Searching for the Moon

Shannon Clark's rambles and conversations on food, geeks, San Francisco and occasionally economics

Syncing iPod on Two Computers

Posted by shannonclark on July 9, 2007

[this is a shortened version of my original post, that post was lost while trying to post it]

I can sync my iPod to BOTH my Vista laptop and my old XP laptop (which is now a Parallel’s virtual machine on my mac desktop).

How did I do this?

Bonus Tip: If you have playlists which depend on DATE ADDED, do a select all on the tracks in that playlist, then right click, select “get info” and add label to the Grouping ID3 tag. Then rewrite those smartplaylists to work on the Grouping ID3 tag instead of date added (assuming that you are say tracking all the music you added in 2005, not something like “music I added this past week)

Step 1. Copy files from the old computer to the new system. In my case 3/4 of my 120+ GB library was already on an external drive (so it was just a matter of getting the drive letter the same on my Vista system), but the other files I had to move over. Note: Vista does not allow you to create C:Documents and Settings which was the root of the path to user folders on XP, instead you have to use C:/Users/username/Music.

Then select Export Library inside of iTunes. Save this XML file and copy it to the new computer as well (I put it on my external drive).

Step 2.  On the new computer navigate to the iTunes folder.

Rename the file “iTunes Music Library.xml” (I add the date to the file name).

Copy the .itl file (if you want to recover). [if extensions are not showing, change that view option for this folder, will make life easier for you]

Open the .itl file with wordpad (NOT Word). It is a binary file. Select all the contents (control^a) and then delete them. Save the file (you should now have a 0 byte .itl file).

Copy the exported XML file from your old computer to the iTunes directory, rename it to “iTunes Music Library.xml”.

Open it in WordPad (again NOT Word).

Now come the tricky, detail orientated bit. Look for the file paths which point to your old file locations. Search and replace them with the new path. Make sure you get this exactly right – no extra spaces, no missing /, nothing mispelled.

Note, all the above assumes your new computer’s iTunes is a fresh, unused installation – i.e. you don’t already have any content on the new machine. If you do, you will have to first export that data and instead of copying one file with the other, you will have to combine them – which is a much trickier task – not impossible, just tricky as the file has two main sections – individual track details and playlist details and you have to merge them. I have not tested this and I suspect in some cases you might also have to watch for overlapping “unique” ID’s for tracks.

Step 3.  With all external drives attached and with the correct drive letters, open up iTunes. It will complain that the .itl file is corrupt and will rebuild it. When this completes (may take some time on a large collection), you will have iTunes with all of your old playlists, play counts, and ratings in place.

Note: this does overwrite the “Date Added” field with the time you do this import. This means that as I noted above, any playlists which depended on the date added field may now be broken.  Your tracks, however, will be in the same order as before (I kept my in date added descending order usually). If you do the trick I noted, you should have the same functionality as before.

The result is you can plug in your iPod and it will sync with your new computer without a whisper of a complaint. You will, however, have to activate your new computer with the iTunes music store before syncing any protected conten (or playing it).

I have not tested this extensively. I assume that over time if the two installations of iTunes change, each time you plug in your iPod it will “sync” with the current machine’s iTunes, but will not add files it holds not present on that machine (i.e. a podcast I download on one machine) and I’m not sure how changes to play/skip counts will be tracked.

I am also working with two Windows machines – not sure if the same solution would work across Mac & PC (since the underlying file system of the iPod might be different).

One Response to “Syncing iPod on Two Computers”

  1. Shannon, Have a look at this list of apps that allow one to manage their ipod. Maybe one of these can help? http://www.simplehelp.net/2007/07/08/10-alternatives-to-itunes-for-managing-your-ipod/

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