In order to use an iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch, you need to activate the devices. If you are setting up a large number of mobile devices, this can be a tedious process. When you start talking about thousands of them, it can be down-right overwhelming. However, you can reduce the number of clicks, taps and touches by telling iTunes not to synchronize devices with the iTunes Library following activation. This is done using what is called iTunes Activation Mode. Activation-mode will instruct iTunes to eject a device once it’s been activated rather than trying to synchronize music, photos and other media that may be on your system. By setting iTunes to activation mode, you cut out a couple of clicks from the activation process and don’t attempt a lengthy sync.
Note: iTunes will still need to be running on a computer that has an active Internet connection, even when in Activation-mode and in order to be activated an iPhone will need a valid SIM card.
To enable activation-only mode on a Mac, one need only write a 1 to the StoreActivationMode key in the com.apple.iTunes. This can be done using the following command:
defaults write com.apple.iTunes StoreActivationMode -integer 1
Once you are in Activation-mode, you should see a notice as to such when you open iTunes and click on the About iTunes item in the iTunes menu, as seen here:
To enable Activation-mode in Windows, one would run the iTunes executable, using the /setPrefInt option to set StoreActivationMode to 1. If you cd into the C:\Program Files\iTunes directory you can run the following command:
iTunes.exe /setPrefInt StoreActivationMode 1
You cannot sync an iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch while Acivation-mode is enabled. Therefore, if you are activating devices from your desktop machine and you have one of Apple’s mobile devices that you then want to sync to, you’ll need to disable Activation-mode to sync to it. To disable activation-only mode on Mac, use the defaults command to delete the StoreActivationMode key from com.apple.iTunes.plist:
defaults delete com.apple.iTunes StoreActivationMode
Or to disable Activation Mode on Windows, cd back into C:\Program Files\iTunes and then run iTunes.exe with the /setPrefInt option to change StoreActivationMode back to a 0:
iTunes.exe /setPrefInt StoreActivationMode 0
Rather than use Activation-mode, I had previously been using a restore-only mode called StoreGeniusMode, which essentially only allows for backup and restore of the devices. To enable StoreGeniusMode on a Mac you can run the following command, creating a key called StoreGeniusMode in com.apple.iTunes that is set to
defaults write com.apple.iTunes StoreGeniusMode -integer 1
This mode is also available in Windows by cd’ing into the C:\Program Files\iTunes directory and running:
iTunes.exe /setPrefInt StoreGeniusMode 1
You can then disable restore-only mode with:
defaults write com.apple.iTunes StoreGeniusMode -integer 0
Or for Windows, cd to C:\Program Files\iTunes and run the iTunes executable, setting the /StoreGeniusMode option to 0:
iTunes.exe /setPrefInt StoreGeniusMode 0
Thanks to Eric for pointing me at StoreActivationMode. Big time saver!