Two+ iPods on one computer – revisited

Q: I will be buying the 5th Generation iPod, and selling my iPod Mine to my sister. My family, however, only has one computer.  How can I assign my iPod on the computer and still keep what will become my sister’s on there too?

– Todd

A: We’ve answered this question a few times before, and with the holidays around the corner, we’re hearing variations on it quite often from potential gift buyers.

The answer is that there are several elegant ways to run multiple iPods from one computer… iTunes 7 even added a new, third method. Here, we’ll review all three methods concisely:

1) Using one common iTunes library: iTunes has the ability to seamlessly serve multiple iPods using one iTunes library. If the iPod owners in the household, and trust each other with common management of playlists, files, and tags, then this might be a good option. Each iPod can even retain settings to synchronize only select playlists, so there’s no requirement that all iPods synchronize the exact same set of music. Downsides? Clearly, users with very different tastes in music won’t want to look at others’ music each time they peruse their iTunes library.

2) Using two iTunes libraries in two different computer accounts: If you currently (or would like to) run two or more computer user accounts on your computer (both Windows and MacOS X handle this natively and excellently), each user is automatically given a distinct iTunes library. All users, when logged into their own computer user account, have an iTunes library all to themselves. To answer some novices’ questions: no, you needn’t install multiple copies of iTunes, here: one installation of iTunes automatically behaves this way.

3) Using two iTunes libraries on the same computer account: New to iTunes 7 is the “multiple libraries” feature, which allows one computer user account to house multiple (also completely independent) iTunes libraries. This is handy if multiple users have been operating under one user account for some time, and you don’t want to intiate confusing changes to the way you operate the computer outside iTunes. One disadvantage is that it adds an awkward user input to activate the feature: each time iTunes is launched, the user must hold down Shift (PC) or Option (Mac) to launch the library selection dialog box. Alternate methods of operating this way can be achieved with third-party Library selection software like Libra.

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