Using iPod with purchased content in different countries


Q: I currently live in the USA. My eldest child had an accident with her iPod which was bought in the UK and more than likely will not be able to ‘revive’ it. She has asked if we can purchase an iPod here in the USA for her as it is cheaper to buy here. However, my youngest child is in the USA with us and she says that you can’t use a US iPod in the UK and use it with the UK iTunes – is this correct? What will happen when my daughter returns to the UK? She currently uses the U.S. iTunes Store by using an iTunes gift card bought in the USA to download. How will they be able to purchase music in the future when back in the UK? My daughter tells me that if she transfers to UK iTunes, she will lose all the music she has on her iPod which she has purchased from the U.S. iTunes Store as it will not transfer over – and is under the impression that when she uploads/downloads from UK iTunes that it will wipe whatever is stored on her iPod clean. This doesn’t seem correct. Can you please help and give advice?

– Kerry

A: The good news is that this isn’t entirely correct, and you actually have nothing to worry about in this case. There are no technical differences between iPod models purchases in different countries—only charging accessories and documentation may differ due to regional power and language differences, but the iPod units themselves are identical.

There are country-specific restrictions on content from the iTunes Store, but this does not affect what content is actually stored in your iTunes library or on your iPod. The main issue is that you will need to create separate accounts for the U.S. and U.K. iTunes Stores, and gift cards purchased in a given country will only work with the iTunes Store in that country. Note, however, that the iTunes Store does not restrict access based on where you are, but merely based on your billing address. Therefore, your daughter’s U.S. iTunes Store balance can still be used when she gets back to the U.K. simply by logging into her U.S. iTunes Store account. If she wants to use the U.K. iTunes Store, she will either need a U.K. based credit card, or will need to purchase iTunes Store gift cards in the U.K.

On your computer you’ll need to ensure that iTunes is authorized for both accounts. When you purchase content from the iTunes Store, that computer normally gets authorized as the content is downloaded or played, however you can manually authorize iTunes by selecting Authorize Computer from the Store menu and simply entering your iTunes Store account name and password.

Note that there is a maximum limit of five iTunes Store accounts that can be used on a single iPod, but this is not something the average user is likely to run into.

The only caution is that when your daughter returns home with her iPod, if she has any content she added on while travelling in the U.S. she will need to be careful about connecting that iPod to her computer. This has nothing to do with the iTunes Store itself, but an iPod can only be automatically synchronized with one iTunes library at a time, and attempting to automatically sync with a second library will replace everything on the iPod with the content from the new library. This can be avoided by using the iPod in manual mode, which she is probably already doing, or by transferring the content from her iPod back to her computer back in the U.K. before she attempts to sync her iPod automatically. You can find more information on this in our Beginner’s Guide to iTunes and our tutorial on Copying Content from your iPod to your Computer

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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.