Q: I’ve had to restore my laptop (Windows XP) back to factory setting and reinstall iTunes. Will I lose everything off my iPod nano when I sync it with my laptop again?
A: This depends on whether you had a backup of your iTunes library which you restored to your computer. The association between an iPod and iTunes is stored in the library database itself, so if you’ve restored your entire iTunes library, including the database and all media content, then when you re-sync your iPod it should just pick up where it left off as if you’d never restored your computer in the first place.
If you’ve started a new iTunes library, then you will receive a warning the first time you connect your iPod nano to iTunes advising you that it is associated with another iTunes library and providing you with the option to either erase all of the content on it and sync it to the new library, or to cancel the operation and leave it as-is.
As the option suggests, selecting “Erase and Sync” will remove everything on your iPod and replace it with the contents from the current iTunes library. If this library is empty, then it will effectively leave your iPod empty as well. Therefore, in this case you should select “Cancel” to leave the iPod alone; the iPod nano will remain connected to your computer and visible in iTunes, but it will not be synced with the iTunes library.
At this point, you will have two options: The first option is to set the iPod to manual mode and manage the content on it directly without syncing it with iTunes. In this case, the iPod nano effectively becomes its own iTunes library, and you would need to add content to it manually by importing it into iTunes and then dragging-and-dropping it onto the iPod. You can read more on how manual management of an iPod works in our Beginner’s Guide to iTunes.
Alternatively, you can copy the content from your iPod back to your computer and reimport it into your iTunes library, after which you can safely “Erase and Sync” your iPod nano as all of the content from it will be back in your iTunes library. This would still erase everything on the iPod, but iTunes would then copy it all back from iTunes. You can get more information on how to copy content from your iPod back to iTunes in tutorial on Copying Content from your iPod to your Computer.