Q: My daughter’s desktop computer died, so I bought her a new laptop and couldn’t de-authorize the old desktop due to its sudden death. Now the new laptop says her iPod is synced with another library. Do I have to de- authorize the dead computer (impossible) to get the new laptop to be the library that her iPod is synced with?
A: The authorization process actually has nothing to do with which library an iPod is associated with. Authorization only affects which computers are permitted to play music purchased with a given iTunes Store account. There is no way to deauthorize a specific computer once it is no longer available, however iTunes allows you to have up to five (5) computers authorized, and to reset your authorizations once a year after you’ve reached the five-computer limit. Therefore, there should be no reason to be concerned about the lost authorization from the old desktop computer.
In terms of automatically syncing content, this is a separate issue from authorizing a computer. In automatic mode, an iPod can only be linked with one iTunes library at a time, since the iPod is essentially a mirror of the content in its associated iTunes library. Connecting an iPod to a new iTunes library and automatically synchronizing it would normally result in all of the content on the iPod being replaced with the content in the new library. If the new library is empty, then the content on the iPod would be replaced (remember that the iPod mirrors what is on the computer, not the other way around).
To prevent this, iTunes keeps track of which library an iPod has been synchronized to, and warns you if you try to connect the iPod to a different iTunes library:
If your daughter’s content is located only on her iPod, and has not yet been transferred to the new laptop, you obviously do not want to select “Erase and Sync” until you have actually setup the iTunes library on the new laptop to match what is on the iPod.
If you have a backup of the iTunes library from the desktop computer, you can simply restore this to the laptop, and you should be ready to proceed. Otherwise, if the music exists nowhere except on the iPod, you will need to recover the otherwise lost content from the iPod itself.
Although iTunes doesn’t provide any built-in methods for recovering non-iTunes-purchased content from an iPod back to your computer, there are a number of third-party tools that can be easily used to rebuild your entire computer’s iTunes library from your iPod. These are discussed in detail in our iPod 101 tutorial, Copying Content from your iPod to your Computer – The Definitive Guide.
Once the iTunes library has been setup with all of your daughter’s music and playlists, you can then connect the iPod, and choose “Erase and Sync” from the warning dialog box. This will erase everything on the iPod, replacing it with the content in the iTunes library (which should be everything that you copied back from the iPod). Once this has been done the first time, the iPod will then automatically sync with that new iTunes library from that point on.