So here’s my problem. My iPhone is associated with my home PC, but I listen to music on two other computers: a Macbook and a Mac Pro. How can I sync music between my iPhone and multiple computers?
In the past I used this approach and a hex editor (PC | Mac) to copy the Library Persistent ID from my main computer to my other computers (if you’re on a PC check out iTunes DB Cloner). This process worked like a charm. I could plug my iPhone into any of my computers and manually manage my music, video, and podcasts.
Then Apple released iTunes 10, and I lost my powers. Luckily, I figured out how to get ‘em back.
On your primary computer (the one you want to sync and backup with)…
- Open iTunes and make sure that “Manually manage music and videos” is checked. If it is not then check the box, click “Apply”, and iTunes will remove all music, video, and podcasts from your device. Relax, do this once and you won’t have to do it again.
- Exit/Close/Shut down iTunes.
- Go into the iTunes folder. On a PC it’s in your My Music or Music directory. On a Mac it’s in your Music directory.
- Copy these two files ”iTunes Music Library.xml” and “iTunes Music Library” (Mac) “iTunes Music Library.itl” (PC) and paste them into a new folder.
- Copy the folder to a thumb drive (or into your Dropbox folder).
On your secondary computer…
- Open the iTunes folder and copy these four files to a new folder:
- iTunes Music Library.xml
- iTunes Music Library (PC has .itl extension)
- iTunes Library Extras
- iTunes Library Genius
- Delete the above files from your iTunes folder. Deleting Extras and Genius may be overkill, but things went more smoothly when I got rid of ‘em.
- Copy the two primary computer’s iTunes library files (iTunes Music Library.xml and iTunes Music Library.itl) from your thumb drive/Dropbox folder into the secondary computer’s iTunes folder.
- Open iTunes and click Music on the left hand menu. Unless your two machines are exactly the same your iTunes music library will be effed. Don’t worry, you’re about to fix that.
- Select all of the music in your library (CMD+A or CTRL+A) and hit Delete. The first prompt will ask you if you’re sure you want to delete the music from your library. And you are. The second will ask you if you want to keep the files or delete them from your computer. You want to KEEP THE FILES.
- Add your Music folder to iTunes on your secondary computer.
- On a Mac: File -> Add to Library -> Navigate to the folder you want to add.
- On a PC: File -> Add Folder to Library -> Navigate to the folder you want to add.
While the hex edit option is way easier, this convoluted and nonsensical option will work. I’ve been able to update my iTunes library on 2 PCs (Windows XP and Windows 7) and 2 Macs (OS X Lion) with an iPhone 3GS (iOS 4), an iPhone 4 (iOS5), an iPod Touch 4th Gen (iOS5) and an iPad 2 (iOS5). If you try this out and don’t have any luck let me know and I’ll do what I can to help you out.
A few things to keep in mind
Playlists will get deleted. If you have any on your secondary computer you will need to export/import them. When you add your music and you don’t see your purchased music you can easily add them via iTunes in Cloud. This approach is not meant to sync apps, photos, bookmarks, contacts, and calendars between your iPhone and multiple computers. That is not recommended. Can it be done? Yes. But it can also be very messy. I recommend using iCloud or Google for that stuff.
Preferences are replaced. iTunes will copy over your program preferences from your primary computer to your secondary computers. If you have your computers set up differently you’re going to need to reconfigure your secondary computers. For instance, if you set iTunes to keep your library organized on your primary, but not on your secondary you’ll need to uncheck the box on your secondary machine. Not difficult, but annoying.
Syncing iDevices with secondary computers. It is important to understand that your iTunes library on your secondary computer will think it is actually your primary computer. So, if you sync an iPad or another iDevice with any of your secondary computers you’ll need to get iTunes back to how it was so you can sync with you devices again.
- Back your iDevice up with your secondary computer prior to copying over the primary computer’s iTunes library files.
- Once you’ve replaced the iTunes library files you need to add any apps located on your secondary machine, but not seen by iTunes. To add them to back to iTunes select File -> Add to library (Mac) / Add folder to library (PC) and navigate to the “Mobile Applications” folder. Alternatively you can just navigate to the “Mobile Applications” folder and drag them into iTunes.
- Plug in your iDevice and click on the Apps tab.
- If the “Sync Apps” box is checked and you see your apps organized as you had them then just sync your device. If not, you have a couple of options:
- Check the box and let iTunes erase all of your apps from your iDevice leaving you to reorganize your folders (ideal if you only have a few pages of apps), or
- Restore your device to the earlier backup (ideal for those with hundreds of apps). Once your apps show up how you had them, stop the restore process, check the “Sync Apps” box and click Apply.
- Do it once, and you’re done. Best of all, you’ll be able to manually manage the music for this and other iDevices as well.
Or, go with option B: Sign up for iTunes Match and forget all this poppycock!
Got thoughts? Share ‘em below or send me an e-mail at email@example.com.