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Syncing iPhone content from different computers

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Q: I recently purchased a new Verizon iPhone 4. My question is whether it’s possible to sync my new iPhone to two different computers for different sets of information. For example, computer #1 (IBM XP) is where my entire iTunes library is located and computer #2 (iMac) has all of my contacts, photos and email accounts.

- Ed

A: Actually, yes, with a few caveats. You can only sync a given category of content with a single computer, however you can sync different categories of content from elsewhere. The specific content types that iTunes groups into sync categories are:

- Music, Movies, TV Shows, Books and Ringtones
- Apps
- Podcasts and iTunes U content
- Photos
- Contacts, Calendars, Bookmarks, Notes, e-mail account settings.

This means that you can sync your music and audiobooks from one computer, your contacts and calendars from a second and even sync photos from a third with no problems. However, you would not be able to sync music from one computer and movies from another, or contacts from one and calendars from another.

It is relatively straightforward to set this up; all you need to do is configure the specific sync settings that you want to use on the first iTunes library, leaving the other areas unchecked. You can then move the device to the second iTunes library and choose the items you want to sync from that computer. If there are any conflicts you will be presented with a confirmation dialog box and be given the opportunity to cancel your changes. For instance, attempting to sync movies from a second computer will present a warning advising you that syncing movies will remove all other existing media content as well.

Attempting to enable contact and calendar info on a second computer works a bit differently in that you will be given the opportunity to merge or replace the info on your iPhone. A cancel option is still available here, however, should you prefer to do neither.

Note that the iPhone also presents another unique case for media management. While all other iOS devices and traditional iPod models offer a manual mode that can be used to load media content onto your device from multiple iTunes libraries, the manual mode on the iPhone continues to only support transferring content manually from a single computer; attempting to enable the “Manually manage music and videos” option in a second iTunes library will prompt you to erase all of the existing media content on the iPhone in order to enable manual mode with the new library. Note that even in this case, however, apps, photos and contact/calendar info will not be affected.

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