Sharing iPods on the same computer

Q: My mother has an iPod shuffle and my sister just received an iPod for her birthday. Can they both use the same computer to house their music? If so, should they download a second itunes library to it or is there a way to share the same application and just register both to the one library?

– Becky

A: You definitely can share more than one iPod on the same computer. Some of us here at iLounge in fact use as many as four or five iPods on a single computer.

Basically, iTunes identifies each iPod as a distinct device, and you can set your synchronization preferences for each one separately. You could, for example, have one iPod that syncs all music content from your library automatically, another that synchronizes only selected playlists, and a third on which you manage the music manually.

Sharing iPods on the same computer

This method can work best if you find that your tastes in music are appropriate enough to share the same iTunes library, and you don’t mind sharing information like ratings, playlists, and last played times and counts. Although you can choose which playlists to sync to each iPod, information like ratings, last played times, and play counts for each song will be shared across all iPods, which can affect your smart playlists if different people regularly listen to the same music. Of course, if your musical tastes are completely different, then there’s still no reason you can’t share the same library, since it’s unlikely that you would be listening to the same tracks; in this case simply sync different sets of playlists to each iPod to maintain separate collections.

If you do want to maintain completely separate libraries for each iPod there are two ways that you can do this.

Firstly, you can set up multiple user accounts on your computer through your operating system. Each user account or “profile” has its own iTunes library database and content folder. So when you log in as a different user and start iTunes, you will effectively be starting a brand new library as if you had just installed iTunes for the first time. Note that you don’t actually need to reinstall iTunes to accomplish this, but simply log on as a new user and run iTunes as you normally would.

The second method, if you’re using iTunes 7, is to use the new multiple library feature. This is accessed by shutting down iTunes and then restarting it while holding down the SHIFT key (Windows) or OPT key (Mac). You will be presented with a dialog box similar to the following:


Sharing iPods on the same computer

To create a new library, simply choose the appropriate option and then tell iTunes where you want it to be stored. A new, blank library will be created separately from your existing one. To switch back to your previous library, simply restart iTunes, again holding down SHIFT or OPT, select the “Choose Library” button and browse to the location of your other library.

Note that when using multiple libraries, each library also has its own folder for your music content. This means that you may have multiple copies of the same track if you import it into multiple libraries.

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