just ran into it myself. Can't believe they haven't fixed it yet. So annoying.

Three cheers for Algorizms for providing the explanation!

9:26 PM

Blogger Benjamin said...

Thanks for the tip! It was taking forever for my iPhone to sync! I finally figured out it was something to do with photos and then stumbled on your post. You rock!

11:43 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...


10:40 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Excellent post thank you!

9:49 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

You're a lifesaver, thanks for the tip! I had been fighting with this for over 2 weeks. Deleting the "iPod Photo Cache" folder did the trick for me.

15k photos totaling 50 GB was taking at least 18 hours -- definitely more, as I couldn't go w/o my iPhone for any longer than that!

Deleted the folder, and the sync still took 4 hrs (for the entire photo library), but hopefully now it'll just sync the changes.

Many thanks!

5:58 AM

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