Adding a second family iPod to iTunes

Q: We have an iTunes Store account which is presently used with an iPod touch. Now my daughter bought a used iPod nano and she wants to buy some music from iTunes and download it to her nano but not get all the music from her brother’s iPod touch, nor does she want to lose what is on the used nano. Is there a way for her to purchase some songs and then download only those onto the nano without her getting her brother’s songs or vice versa?

– Shari

A: iTunes maintains separate sync settings for each iPod you connect, so basically your daughter just needs to connect he. iPod nano and adjust the sync settings to select only the music that she wants on her iPod. There are a couple of ways this can be handled depending on personal preference.

iTunes offers two basic modes of transferring content to an iPod: Automatic synchronization which essentially mirrors some or all of your iTunes library onto the iPod, or manual management where you manually copy content from the iTunes library onto the iPod. Note that when using automatic synchronization, the iPod will only contain content that is already in the iTunes library, and any existing content that is already stored on the iPod will be erased during the automatic sync process unless you have first imported this content into your library. iTunes provides ample warning of this fact when connecting an iPod with existing content to a new iTunes library. You will probably see a message similar to the following the first time you connect the iPod nano to your computer:

Adding a second family iPod to iTunes

As the option implies, choosing Erase and Sync will remove any existing content from the iPod and replace it with either all or selected content from the iTunes library. This is probably not what you want to do, so you should instead choose the “Cancel” option to dismiss this dialog box. This will cancel any automatic synchronization, but the iPod nano will remain visible in iTunes so that you can customize its settings.

From this point, you can either choose to set the iPod to manual mode, in which case it effectively becomes its own distinct music library, or you can choose to use a third-party tool to transfer the existing content on the iPod nano back into your iTunes library so that you can then set it up for automatic synchronization.

To set your iPod to manual mode, simply select it from the Devices list in iTunes and you should see a summary screen for that iPod appear. Place a checkmark beside Manually manage music and videos and click the “Apply” button to save your changes.

Adding a second family iPod to iTunes

Once you’ve done this, you can manually transfer any new content onto the iPod simply by dragging it from the iTunes library and dropping it onto the iPod in the Devices list in iTunes. This includes any existing tracks that are already in this iTunes library as well as any new tracks that you may purchase from the iTunes Store or import from CD or other sources.

Alternatively, if you would like to use automatic synchronization with the iPod nano but still keep the music that is on it, you’ll first need to copy the music off using a third-party utility and add it into the iTunes library so that you can continue to sync that music with the iPod. Our iPod 201 article on Copying Content from your iPod to your Computer provides more information on how to do this.

This has the added advantage of ensuring that these tracks are backed up on your computer and not stored only on the iPod nano. Once you’ve copied these tracks back from the iPod to your computer and imported them into iTunes, you could then choose the Erase and Sync option when it appears and still be able to transfer these tracks back to your iPod since they’re now in the main iTunes library. In automatic sync mode your daughter can still choose which specific playlists she would like to have transferred to her iPod nano, but will have the advantage that any new music she downloads and places in these playlists will be added and synchronized automatically with the main iTunes library.

You can find more detailed information on how the various iTunes sync options work in our Beginner’s Guide to iTunes.


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