How to Sync iTunes library on multiple computers?

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  • Updated 4 months ago
Is there an effective way to sync iTunes library between multiple computers, keeping play counts, ratings etc. synchronized?

I tried several tools, from rsync to iTunes dedicated sync, but none seem to work in a safe and efficient way, as itunes syncing to AppleTv does.
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julpi

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martinjy

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I have the same issue and have just been reading about Syncopation (http://www.sonzea.com/syncopation/). I haven't tried it yet, but it looks promising.
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Uerre

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You can transfer and merge iTunes on one computer first. One of the easiest ways to transfer iTunes library is by use software to copy the library contents off your iPod to another computer. I recommend iPad/iPhone/iPod to Computer Transfer.It helps to copy all songs/videos/photos/playlists etc from ipod to computer directly and safely.

Free download HERE

Also you can backup your itunes to CDs or DVDs.All you need are blank discs and some time.

Hope it helps.
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Bradi Ann Cooper

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what does it mean when it says you need to extract all files first?
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julpi

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I tried several applications, including Syncopation, but they are all partially working, with issues and unreliabes.

Also, if you don't keep the library at the same cordinates in the disk, they could not work on every computer.

What's nearest to a valid solution is Martian Slingshot, which doesn't give anyway the "set it and forget it" definitive solution.

As far as I know there's no app that can provide the same seamless experience of syncing itunes to an Apple Tv"!
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BIG_Yack

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I have investigated the issue because of myself and the happines of speakers on computers that I own. In my situation there is one "unmovable" Mac and HP tourist (laptop) - the sync should not make these two dependent from each other.
The perfect solution with a storyline would be: my friend borrowed me some music CDs which my stationary Mac would rip into the local library and synch the music (+ data, counters) to the other local library on my laptop, from which happy sounds would be heard on a roadtrip the next day (no network or internet needed).
In practice that would mean all the .mp3 files, the master library (.lib) file and the files containing ratings & counters would be copied once a day using just a smiple batch command or Automator script for the Mac.

Note that there already are some solutions for always-connected-to-the-internet machines are available trough basic functionalities of the OS and iTunes itself. Here is a tutorial for "syncing" between two or more Windows computers.

Any other comments appreciated, I would really like to solve this one. Aslo don't forget the Twitter button to spread this question around a bit.
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julpi

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Still looking for a viable solution, I'm getting disconforted.
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BIG_Yack

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Colin Nederkoorn

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Home sharing only allows syncing over the same network. I am trying syncing by placing my itunes folder on mobile me. It kind of works but I frequently get errors. I might give http://www.supersync.com/ a shot.
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dlux.hu

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SuperSync seems to be super complicated and works pretty unreliably...
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Dan

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Well I'm guessing you've heard of iTunes 9 by now and the feature called home sharing, it allows you to copy files from any computer to another that is authorized to the same account, very useful and would be strange to be without it.
Sorry if I'm a bit late.
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julpi

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I tried home sharing, and it's not bad, altough it only cares of syncing the media, while other meta data like number of times you played a song, rankings and so on are not being synced.

Also, as you may know, only iTunes purchased media syncs automatically, anything else shouldbe drag'n'dropped from a computer to another.

While it's a good step forward it's still quite far from a "sync".
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echodio

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Julpi,

Great question and a very common problem! Although iTunes 9 includes a basic Home Sync feature, it doesn't work over the Internet and as you say "other meta data like number of times you played a song, rankings and so on are not being synced".

That's where Echodio comes in :) It's built especially to solve this problem. It allows you to sync across multiple machines (even over the Internet), keeps your metadata like ratings and playcount in sync, and stores a safe backup in the cloud. You can also stream from your cloud backup to your home theatre PC.

We're still in beta and would love your feedback on the product - you can get started at www.echodio.com, or email me directly at niall.smart@echodio.com if you have any questions!

Cheers,

Niall
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julpi

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While Echodio seems the first software that actually takes the right approach, without some kind of peer-to-peer sync is just pointless.
Also, the beta is at the moment just a preview, the GB limit and lack of delete options and his bugs are not enough to judge it.

Here are the main defact, in my opinion:
- I don't necessarily want a copy of my music files stored in the cloud, this should be just an option
- Lack of peer-to-peer or LAN sync
- Lack of a MASTER library setting to auto-solve conflict (I suppose it considers the cloud version as the master)

...and the pros:
- true meta-data synchronization
- minimized user interaction and interface, all you need to manage is a playlist
- you can set it and forget it

Definitely the most interesting piece of software out there, with some polish colud be the - long awaited - solution.
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Christopher Perabo

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Niall - Glad to see you join the conversation. This little piece of software may well be the solution in the future and I am happy to know that this specific issue is being tackled.

