Preventing iPod sync when connecting with iTunes

Q: I have an iPod classic which is half full. My old computer has broken so I’ve reinstalled iTunes on my computer, but am hesitating in docking my iPod as I believe when it syncs it will wipe the music on the pod – is there any way this can be avoided?


A: Actually, this is a rather common myth, but is not generally the case. In reality iTunes is fairly cautious about erasing your iPod content when syncing to a different iTunes library. The only situation in which iTunes will actually remove content from your iPod is if it has been removed from your existing iTunes library.

So in other words, selecting all of the tracks in your existing library and deleting them would result in them also being removed from your iPod. However, reinstalling iTunes entirely and creating a brand new empty library would cause iTunes to recognize that your iPod has been synchronized with another library, in much the same way that it behaves when you connect it to a different computer. In this case, rather than performing a sync operation, iTunes will prompt you with a notification that your iPod is linked to another iTunes library and ask you what you want to do:

Preventing iPod sync when connecting with iTunes

Obviously in this case, you would select “Cancel” rather than “Erase and Sync.” Selecting the “Cancel” option will leave your iPod connected, but no synchronization will occur. From here, you can then either set it to “Manual” mode (by selecting “Manually manage my music and videos” in the Summary tab) to allow you to add additional content to it manually, or you can simply shut down iTunes and recover the music from it using a third-party software application such as those described in our iPod 201 article, Copying Content from your iPod to your Computer.

As explained earlier, the only time any data on your iPod is actually at risk from automatic synchronization is if you’ve accidentally deleted content from within your existing library. In this case, iTunes will perform an automatic synchronization as normal, since you are connecting your iPod to its existing library. However, you can prevent iTunes from performing an automatic sync in this case simply by holding down the SHIFT+CTRL keys (Windows) or OPT+CMD keys (Mac) while connecting your iPod, and keeping these keys held down until your iPod appears in the source list in iTunes.

Lastly, if you’re using iTunes 7.5, you can disable automatic synchronization for all iPods that you connect to your iTunes library via the Preferences, Syncing tab in iTunes:

Preventing iPod sync when connecting with iTunes

Simply check the box labelled “Disable Automatic Syncing for all iPhones and iPods” and click OK. With this option selected, automatic sync will be bypassed for any iPod that you happen to connect to your computer.


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