How to Use iTunes With Multiple Computers

Posted by AfroWhitey | Computers,How-to,Q&A | Tuesday 2 June 2009 2:29 pm

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This post comes at the request of sn9500, who writes,

“I have a couple of computers and all have iTunes which won’t let me use my Ipod on there without deleting what is on my Ipod, so I only use the Ipod on one computer. So even tho I have downloads on the other computers, I have not known how to add it to my Ipod.”

This is a common problem with iTunes. iPods only allow you to sync to one iTunes library at a time, but what happens if you are adding music on multiple computers? How do you add that music to your iPod?

The quick solution is to enable “Manually manage music” in the iPod preferences and drag the music manually to your iPod. But what if you travel and want to be able to access all your music all the time, whether on your laptop or home computer? What if you have multiple computers like our friend above and don’t want to worry about remembering what computer has what music? This post will attempt to resolve this more complicated scenario.

Step 1: Locate Your iTunes Library and Music – The key to making this work is tricking your iPod into always believing its syncing to the same library, no matter the actual computer or location. To do this, we must first locate the iTunes library on your primary iTunes computer, just as we did to enable multiple users. The easiest way to do this is to look in your iTunes preferences, then click on the advanced tab.

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In the window that comes up, you’ll notice a box underneath “iTunes Music folder location.” Take note of this location. This is where both your music and library are located. Navigate to this folder and you should see all of your artists in their respective folders. Your actual library will be in a folder called iTunes, which may be in a separate folder from “iTunes Music,” usually still in your “Music” (Mac) or “My Music” (PC) folder.

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Step 2: Sync iTunes Folder Between Computers – This step involves another application. Using a file-syncing application, you will copy both your music folder (and all sub-folders) and your iTunes library file to the other computer(s) you want to use. Make sure to put the folder in the same basic place, or wherever the iTunes music folder is on that computer. Then, using the same application, you will periodically scan all locations for any changes and make those changes on any computers necessary.

Lifehacker recommends SyncToy for PCs on a local network (under the same roof/wireless network). They even have instructions for setting it up here (scroll down the page to find the appropriate section).

For syncing computers across the Internet (i.e. to a work computer), Lifehacker recommends FolderShare. Instructions are at the top of the page here.

Unfortunately, I have yet to find a good free file-syncing program for Mac. If anyone knows of one, please share in the comments. Until then, I recommend installing SyncToy on a PC on the same network as your Mac(s), then using that to sync two network folders (both the source and the source and destination folders will be your individual Macs on the network).

UPDATE (6/3/09): Russell gave me a great Mac-syncing app in the comments. Instructions here.

Step 3: Sync Your iPod and Enjoy – All that’s left is to plug your iPod into any of the computers you just synced and test out your new system. If you get the “iPod will be erased” message, something went wrong. If not, you’re good to go, just remember to sync your folders anytime you download a new song or make a change.

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I hope that helps any of you with this problem. I used this method for years to create a usable backup of my Mac’s music to my PC and it works great. As always, if you have any other questions or tips, leave them in the comments below or email me. I make house calls to the Las Vegas area!

Organize Your Cables … Or Die?

Posted by AfroWhitey | Computers,Home Theater & A/V,Q&A | Friday 29 May 2009 2:29 am

This post comes in response to Natalie, who wrote, “Ugh, I hate computer/tv/charger/usb/whatever cables. Do you have any tips on how to keep them organized?”

Photo by "thatgrumguy" from Flickr
Photo by thatgrumguy on Flickr

Anyone who owns more than one electronic device in their home or office has run into this problem at one time or another. You’re just minding your own business, upgrading and optimizing your workspace or home theater when out of nowhere, a giant cable spaghetti monster is staring you right in the face. Do you cower in fear, crying for your mommy, or do you stand up and fight? Whatever your answer, I’m going to provide you with some tools to either aid you in your battle, or protect you from future attacks. I have scoured the internet over the past few years and will now bring you my favorite methods of cable organization.

Velcro1. Velcro Ties – I’ve tried zip ties, but I change things around so often that they didn’t last for more than about a week before I was cutting them off in a frenzied fit. The geniuses at Velcro have me covered with their Velcro One-Wrap cable ties. They give you the security of a zip tie with the pleasant bonus of being able to rip thousands of tiny hooks from their respective loops whenever you feel the urge. Plus, they come in a variety of different colors so you can color code your various components. Just wrap them around the cables with a common path and tuck them neatly to the edges of your workstation and/or entertainment center.

Labels2. Plug Labels – We’ve all been there. We’ve all followed what we thought was the power cord for our external hard drive through the web of tangled cables tucked discretely behind our desk only to pull our computer’s power cord instead, losing the latest draft of our memoirs, aptly titled “Knotted Cables and the Therapy They Induced.” Enter ID Pilot (via Lifehacker), stickers that may save your Great Grandma’s life some day. Put the hard drive label on the hard drive plug and the life support label on the life support plug and you’ll never have to console a room full of Geriatrics ever again. Yeah, you could probably make your own with some simple stickers from Office Depot, but then I wouldn’t be able to justify this ridiculous paragraph.

3. CableDrop Cable Holder – If you ever have trouble keeping your cables within reach, or if your cables are always slipping out of your grasp, this is the hot new product for you. The CableDrop cable holder sticks right on your desk and holds your cables for you so you can rest your lazy little fingers. Now, the ordering page is in Chinese or some such language, but if you can find a translator, or learn Chinese, your cable holding woes will be forever gone. You may be able to fashion some sort of clip in its stead, but that may require a revisit to your favorite episode of MacGuyver, and this site will not be held responsible for any mullets grown or plots of world domination foiled with duct tape as a result of this post.

thomasdolbythegoldenageofwireless4. Go Wireless – Unfortunately, I can’t recommend this one for your home theater, but it should work wonderfully for your office. There are countless types of wireless keyboards, mice, printers, usb hubs, and even monitors you can find in stores these days. Connecting everything wirelessly will cut your cable clutter at least in half. It’s a little on the expensive side, but what’s a little consumer debt matter when your desk is completely clutter-free?

5. Shove it Under the Rug – This is my preferred method for solving most of my life’s problems, so why not use it to solve your cable isssues? Lifehacker’s got a slightly more refined method, but the idea’s all the same. Basically, hide them anyway you can. Just like your inner demons, if your mom can’t see them, they’re not really there.

So there you go. Hopefully that answered your question, Natalie, or at the very least, got the ball rolling. Got a question of your own? Leave it in the comments or email me: luke (at) afrowhitey (dot) com, and I’ll do my best to answer it. Short on time? I also do house calls!