Checkboxes and synchronizing music to small iPods

Q: I have more music than I have space on my iPod nano, so I’ve been unchecking albums in order to make the music fit on the iPod. I recently discovered that, for whatever reason, iTunes doesn’t play unchecked songs unless you click them. Is there any way to make it not transfer the songs to the iPod, but still shuffle to them?

– Anonymous

A: While it’s true that checkboxes are one way to control what gets synchronized to an iPod being automatically synchronized, we wouldn’t recommend using check boxes in this way on such a large scale, and for precisely this reason. As you’ve discovered, iTunes won’t play deselected tracks either. Thus, this method should only be used to mark tracks that you want to keep in your library, but don’t ever really want to listen to. For example, we deselect the check boxes next to our holiday tracks – songs we don’t want to hear on the iPod or in iTunes when they’re unchecked.

How, then, should you best control what gets loaded onto your iPod nano, if auto-sync isn’t an option? There are two methods which are far better suited to the task.

First, you could change your synchronization method to “Automatically synchronize selected playlists only.” Here, you can maintain smart and/or manual playlists of songs you do want transferred to the iPod nano, and select these playlists in the Music tab of iTunes’ iPod panel. Any updates to these playlists will be automatically synchronized to your iPod.

Alternatively, you can use the “Manually manage songs & playlists” synchronization method instead. With this method, you drag songs & playlists directly to the iPod to transfer them, and no changes whatsoever are automatically transferred.

Both methods will allow the iTunes program to remain viable way to listen to your whole library. For more information about iPod synchronization methods, see our article here: iPod Connection and Synchronization.

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