iTunes icon Got a song, podcast, or another audio track that you want to copy directly to your iPhone, but don’t want to add to your computers general iTunes library? You can skip adding the song to the computer iTunes library completely by using a simple but little known trick, letting you directly transfer music and audio to an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch. The end result is that you will have music stored only on the iOS device, without having it kept in iTunes as well, completely bypassing the iTunes libraries on a Mac or Windows PC.

This is a nice trick for some added control when managing very specific music libraries, using alternate computers, and particularly if a computer is running low on disk space and you’re wanting to copy music directly from an external drive to an iPhone or iPod without importing anything into iTunes.

Transferring Music Directly to iOS, Skipping iTunes Library Importation

Direct music transfers to iOS are just a matter of using drag and drop in the right place, but you’ll need to enable the manual management option first:

  • Go to iTunes and connect the iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad to the computer and go to the “Summary” tab for the device
  • Under “Options”, check the box for “Manually manage music and videos”
  • Manually manage music to directly add songs to an iOS device without adding them to the computer iTunes library

  • Next, go to Finder and navigate through the file system to find the audio file(s) you wish to copy directly to the iOS device
  • Drag and drop the file directly from the file system directly onto the iOS device within iTunes, and not into the iTunes library (often easiest by dropping into sidebar)

Copy a song to an iPhone / iPod without adding to iTunes library

There isn’t much of an indicator within iTunes itself, but if you look at the status bar on the iOS device you will see the familiar syncing logo. When it’s done rotating, check on the iOS device within the Music app to find the directly transferred iTunes track where it will only be stored on the device and not kept locally within iTunes library, because the standard iTunes importation process is skipped completely.

Music and audio can be copied this way with either a wi-fi transfer or USB connection, it doesn’t really matter which you use.

For ease of copying directly to iOS hardware, you may want to show the sidebar in iTunes beforehand, that can be done from the “View” menu by choosing “Show Sidebar”, otherwise it’s pretty easy to inadvertently drop the audio file into the general iTunes window and import it into the library, which is exactly what we’re trying to avoid here.

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