Q: I previously used an iTunes library on my husband’s laptop, but now I have installed iTunes on my own laptop. When I plug in my iPod it tells me that the iPod is in sync with a different iTunes library and that to proceed I need to delete all my music from the iPod. I simply want to now use my iPod and iTunes on my computer, what do I do?
A: When using automatic sync mode with an iPod, you can only have that iPod associated with a single iTunes library, which the iPod basically becomes a mirror image of. Therefore, associating your iPod with a new library will indeed replace all of the existing content on your iPod with the content from that library.
There are a few different ways that moving an iPod to a new computer can be handled.
If you still have access to the old computer and the music collection is not significantly large, it might be easiest to simply transfer the existing iTunes library from the old computer to the new one in its entirety, including the iTunes library database file.
To do this in a default iTunes configuration, you simply need to copy the entire “iTunes” directory from the old computer to the new one. This directory will be located under the user’s “My Music” folder in Windows or the “Music” folder on a Mac. The copy should be placed in the same relative location on the new computer. The data can be copied using any number of methods for moving large amounts of data, including burning CDs/DVDs, an external hard drive, or a network connection.
The advantage of this method is that you transfer the entire library and all related information to the new computer. This includes information such as ratings, play counts, playlists, and of course the information about the iPod(s) that were associated to that library. Essentially, once you have done this, syncing with the new laptop should be an identical experience to syncing with the old computer.
Copying the original library data is by far the best solution, but if you do not have access to the original computer, or do not have a practical means to transfer a large amount of data between the two computers, the other method available is to recreate the library using information on the iPod itself. Our iPod 201 article, Copying Music from iPod to Computer goes into specific details on how to do this.
While recovering the music itself is relatively simple, the important thing to keep in mind is that if you want to preserve additional information such as your playlists, ratings, and play counts, you will need to use a third-party application such as CopyPod (Windows) or iPodRip (Mac/Windows). These applications can read the iPod’s database and use this information to rebuild your iTunes library.
You can also find more discussion and ideas on how to do this in the thread the thread How to Copy songs from your iPod to your hard drive in the iLounge Discussion Forums.