For my specific case (and probably the 95% of the other people that also use a Windows PC and not a Mac) is the restriction to Mac. Furthermore, the point - as you are surely aware - needs to be that it works with a Mac AND a PC (often on the same network). For me, I couldn't even test yet due to this.

Also, as pointed out by julpi, file storage on a cloud should only be an option. The trigger of course is the price. The current target for Echodio should be 500GB - my library is 300Gb, a number that is probably high for most users but low for audiophiles. Given that you can buy a 500Gb drive for about $70, and two of them (the 2nd for a backup located in another physical location) for $140, then this works out to a on-time purchase of $0.14/Gb.

This poses an interesting challenge, and I am curious to see how Echodio will address this.
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Jody

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of the versions of iTunes. We have a huge library of media, so I have multiple external hard drives attached to the network. This setup can be tweaked to fit your situation as needed.

1. Store your iTunes folder on a network hard drive.
2. When you open iTunes, hold down the option key. A window will ask you to choose a library location or create a new one. Select choose and locate your iTunes library on your networked drive. iTunes will load that library with all of your playlists, rankings, etc.
3. Close iTunes
4. Go to next computer, do the same and you will see your library has crossed over.

Essentially what you are doing is telling the computers to open the same file from different locations.

You may also use an app like mobilzer lite (freeware) to automatically mount your network drive when it is available (better on laptops where you may be switching networks frequently).

Problems I have come across with this setup:
Only one computer can access at a given time
Does not work with multiple Operating Systems Windows and Mac won't read each others files the same way.
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julpi

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As you said, this is an interesting approach but is not a solution to the problem because of the limitations you listed yourself, plus performance limits (I tried it and this can be serious) and it's not a "sync" approach, necessary to carry all or part of your library on a laptop.
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Jason Krueger

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I am having the same issue. I have one iTunes library, sitting on an AirPort Extreme network drive. (this will allow "Back to My Mac" functionality) I have two computers A Mac Mini, (that sits at home on the network with the APE all of the time) and I have a MBP, which essentially is always on the internet. I have a very large library (1.3 TB) so having it duplicated on each machine is ridiculous, and as mentioned above would not share metadata. So what I have done is accessed the same library from both computers. Allowing each computer to create its own .lib file, then I think that I can just sync them and all data will be shared. Can anyone testify to the effectiveness of this method. If I get it working I will update to share the "love". Good Luck,

A side note: why has Apple not figured this out!. They make brilliant hardware, and software, that seems to lack simple functions.
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Niall Smart

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Jason - 1.3TB is a pretty big library, is it mostly videos? As you say, copying that amount of files around is difficult, best to find someway of sharing the content from a network share, or else streaming over DAAP. BTW - what is the APE software you mentioned?
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Jason Krueger

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4500+ CD's ripped in full lossless. . .
DAAP is missing so much functionality that it seems not worth while especially with large libraries. (no album art, no metadata, limited search function, no genius etc.)
APE was my short for AirPort Extreme, which will support "Back to My Mac" and VPN, Port Forwarding Etc.
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BIG_Yack

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Can I ask with what did you rip the CDs, other than iTunes? I am doing a "project" like this myselft, but I don't want all of them to be managed and stored within iTunes.
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julpi

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This, as many others, is not a real solution to the problem. sharing is in many ways different from syncing, and it actually solves another issue, which is accessing the same content on different computers of the same house.

The option of using Back to My Mac, is relying on a rather expensive service by Apple, is something I tried as well, and gave up due to the endless conflicts I had to resolve (and the conflict management interface of MobileMe is definitely not enough). Also, it doesn't work if both computers are behind NAT (very frequent).

Anyway, you raised an interesting point, it happens that a library could be HUGE, like yours.
In such cases it would be smart to be able to have one or more master libraries (full sync), while being able to carry only part of it in your laptop, or synced remotely, otherwise the storage requirements for every synchronized computer are huge.

