MacMost Now 681: Sync Multiple iOS Devices To the Same Mac

You can sync many iOS devices, like iPhones, iPod touches and iPads, to the same Mac. If you own more than one iOS device, you can specify exactly which items ares synced to which device. You do not have to use the same settings for the devices. They can all behave differently.

Video Transcript
Hi this is Gary with mac pros now. on today's episode let me show you that you can sync more than one iOs device to your mac. so i get asked this question quite often. people wonder if they get a second i o s device say they have an i phone and now they get an i pad can they sync it to the same mac. the answer of course is yes you can sync as many devices as you want to your account on your mac using i tunes, but there is some confusion that comes in when people think that well are the syncing settings the same? In other words, do I have to have the same music, the same apps the same everything on both devices? The answer is no. You can customize each device to make it exactly what you want. Have the exact music files, apps everything. Let me show you . So here I have plugged in two i o s devices to my mac at the same time. now, you don't have to do it at the same time but I am doing it here just to demonstrate. If you look on the left here on I tunes you can see I have 2 devices here. One called the I phone 3 g s and another one called old 3 g. so these are obviously 2 old phones that I've got that I keep around for testing and app development. And I can have them both plugged in at the same time to the same mac using 2 different doc cables. And they both appear here in I tunes so this makes it easy for me to demonstrate but the same thing applies if you only have one doc cable. and say you plug in your i phone then you unplug it and you plug your i pad in later. you can set everything separately. so if I look at my i phone 3 g s I can look at all the different tabs here and say look at music and say that I want to sync music, select what I want to sync, say I want to sync my Beatles play list 14 songs there and apply it. so now that I have synced this playlist here I can look at the i phone here and see what music is available here and I can see it available. now this is different than if I look at the other I phone. There is different music there. and if I click on the i phone itself I can see I have different sync settings for that particular I phone. so any i phone, i pad, i pod touch would appear here and I can set different sync settings for music, movies, tv shows, photos, and even apps as well. you can go into info and see what information syncs from local calendars, and local contacts as well to those different devices and those can have their own set. I can even go in and say switch this i phone here to manual manage music and videos and leave the other i phone to automatically manage them and syncing different playlist and things like that. so this is not a solution if you have multiple i o s devices in your house owned by different people. if say you only have one mac And say everyone in your house has an i phone they should each probably have a separate user account on that mac and then of course separate apple user id's and then sync their i phone using there user accounts on that mac. but this works if it's several devices say an i pod touch an i pad and an i phone owned by the same person you have the same music library the same photos the same everything but you want to manage what's on each of those devices individually. I tunes let you do this by default you don't have to do anything special it's just how it works. just go in and set each of the sync settings for those devices differently or the same if you wish. So I hope this explains a commonly asked question. 'Til next time this is Gary with MacMost Now.

Comments: 25 Responses to “MacMost Now 681: Sync Multiple iOS Devices To the Same Mac”

    Jo Swanson
    3/9/12 @ 10:26 am

    Background: Because of limited hard drive space on my MacBook Pro, I had to move my huge photos collection to an external drive and delete them from my internal drive. Many of the photos had been synched to my iPad, and I want to retain them there. But here’s my problem:

    Since I did that, I have filed some recent photos on my hard drive. I also have a great many photos on my iPad that I would like to download to my MacBook Pro. But I can’t ‘synch’ them, because when I plug it in, my iPad can’t find the matching file on the MacBook, so it wants to replace its with the current photos file on my MacBook. I can’t let it do that, and I can’t find a way to get my iPad pix copied onto my MacBook Pro. Suggestions?

      3/9/12 @ 10:55 am

      It sounds like you have two different iPhoto libraries now? Is that right?
      You can only sync with one iPhoto library.
      One option would be to take your favorite photos from the external library, export them, and import them as a single event to your new library so you can sync them with your iPad.
      Or, go back to having just one iPhoto library.
      Or maybe that is not your problem at all. From your text, maybe it is that you want to move the photos from your iPad back to your Mac? It doesn’t work like that. You sync from Mac to iPad, not the other way around (exception:photos from your Camera Roll that you take with your iPad).
      If you have the photos on your external drive, then get them from there. Set it up the way you want in iPhoto, and then sync to your iPad to replace your albums with your new setup.

        10/2/12 @ 1:28 am

        I had a similar problem. I started using iPhoto Library Manager and found that very helpful! With that, I can adjust the libraries as required!

          10/9/12 @ 11:03 am

          I m new apple user, now I have family with dedicated apple ID with iPhone now. I have new iMac to share and backup data from 5 iOS devices and total 2 apple ID are same (iMac and iphone´╝ëand total 3 unique apple ID for 2 iPhone and 1 iPad. How can we use iCloud to backup data from IOS device to iMac ? My concern is ios apple ID is different from iMac apple iD

            10/9/12 @ 11:18 am

            So you don’t use iCloud to backup your iPhone to your Mac. It is either you backup to your Mac, or you backup to iCloud. In neither case does Apple ID matter much. You can backup multiple devices to iCloud or to Mac. Apple ID comes into play with iTunes purchases, app purchases, email accounts, etc.
            Now “syncing” to a Mac could be an issue — but not just backing up.

