Major breakthrough in iPhone iTunes freeze problem
We've continued to bang away at the problem we've been encountering with our iPhone, in which iTunes wouldn't recognize the phone and would freeze up whenever the phone was plugged in. (We are on Vista and a cheapo iPhone 3G; see our previous posts here and here.) It appears that an external hard drive that we have hooked up to the computer might have been getting in the way and causing the mess.
The drive in question is a Western Digital MyBook, and it's been known to hang our Windows Vista computer up from even booting. Leaving aside the iTunes issue, quite often when starting or restarting the computer we have found it necessary to cut power to the MyBook drive and let Vista boot up before plugging the drive back in. We tried changing the drive boot sequence at Windows startup, but that didn't solve the problem.
Anyway, the other night, a lightbulb went on above our head. Maybe that drive was also contributing to our iTunes-iPhone freeze problem. After some trial and error, we strongly suspect that's the case.
Here is the procedure we have come up with to work around the conflict. Some of these steps may turn out not to be necessary, and we'll work on trimming them down, but this sequence has resulted in successful recognition and syncing of the iPhone twice in a row now, which is something. These steps may or may not work for you, and they could brick something on your system, and so try them at your own risk. But they are:
1. Disconnect the power from the MyBook drive.
2. Power off the computer and iPhone. Wait five minutes.
3. With the computer and iPhone disconnected from each other, and with the MyBook still completely off, power both the computer and the iPhone back up. Wait a few minutes.
4. Do nothing on the computer or phone until the rest of the sequence is complete.
5. In Vista Task Manager (available at CTL+ALT+DEL), do an "End process" on iTunes Helper.
6. With the iPhone still unplugged from the computer and the MyBook still out cold, run iTunes on the computer.
7. Go to "Music," single-click on a song, but don't play it.
8. Plug the iPhone into the computer.
For us, at that point, the phone's been syncing. Hurray!
Only after the sync is done do we power the MyBook back up.
We have tried simply disconnecting the MyBook while we've been locked in the iPhone-iTunes freeze hell, and that hasn't worked. Once Vista and that drive have a conversation, the iPhone recognition appears to get toasted. Only disconnecting the MyBook and rebooting everything has worked so far. We'll continue to play around with lesser work-arounds, but this one's a hit for us so far, and we hope it helps somebody else with the same issues.
We may actually have satisfaction here at last.
UPDATE, 6/15, 4:50 p.m.: We do indeed. And after further testing, here's all that we have to do: With neither the iPhone nor the MyBook connected to the computer, shut down, wait, and then start the computer. Plug in the iPhone with the MyBook unplugged. It will sync. No need to reboot the phone or stop iTunes Helper. The whole problem is the MyBook. Why the phone worked flawlessly for nearly two years with the MyBook running is a mystery. But it's clear that they don't get along now.
UPDATE, 7/5, 3:43 a.m.: Not so fast. This solution stopped working after a while. But we've come up with another one, just as easy: Plug the phone into a different computer, then into the one we're having trouble on. Details here.