Echodio approach of playlist based sync lists is good... Smart lists would be even better.
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Jason Krueger

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BTW. There is a very cool software out there for anyone who simply wants to share their library over the internet, Simplify Media. It does not sync metadata, and has the same limited functionality that sharing libraries does in itunes on a LAN, but will allow it to occur remotely. They also have an iPhone app that seems to work very well on 3G. I will note that large libraries will work, but are sluggish at best, and frankly not worth the time on the iPhone
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julpi

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Simplify is awesome, for streaming. But once again, this is about sharing, not syncing...
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suma

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do any of the above allow to edit one library on that is accessed on another computer? our main music server is in the basement and i want to sit upstairs watching TV and clean up the music library. of course, iTunes home sharing doesnt allow this. thanks for any tips
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Jason Krueger

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The best way to do this, would be to access the remote computer using screen sharing, this, I have found, is very easy to do. Simply turn it on on the remote computer, and either log onto the remote from the one you want to be at using a unique login, (I think that you need admin rights), or the main admin account on the remote. As a note: "Back to My Mac" a service of MobileMe allows for vpn, that does support screen sharing through the internet, so technically, you could get this done from another location entirely, if set up correctly.
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Christopher Perabo

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Julpi - I'm still trying to figure this one out myself and have tried many things. I agree that the "Home Network" option on iTunes is useless to achieve what you want. The solution I am looking for must be able to do the following:

  1. I have an iPod shuffle (for my kids lullabys), an iPod Nano (for my runs), an iPhone (cause it's so damn cool!!) and then three PC (strangely no Macs)

  2. When I plug any iPod device into any of my computers I want it not to "reject" it based on sychronization with "another library".

  3. I also use the Nike+ iPod so after each run I plug it into a computer to update my runs.



What I have now is the solution posted in How-To: One iTunes Library With Multiple Computers, where I run all my computers from one library.

This mostly works, except for the nagging issues that Jenny points out during her discussion, namely:
1 - If you are using a laptop and want to take all of your music with you, this is not the method for you. All of the music is stored on a networked drive, so it is only accessible when on the network. (You could set it up so your music can be streamed over the internet, but this article will not go over that).
This I can deal with since I rarely want "all my music" with me... my syncd iPods take care of what and when I want to listen to.

You can only make updates to one music library at a time — you cannot have iTunes open on both computers and make changes. Make changes on one, then open the other one.
Acccccckk! This is a pain in the ASS!! Since when do I "turn off iTunes"? It's always on, should be on, should stay on. This sucks.

You need to close iTunes on the computer you made changes on, and reopen it on all other computers to see changes
As above... SUCKY!!!

PLUS One she doesn't mention, but worth mentioning... if your internet connection falls out (ie wireless laptop), then iTunes gives you ERROR messages that it can't save the library... buffering issues with live streaming I can deal with... but error messages suck.

So after thinking and trying... I'm ready to try something NEW! I am already a huge fan of Microsoft (did I just say that?) Live Mesh. Finally, they are starting to get it, and Live Mesh is a great example of what the future will bring with cloud computing. (Why it's limited to 5Gb and why there is no "paid upgrade" option is another story...)

This is where I need help though.... thinking logically about it... instead of "Accessing the remote library" as Jenny teaches, I want to SYNCHRONIZE my library. Note, I have also >400Gb of music and I do NOT want to SYNCHRONIZE my music files, JUST the library that keeps track of all the meta data (tracks played, album artwork, genres, playlists, all this great stuff...)

The advantage here is that the Library file (iTunes library.itl) is relatively small (1.5Mb) and can be easily synchronized in one of my Live Mesh folders.

What I don't understand though - is two-fold:
1 - What do I do with all the other files? Do I need to sync these too?

  • iTunes Library Extras

  • iTunes Library Genius

  • iTunes Library.xml files too


2 - What about the other folders, do they need to be syncd too? Namely:

  • Album Artwork

  • iPod Games

  • Mobile Applications



I sense I'm on the verge of a breakthrough... can anyone help put the last pieces together? Then I can make a "Setup" Entry and we can finally SOLVE this!
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julpi

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Thanks Chris, you just summarized my thoughts on the latest updates by other members... Live Mesh seems very powerful, I guess it's what was previously called "FolderShare", acquired by Microsoft a pair of years ago.

Replying your questions:
1: While only the main library file is CRUCIAL, as long as the path on the new computer is the same, I would sync all the files for both performance reasons.
In particular iTunes Extra holds binary meta-data of the source CDs which have been improted for fail-safe match with iTunes covers and other features. All the files but this would be completely rebuilt on the other computers.
2: I would sync them all: without the Extras folder the artwork could be different, and if you don't have the same iphone apps in all your libraries, you can't safely sync an iphone on multipel computers (or you get deleted apps on your device)

At the following address you can find a very interesting article with all the details about the structure and individual files of an iTunes library:
http://www.ilounge.com/index.php/arti...

