Multiple iPods on the same computer

Q: How do I have two separate accounts for different iPods on the same computer?  I recently gave my daughter my old iPod, and don’t know how to create an account for her for the old iPod while I still have an account on it. Also, how do you delete songs from the old iPod so she can add her own music?

– Antonia

A: Note that it is possible to use two or more iPods with the same iTunes library. iTunes will recognize each iPod as a distinct device, and you can customize the preferences and synchronization settings for each iPod individually. So you could, for example, set one iPod to sync your entire music library, and another iPod to only sync specified playlists, choose a different set of playlists for each iPod, or set one or both of them to add content manually rather than automatically synchronizing. This allows both iPods to share the same music library. One disadvantage to this however is that all ratings and playcounts will be shared between all iPods that sync to that library, so if you’re actually sharing songs, you won’t be able to specify different ratings for them.

If you want to keep two or more entirely separate libraries in iTunes, simply assign each iTunes user their own user account on the computer. iTunes stores its library data in each user’s local profile, so each user essentially gets their own iTunes library.

User accounts are set up as a function of your computer’s operating system. Simply go into your Control Panel on Windows or your System Preferences on Mac OS X and choose the Users (Windows) or Accounts (Mac) option to manage the user accounts on your computer. Simply create a new account for your daughter, and then when she logs in and starts iTunes, she will be presented with a brand new, empty iTunes library that she can start out with and import her own music into.

If you don’t want to create separate user accounts on your computer, iTunes 7 also provides another way that you can have multiple libraries.

By holding down the SHIFT key (Windows) or OPT key (Mac) when starting iTunes you can tell iTunes to use a different library. See our Ask iLounge 9-12-06 column for specific details on how this works and how to set it up.

An important thing to keep in mind when using different libraries is to always ensure that the correct library is active when using automatic synchronization and connecting your iPod. Otherwise, you may inadvertently sync your iPod to the wrong library, potentially replacing all of its content.

If you want to erase your daughter’s iPod entirely and let her start over fresh, your best option is to perform a “Restore” on the iPod, which will return it back to its default factory settings, erasing everything on it. This is done by selecting the “Restore” option in iTunes itself.