Q:How do I set my iTunes to manual mode without having my iPod plugged in to my computer, so I can ensure that my music won’t be erased by a blank iTunes library?
A: Unfortunately, even though it’s set through iTunes, the “manual” setting is actually a setting for the iPod itself. Therefore, there is no way to change this setting without connecting your iPod to your computer.
Keep in mind, however, that iTunes keeps track of which iPods are associated on the basis of your current library, not your current computer. So if you’ve reformatted your computer, or otherwise completely deleted your entire iTunes installation, iTunes will recognize your iPod as belonging to a different library when you connect it, and will prompt you with a warning message to ask whether or not you want to erase it and sync to this new current library.
Simply select “Cancel” in this dialog box, and the automatic synchronization process will not occur. Your iPod will be left connected, however, so you can then access it through iTunes and put it into manual mode by selecting it in the iTunes source list and checking the appropriate box:
The only time you do need to be concerned about automatic synchronization is if you’ve erased content from your existing iTunes library (ie, deleted tracks from directly within iTunes). In this case, connecting the iPod will cause an automatic sync to run, since you’re using the same iTunes library that your iPod was originally synchronized with. In the event that you need to avoid this, you can override the automatic sync by holding down the CTRL+ALT keys on a PC (CMD+OPT on a Mac) while connecting the iPod. Keep these two keys held down until you see the iPod appear in the iTunes source list, and the normal iTunes automatic synchronization process will not be run. You can then switch the iPod into manual mode as shown above.
One other point to note: The “manual mode” is a setting that travels with the iPod, rather than a setting specific to the iTunes library. Once you have enabled manual management of your iPod, it will remain in manual mode on any computer you connect it to, unless you manually turn it back off.