Using multiple iPods and iPhones on one computer
Ask iLounge offers readers the opportunity to get answers to their iPod-, iPhone-, iPad-, iTunes-, or Apple TV-related questions from a member of the iLounge editorial team. We'll answer several questions here each week, and of course, you can always get help with more immediate concerns from the iLounge Discussion Forums. Submit your questions for consideration using our Ask iLounge Submit Form. We reserve the right to edit questions for grammar, spelling, and length.
Q: Thanks in advance for answering this question. I currently have an iPhone 3GS and a fourth-generation iPod nano using the same account in iTunes on my Windows computer. Can I also use an iPod touch on the same account? A total of three devices? Thanks.
A: Absolutely. In fact, there is no practical limit to how many iPod, iPhone or Apple TV devices can be connected to the same iTunes library. iTunes treats each device distinctly, with its own configuration and synchronization settings, so you can easily sync different types of content and different playlists to each device, or even manage some of your devices manually while synchronizing others automatically.
You can even connect multiple iPods or iPhones to your computer simultaneously, subject to how many USB ports you have available. Each iPod or iPhone will show up as a separate device in iTunes, and you can manage each one simply by selecting it from the device listing on the left-hand side, in the same way you would manage a single iPod or iPhone. iTunes can even sync all of your devices in parallel.
For the purposes of illustration, the image above shows three iPhones, an iPod touch, an iPod classic, three iPod nanos, three iPod shuffles and two Apple TV devices, all connected and synchronizing with the same iTunes library simultaneously.
Q: I want to upgrade my iPod to the newer version of the iPod nano but I am worried that I won’t be able to sync the new iPod with my current iTunes and that I will have to start from scratch. I’m under the impression that only one iPod can be synced to an iTunes library at any one time. Can anyone help before I lose 1,000 tracks??
A: Upgrading to a new iPod will definitely not be a problem. As illustrated above, iTunes can not only handle more than one iPod syncing to the same iTunes library, but can even handle many at the same time. A given iPod can only automatically sync with a single iTunes library, but a single iTunes library can support many iPods.
You’re at no risk of losing any tracks in this process either as long as these are stored in your iTunes library. If you’ve been managing your iPod content manually and deleting music from your computer after transferring it to your iPod, then you will need to copy these tracks from your old iPod back into your iTunes library before you can add them to your new iPod. If you’re in this situation, you can check out our iPod 201 article on Copying Content from your iPod to your Computer for some tips on how to do this. Once the tracks are in your iTunes library, however, you can just sync them to your new iPod in the same way as you would have synced them to your original one.
Note that each iPod gets its own synchronization settings, so when you first connect your new iPod nano, you will be prompted as to whether you want to sync your content automatically and you may have to customize your sync settings further. Your new iPod begins as a clean slate as far as iTunes is concerned, but you can very easily tweak the sync settings in iTunes to get it set it up to store the same content as you have on your existing iPod.
Q: My wife and I have just got iPhones but we only have one iTunes on one computer. I have activated mine and am getting my wife’s in the post on Monday. When I go to activate hers on iTunes will it automatically copy all my settings to her phone or will I be able to have two separate set ups. Similarly, will it only copy all the same music over to her phone that is on my phone or can we set different sync options.
A: iTunes will treat each iPhone as a separate device, with its own configuration settings. As illustrated above, when you connect your wife’s iPhone, it will appear in the iTunes Devices section separately, and you can configure her settings in iTunes in terms of what information to sync in much the same way as you’ve already configured your own.
Any content in your iTunes library can be syncing to either or both of your iPhones, although you will need to configure the sync settings for each iPhone individually. This also includes choosing which applications you want to store on each iPhone. Application data and the configuration settings on each iPhone will be stored separately on each device, although iTunes will store a backup for each of your iPhone separately in the event that you ever need to restore this information. These backups include all of the information and configuration settings for each iPhone with the exception of the actual media content, which of course should already be stored in iTunes and therefore re-synced to the iPhone from there. You can view the backups that iTunes has stored for your iPhones by choosing the “Devices” tab in your iTunes preferences:
Note that if you are syncing both iPhones automatically, some of the metadata such as ratings and play counts for your media content will also be shared between both iPhones. This means that if your wife listens to a song or applies a rating to a song on the iPhone, that will be reflected in your iTunes library and on your own iPhone. Likewise, the iTunes Store account you are using on your computer will be configured as the default iTunes Store account on both iPhone devices, although you can manually log out and log into another iTunes Store account directly on the iPhone itself if you so desire.
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