Q: I used the info in your article about “Transferring my iTunes Library” from an old PC to a new one without wiping my the data from my iPhone. It worked great. I then transferred calendar and contacts successfully. However, none of my apps transferred in the process, and when I attempt to sync apps, iTunes wants to wipe all the apps off of my iPhone. This is the last missing piece in a cumbersome process that we must endure when we buy a new computer. Can you help me?
A: There are a couple of ways that you can handle this. If you still have access to the old computer, you can find the “Mobile Applications” folder, transfer it over, and then re-import the apps into your iTunes library simply by dragging and dropping them into iTunes.
Alternatively, you should be able to retrieve the apps from your iPhone simply by using the Transfer Purchases option. Ensure that your computer is authorized for the iTunes Store account that was used to download or purchase your apps by going to the Store menu in iTunes and choosing the Authorize This Computer option. If you have purchased apps with multiple iTunes Store accounts, repeat this process for each account.
Once your computer is authorized, connect your iPhone. You should see a dialog box with the usual message about replacing everything on your iPhone, but it should now include a Transfer Purchases button. Clicking this will tell iTunes to go through your iPhone and transfer back everything—apps, media content, books, etc—that the current computer is authorized for.
If the Transfer Purchases option does not appear here for whatever reason, you can simply hit “Cancel” and then access the option manually from the File menu in iTunes.
Once you’ve recovered the apps back into your iTunes library, you may still need to re-enable app synchronization in iTunes, in which case you may still be presented with a message that doing so will replace all of the apps on your iPhone. In this case, however, the word “replace” is not entirely accurate; what iTunes actually does is update your iOS device to match whatever you’ve selected in your library—removing apps that are no longer selected, adding any new apps that you’ve selected that weren’t on the device before, and most importantly, leaving any apps on the device that are still selected in iTunes.
In other words, as long as all of your applications are in your iTunes library and you’ve confirmed that they’re selected for synchronization to your iPhone, all that iTunes will actually do is go through and confirm that they’re all still there, basically matching them up with your new sync settings. Since the apps are never actually removed from your device, your application data will also remain intact.