Transferring music on iPod touch from multiple computers


Q: Is it possible to connect my iPod to someone elses PC or Mac and add their non-DRM protected music (ie ripped personal cds) to my iPod touch?

Transferring music on iPod touch from multiple computers

– LP

A: Yes, this is definitely possible through “Manual mode.” Like the traditional iPod models, the iPod touch supports a manual transfer mode where the iPod touch does not actually sync with iTunes, and you can drag-and-drop content from any library you happen to connect your iPod touch to. In this mode, even iTunes Store purchases can be transferred from an authorized computer onto your iPod touch, subject to certain limitations—notably that you may only have content from up to five different iTunes Store accounts on a single iPod.

To enable manual mode, simply connect your iPod touch to your computer and select it from the iTunes Devices list on the left-hand side of the iTunes window. On the main “Summary” screen which appears, simply click the box labelled “Manually manage my music and videos” and click the “Apply” button to enable manual mode.

Transferring music on iPod touch from multiple computers

Once manual mode has been enabled, the iPod touch will no longer sync your audio and video content with your main iTunes library, nor will it try to sync with any other iTunes library. Instead, you will add content to your iPod yourself by dragging it from the main iTunes library onto the iPod touch in your Devices list. Likewise, any content you want to remove from your iPod will have to be done manually by expanding the iPod touch in the Devices list and managing it in the same way that you would manage content in your main iTunes library. For all intents and purposes, the iPod touch becomes an independent “library.”

In this mode, you can of course connect your iPod touch to any other computer running iTunes and transfer content onto it in much the same way.

Note that other types of content such as Info items (Calendars/Contacts/Bookmarks), Podcasts, Photos, and Applications will still be synced automatically, however, if any of these are selected. These types of content can only be synchronized automatically from a single computer, although podcasts can be transferred manually like any other type of audio track.

Keep in mind that if you add content from several other computers and then wish to return to automatic synchronization, any content you have added will be removed from your iPod unless it is already in your iTunes library. Returning to automatic synchronization “re-mirrors” your iPod with the content of your iTunes library, so any content that does not exist in the main iTunes library is removed from the iPod. If you want to return to using automatic synchronization and do not want to lose this content, you will need to transfer it into your iTunes library. See our iPod 201 article, Copying Content from your iPod to your Computer for more information on some methods for doing this.

An important note for our other readers: Despite the similarities between the iPod touch and iPhone, “Manual mode” on the iPhone currently does not work in this manner. Enabling manual mode on an iPhone will allow you to manage the content manually from ONE computer, however, your iPhone will still show up as if it is in automatic sync mode when you connect it to any other computer. It is unclear at this point whether this is a bug or intentional behaviour on Apple’s part, but it should be noted that the iPhone did not originally support any manual management mode, so this feature came to the iPhone much later than it did to the iPod touch.


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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.