Syncing playlists manually


Q: Why is the syncing of playlists tied to the syncing of music? I have my iPhone set to sync manually, primarily because we have a large organized folder of music that I have visually organized in iTunes. I would like to edit playlists in iTunes and transfer them to my iPhone, but it will not allow me to copy. The only way it seems to move back and forth is by syncing music. when I try to select sync music, it prompts me that it will delete ALL music on my iPhone BEFORE i can select “Sync only selected playlists.” Is there a work around to this?

– Neal

A: If you are managing the content on your iPod or iPhone manually this does include playlists as well, since in order to sync a playlist to your device, the necessary tracks also have to exist on the device, which would effectively be an automatic sync of your music anyway.

Note that you can manually copy playlists from your iTunes library to a manually-managed iPhone or iPod device simply by dragging the playlist from the normal iTunes “Playlists” section up to your iPhone or iPod in the iTunes “Devices” section. The playlist will be copied to your device, along with any tracks contained in that playlist that are not already on your device.

Alternatively, you can switch to automatic synchronization of selected playlists, and still accomplish a somewhat manual-like management process simply by creating an additional playlist containing the content that you would otherwise store manually on your iPhone anyway. Instead of dragging-and-dropping new content directly to your iPhone, you would drag it to this playlist and it would be synced from there to the iPhone. You can give this playlist a name like “ZZZ” just to keep it at the bottom of the playlist on your device.

Unfortunately, there’s no way to switch from manual to automatic synchronization without replacing the content on your device, since an iPod or iPhone in automatic sync mode mirrors the content in the iTunes library. Note, however, that when switching to automatic sync from the same library, iTunes won’t normally erase and re-copy any content that is already on the device that is still selected for synchronization, so if your selected playlists already contain all of the content that is already on your device, the “Erase and Sync” process should take relatively little time to complete.

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Jesse Hollington

Jesse Hollington was a Senior Editor at iLounge. He's written about Apple technology for nearly a decade and had been covering the industry since the early days of iLounge. In his role at iLounge, he provided daily news coverage, wrote and edited features and reviews, and was responsible for the overall quality of the site's content.