I wrote recently about the problems I was having with my iPhones and iPads after upgrading to iOS10 and the related iTunes 12.5. That article was iTunes Driver for iOS10 Breaks Windows Explorer Portable Drive.
Apple broke the ability of Windows Explorer in Windows 7 and Windows 10 (and probably Windows XP and Windows 8, too) to recognize the iPhone’s & iPad’s internal storage as portable drives.
That meant, I could no longer use Windows Explorer to copy photos and videos from the iPhone or iPad to my computer. I could email photos and videos, or I could enable iCloud Photos (and end up having to subscribe to monthly charges for more iCloud space). I needed to be able to copy the photos!
Strangely, I have seen nothing in the tech press about this problem. Finding a resolution was difficult & and Apple hasn’t addressed the problem.
Occasionally, I would find the iPhone in Windows Explorer. Very occasionally. Finally, I realized that this was only happening while I upgraded the iOS on the iPhone (in other words, while the iPhone was actively talking to the computer via the Lightning–USB cable). Once unplugged, the Windows Explorer connection was gone until the next iOS upgrade.
My previous work-around, which I mentioned in the earlier article, was to uninstall the Apple Mobile Device USB Driver (in Control Panel > Remove Programs) in order to get Windows to load its driver. When I finished accessing my photos on the iPhone or iPad, I would have to uninstall iTunes and then reinstall iTunes (which would install the Apple driver, too) in order to be able to sync or backup the devices.
iTunes had to be installed after the driver was installed, so simply reinstalling the driver was insufficient. Fortunately, it was smart enough to recognize the problem and instruct the user to uninstall iTunes and the driver and then to reinstall them. Uninstalling, and then installing a fresh download of iTunes, was the best way to solve the reinstallation issue.
I finally picked up the right hint on a Microsoft Answers forum. Even though the problem came from Apple’s program changes, the problem showed up within Windows and there was finally some discussion about it in that forum.
The tip was that, in order to get Windows to recognize the iPhone (or iPad) and load the proper driver for it, you needed to turn on and unlock the iPhone (or iPad) before connecting it to the computer via the Lightning-USB cable.
That "unlock the iPhone and then plug in the Lightning-USB cable" was the answer. It solved the problem and is a repeatable solution.
It solved my Windows Explorer problem in Windows 7, where Windows Explorer did not recognize my iPhone 7 Plus, but iTunes did recognize it. The technique also solved the recognition problem when I connected to my Windows 10 notebook. It solved my iPad Air with my Windows 7 computer, too. And, most importantly, it solved the problems with my wife’s iPhone and iPad on her Windows 10 computer. YEA!
When you use this technique, the iPhone and iPad show up in Windows Explorer, but a little differently than they did before iOS10 and iTunes 12.5.
In Windows 7, the iPhone and iPad show up as a "Portable Devices" in Windows Explorer. In Windows 10, they show up as "Devices and Drives."
Either way, that is just what we want…now we can use Windows Explorer to copy our photos to our computers.
The unlocked (versus off or on-but-locked) solution makes the origin of the problem more understandable…
One of the other things that Apple added was a query on the iPhone and iPad, implemented when the computer tried to connect to the internal photo-video "drive". This query required the user to respond as to whether or not they wanted the iPhone/iPad to allow the computer to have access to those files.
Click the Allow button. Now, you can go back to your Windows computer and see the subdirectories and the photo and video files on the iPhone/iPad.
Disconnecting is as easy as pulling the Lightning cable from the iPhone or iPad. With this technique, there is no need to uninstall drivers or iTunes or reinstall them (at least for this problem), as I had to do with my earlier work–around.
I wrote, in the earlier article, that this whole issue appears to be sloppiness on Apple’s part that showed up with iOS10 and its new changes to iTunes. I wish Apple would fix this, but it still hasn’t been addressed as of iOS 10.1.1 and iTunes 126.96.36.199.
That’s still my view, but by understanding the unlocking+connection technique needed, I can imagine how it happened…
First, the problem is in the Apple Mobile Device USB Driver. If that driver is uninstalled (via the Control Panel), Windows will immediately recognize the iPhone/iPad’s internal drive, just as if you had plugged a flash drive into a USB port.
I suspect that the Apple Mobile Device USB Driver recognizes the iPhone/iPad and connects the device for iTunes. If the device is turned on and unlocked (and if the "Allow" option was previously selected) when the device becomes connected, the driver recognizes that Windows could see the internal drives and activates that function in the driver. But, if the device is not on, or is on and not unlocked, the Windows Explorer connection is not established.
It also appears that, at that point, the Apple Mobile Device USB Driver no longer monitors the device status, except for disconnects, or at least does not check back and set up the Windows Explorer connection. Remember, this was working properly until the iOS10/iTunes12.5 updates.
The problem appears to be a mix of a "security measure" and a power-saving measure (forgetting that the device is getting power when connected!).
What’s the reasonable fix? Any time that the iPad/iPhone is plugged in, it should enable iTunes. When the device is turned on and unlocked, if the Allow option (for this particular computer) has been previously been selected, the Apple Mobile Device USB Driver should "inform" Windows that the iDevice has an available internal drive to be connected to Windows Explorer.
Of course, doing both of the steps at the time the iDevice is plugged-in would be preferable, as that is the way the process previously worked (and worked very well). This is a case where Apple took a well-designed function and broke it, accidentally or intentionally, to the detriment of the users.