Alternatives to iTunes for managing iPhone music and files

Here’s a different (related) question: I have a new iPhone SE now, which apparently isn’t compatible with iTunes. I’ve been looking at alternative file transfer apps (esp. for my music library) and the 2 I’ve found (Tenorshare and Apeaksoft) are costly. Is there a free or cheaper alternative? Apeaksoft’s page claims the free version of Tenorshare will only transfter 10 files before requiring a $40 purchase, and that their own free version “does not work at all." What’s a better alternative for transferring files from a new phone to an older Mac?

My go-to

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It should be. All iPhones connect with Windows computers running iTunes or Macs with Mojave and older running iTunes.

Thanks. What are the capabilities and limits of the free version?

Also I Airdropped a small folder of music files into Files on my iPhone yesterday. Is there a way to port them into my Music library? Not seeing how to do that.

When I try to plug in the phone, it says I need a software upgrade, presumably to Catalina, which I’m trying to put off unless absolutely needed, esp. since I may need a new Mac later in the year.

It’s likely this issue discussed a few years ago: What's with this strange, nonstandard update to iTunes?

In order for iTunes to communicate with the phone, it needs this small update. You don’t need to upgrade to Catalina or later.


That doesn’t work. The iPhone needs to sync Music through iTunes (or at least the iTunes sycning mechanism) to be able to play it in the Music app.

It’s long been a gripe that you can’t just play music on an iPhone after dragging audio files into a specific location on the iPhone’s file system. People have wanted to drag audio files onto an iPhone (as if it were a USB stick) for ages. Just not the way Apple wants it apparently. And indeed, there’s good reasons to do it their way. Not saying there aren’t good reasons the other way though.

I have a 2011 MacBook Pro running High Sierra and an iPhone 12 mini. Every time I tried to back up my iPhone with iTunes the other night, the device would show for a few seconds and disappear.

I finally called Apple support. After research, the Tech said Apple no longer supports my MacBook Pro and High Sierra. So I can’t back up my phone to that Mac.

Many thanks for this. I’ve read through the thread from 2018 and it matches what I’m seeing. Will proceed with caution…

For the record, you can’t “accidentally” upgrade macOS to a new major version. You are always given an opportunity to cancel the installation before anything happens.

If you click on the wrong thing and start a macOS installer (e.g. to move to Catalina), the first thing you will see (after the installer downloads and runs) will be a splash screen with the name of the new OS and a “Continue” button.

You can just quit the installer from the menu bar at this point and nothing will have been changed. You can then delete the installer from your Applications folder if you want to free up the space (of course, Apple may re-download it in the future whether you want them to or not).


I just happen to have a 2009 MBP with High Sierra. When I get a chance I’ll see if I can get my iPhone connected later and let you know if I am successful.

I just tried this and it worked successfully. I was prompted to download and install the update as noted in my first reply above, which took quite a while (15 minutes?, with internet download speed of 250 mbps), but was then able to start iTunes, connect the iPhone (13 Pro running iOS 15.6), and launched the backup.

I suspect that what Apple was telling you is not that it won’t work - just that they won’t support you over the phone with a machine that old running High Sierra.


Doug, I am away for a week, but will try again when I get home. My iTunes already is already updated.

Thanks for verifying that the back up will work.


Took 2 tries to download it, but the iTunes upgrade eventually worked and now iTunes can see my new phone. I’m seeing it’s set up by default to store a full back up of the phone to the computer, but I’m not sure I want that. Esp. if I’m going to copy non-Apple purchased music files (mostly from CDs) onto the phone, I really don’t have the storage (or any need whatever) to duplicate it all a 2nd time on my Mac, and don’t want to max out iCloud. Typically I store photos manually on my Mac that I want to keep. Can I override or modify that auto-backup?

On the other hand, the modules to set preferences for syncing different kinds of files between my Mac and phone seem pretty transparent.


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If you sync media files with iTunes, the backup will not contain the media content, since it assumes that you will just sync the music (or TV shows or movies) using iTunes when you restore the phone.

See Back up your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch in iTunes on PC - Apple Support

Automatically backed-up information includes text messages, notes, call history, contact favorites, sound settings, widget settings, and more. In addition, photos in Camera Roll or Saved Photos are also backed up. Other media files (such as songs, videos, and some photos) aren’t backed up, but can be restored by syncing with iTunes.

Also, if you use iCloud Photo Library or any sort of syncing with iCloud (contacts, messages in iCloud, notes, calendars, health, etc.) those items are also not in the backup, as they will sync from iCloud when you log in to the Apple ID again.

See a different Apple article: Backup methods for iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch - Apple Support

Doug, I tried again (August 23rd) to back up my iPhone 12 Mini to my MacBook Pro (2011), running High Sierra, using iTunes. Once again, the “device icon” showed for maybe 5 seconds and was gone. Restarting the phone and MBP didn’t help —- the IPhone did not show up at all! I had already installed whatever Apple needed to update the first time I backed up the iPhone and it worked.

What did you do to get the back up to work? I had iTunes open when I connected the iPhone. Did you use a specific cord? I used the one from my iPad Air 2, since I only have the cord that came with the phone and it doesn’t have the USB connector end. I am so frustrated!

It was just a normal USB to lightning cord. Perhaps you can borrow one from somebody to rule out a flaky cable?

I think I’ll just go buy a new cord.