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How Do I Sync My iOS 5 Device With Multiple Libraries?

Hey Gary, I haven’t seen this covered anywhere else online. iOS 5’s new Wi-Fi Sync feature also apparently unlocks the ability to sync an iOS device (even an iPhone) with more than one iTunes library, but there doesn’t appear to be any documentation on how this works or what pitfalls or complications you might encounter (duplicate items, things un-synced when they’re not supposed to be, etc). I’ve just plugged in my iPhone 4 to my work computer, and the result: the controls for syncing in iTunes 10.5 are enabled, and on the phone under Settings->General->iTunes Wi-Fi Sync I now see entries for both my home MacBook Pro (17″ Core Duo 2006) and the work Mac Pro (Original ’06 model). My question is, if I were to hit ‘Sync’ right now on the Mac Pro, would it wipe out anything already synced from the MacBook Pro? If I set it to sync only, say, movies, what will it do — copy movies from my iPhone to the Mac Pro and vice-versa? Delete them because they aren’t already on the Mac Pro? And what about the sections I choose not to sync, like Music? I sync Podcasts at home but would like the ability to do so from both locations — is that possible or is syncing in a single category strictly one library or the other? It’s very confusing and I’m hesitant to even use this feature until I know more.

Comments: 6 Responses to “How Do I Sync My iOS 5 Device With Multiple Libraries?”

    11 years ago

    I don't really think you can sync with multiple libraries. Where did you hear that?
    I think it still works as before. If you set it to "manually manage music and videos" you may be able to drag and drop songs onto your iPhone from different Macs. Haven't tried it myself.

    11 years ago

    There've been a few posts around the web about it since iOS5 was released -- very few. But the feature definitely exists; here's a screengrab from my phone (my device is not jailbroken or otherwise tweaked, this is vanilla iOS 5.0):

    And here's one post I found online -- note the final paragraph:

      11 years ago

      Interesting. So I guess it is worth experimenting to see what you can do. Probably sync on type of thing (music) to one Mac, and other (apps) to another Mac, etc. Not sure how useful it will be.

    11 years ago

    I believe you can sync with multiple computers/iTunes now, but not the way you may think. If you look at the post Brian mentions the screenshot there shows 2 computers are shown that are in the sync settings for that device. One computer is syncing photos and the other is syncing apps. I don't believe iTunes will let you sync the same content between multiple computers. I believe it will remove syncing from the prior computer if you try to enable on another computer afterwards.

    10 years ago

    Dear Gary,

    could you maybe, please, explain, why it is not possible to sync music from 2 different computers to one iphone without wiping out the first content, when syncing with the second? I know quite a few people who are frustrated by this. Will that feature be changed? Thank you very much for an answer, I do find your column very helpful and like it a lot!
    Kind regards Katja

      10 years ago

      Sync literally means "synchronize." Logically, you can't synchronize two iTunes libraries with one device. If library one contains songs A B and C and library two contains A B and D, then what would a synced iPhone contain? A B C and D? But that is not in sync with either library.
      So maybe you are asking the wrong question or approaching it the wrong way. Your goal is to get your music on to your iPhone, right? So have one iTunes library on one computer contain all of your music. Then sync your iPhone to it. You can also sync all three things together using iTunes Match if you like. Actually, then you don't need to sync at all as all of your music is available on all over your devices.

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