    3/9/12 @ 12:06 pm

    How do you sync two iphones to one (1) iMac?

      3/9/12 @ 4:02 pm

      Watch the video. That’s exactly what I show.

    3/9/12 @ 12:34 pm

    There are iOS apps that will allow you to transfer photos from iOS device to Mac and vice-versa. I have one called PhotoSync and it works wonderfully, has a free Mac/Windows version and the iOS app was only a couple bucks and syncs over wi-fi. Very useful for only getting photos across and not having to connect via iTunes for everything. Also allows me to transfer files to any Mac or PC by simply installing the software and transferring from my Touch (or any iOS device) to the computer.

    I got the app when my Touch couldn’t sync with my Mac due to changes I made to the Mac and needed to copy photos and video across so I could free up space on the Touch.

    There are other apps for transferring files (songs, photo/video, etc.) as well but I haven’t worked with them very much. Hope this helps.

      3/9/12 @ 4:04 pm

      Keep in mind, though, in Jo’s case she will want the real original photos. The ones on her iPad are most likely smaller compressed versions for the iPad’s screen. So get them from that external drive, not the copies from the iPad.

    3/16/12 @ 5:57 am

    Clarification of the term “sync” please. As I understand it iTunes is the depository of all apps, music, video, etc. Sync means to use all or some of the total library in iTunes to transfer to the iOS device. Is that correct–everything is on the computer and “synching” allows the user to pick and choose what to transfer from the available content?

    3/16/12 @ 3:39 pm

    What about sync’ing iCal? Amendments made on my iPad are recorded on my iMac. However when I sync my iPhone some time later iCal on the iMac records the data from it. As I understand I have to ‘force’ the synchronization from the iMac to the iPhone in iTunes via the Info tab. Is there a better way? Because when I forget the new appointments are erased.

      3/16/12 @ 4:17 pm

      You can sync calendar events many ways — it depends on which calendar service you are using: iCloud, Gmail, etc.

        3/16/12 @ 10:26 pm

        I sync via cables between the iOS devices and the iMac.

          3/17/12 @ 8:15 am

          So you are syncing calendars that just exist on your Mac, not on any online service?
          If that case you can select which calendars sync to which device in the Info tab of iTunes for that device. You can set it up any way you want there.

    3/23/12 @ 11:20 am

    How do i sync one iOS device on two Macs?

      3/23/12 @ 11:24 am

      You don’t. By definition, that doesn’t happen. It can only sync with one Mac at a time.

    Jeff Tucker
    3/30/12 @ 7:03 pm

    Gary, can I sync my Iphone 4s to two different mac desktops? I have a 27″ Imac and a 15 Macbook Pro. It would be nice to have the data on my phone synced across both machines if it’s possible. Thanks for all you do.. It’s really appreciated. Jeff

      3/30/12 @ 8:21 pm

      No. Syncing happens between one computer and one iOS device. Doing it with 2 Macs would mean those Macs need to be in sync too.
      So why not just do that? Use iCloud and all three machines can be in sync.

    Gregory Goldsmith
    7/10/12 @ 2:15 pm

    Hi Gary, I have an iPhone and iPad. I currently use shift (I’m still on a pc) to choose the library I want in iTunes depending which I want to sync. When I set up the library for each I mistakenly also created a media folder for each. I want both devices to use the media folder that the iPhone uses. Is it possible for me to change the media folder location for the iPad library to point to the iPhone media folder so I just have the one going forward? This would be a big help to me, thanks

      7/10/12 @ 3:11 pm

      I would have both use different media folders. If they use the same, then you might as well have just one iTunes library. But that doesn’t mean they can’t share the same files. Set iTunes to not copy the media to the media folder at all. Then create your own folder to store files.

    Jerry Lieberg
    9/20/12 @ 7:21 am

    Two of us work together and we each have an iPhone, iPad, and MacBook Pro. We are syncing our calendars through iCloud. I create multiple alerts for some of my important appointments – it’s just the way I work. These multiple reminders are bothersome to the other person. Is there a way to share the appointments but not share the alerts? Or is there a way to automate sending my appointments to my Reminders and I could use that app to keep myself on task? Or is there a App Store application that might accomplish this? Thanks

      9/20/12 @ 7:30 am

      I would just have one calendar that is NOT shared, and put your alerts on that one. They can set the calendar to “ignore alerts” — at least on a Mac, not sure about iOS. But then if they want some of the alerts, that won’t work.

    Thomas Fajar
    11/23/12 @ 6:40 am

    Hi Gary,

    I have an iphone 4s and new ipad both runing iOS 5.1.1 and I sync them to itunes on my mac under one account. I plan to update to IOS 6 only to my ipad coz I need the iOS 5 map in my iphone. My question is, Is it possible to sync both my device which have different version of IOS?

      11/23/12 @ 8:21 am

      No problem. The devices do not need to be the same version of iOS for most things to sync. Music, movies, apps, books, etc. Some new apps will only work on iOS 6, so those won’t be able to sync to your iOS 5 device, but that’s obvious.
      Also: Don’t buy into the blogger hype that the new Maps app is somehow horrible. I use it and love it. On your iPhone in particular it is very useful because it can give you spoken turn-by-turn directions as you drive. That’s something the old Google app can’t do.

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