The main issue with this approach (which I achieved too but with Dropbox) is conflicts management... What if you modified your library on multiple computers? Since the library file is in binary format when this happens you can only choose which version to keep and which to trash.

That's where approaches like Echodio's or Slingshot's are winners...
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Christopher Hughes

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For those owning an IPOD, IPHONE etc.
Why not just use your IPOD to carry all that information (it is for all intents and purposes an external hard drive right?) then set it up on the second computer with a manual second sync. You can then play all the content as it is stored on your other computer and the best thing is it will keep a record of those new plays and any changes you make to the ratings file information etc and then when you auto sync to the main computer next time all that information will be ported over. I hate to be patronising but you are actually doing the same thing by using an external hard drive to store all your music anyway. It is not 100% a sollution but the next best thing without actually having to move any data physically. It is clear that Apple are never going to give us what we want because this would increase the risk of music piracy across multiple systems.
Although it is not like their efforts are stopping the real offenders but such is life.
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groovinkim

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i have over a terabyte of music. while i look forward to the day when an ipod or iphone can hold that much, i don't expect it'll be soon
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Eric Peterson

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Using an iPod or iPhone will ONLY carry purchased items from the library on one computer to the library on the other. If there are songs (other than iTunes purchased songs) that got moved to your iPhone on the first computer... they will be deleted from your iPod / iPhone when you sync it with the second computer. Been here, tried this, been frustrated.
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Christopher Hughes

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I have actually now achieved all of the following;
1. Sync two itunes libraries on two computers so that they are always the same.
The only way to achieve what you want is to either, 1. Buy a piece of software that will sync your libraries (including metadata) over a network connection. 2 Sync the libraries using a network sync program. You basically sync the folders containing the itunes data so that they are always the same on both computers. BTW: None of this is achieveable until you have completely consolidated your itunes library into one folder. But I honestly recommend this because it saves you from future headaches when it comes to setting up on a new computer. If you don't consolidate before copying to a new computer all the links to external music files will not work anymore.

2. To sync more than one ipod or iphone. The solution is much simpler.

All the sync settings are saved on the ipod or iphone itself so all you need to do is to make it think that it is always syncing with the same itunes library regardless of the content. This way you can either manually copy the other music or auto sync on both computers.

There is an excellent tutorial on CNET on how to achieve this.

You basically need to change one hexidecimal value in the itunes library xml and itl files on both computers to be identical.

I can confirm it works.

If your itunes libraries are going to have different content you will only be able to sync one and manage the other manually however if your itunes libraries are identical you can auto sync both. Just be sure to keep both libraries the same using one of the methods I described at the start of my post.

I am currently syncing two ipod devices with two itunes libraries successfully.
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julpi

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Hi Christopher... This whole thread is mainly about finding the right "piece of software" to achieve point 1.

Point 2 instead, as you say yourself, is a whole different story and can be easily achieved in a number of ways.
There are several threads on this site that explain how, while none is a response to my question.
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Christopher Hughes

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have you tried sync back SE? This is what is working for me.

Or there is Mytunessync for an itunes to itunes sync solution. Free trial of 15 days then after that it is $30.
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Keith Ruehl

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Would this help? MyTunesSync software. Macworld is featuring it right now.
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I would love to be able to plug my laptop into my desktop with a USB or Firewire cable (or wirelessly like the AppleTV) and have it recognized by iTunes as a syncable device. I have often wondered why Apple hasn't done this.

Instead, I use Chronosync (http://www.econtechnologies.com/Downl...) periodically and mirror my entire desktop library to my laptop. This allows me to access everything, but I'd prefer handling the sync via iTunes. If I had to do this on Windows I would use RoboCopy (http://download.microsoft.com/downloa...) to mirror the directories.
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Quirponite

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This is simply baffling... I should have an ideal setup for this to work perfectly, but no such luck. I keep my iTunes library folder on my file server, and simply use the same library for all my computers. Logic dictates that there should be a way for them to share the metadata as well, as they're all duly authorized etc. Sure, I can screw around with the XML, but why do I have to?
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us243227@yahoo.com

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I do exactly what you are wishing to do - keep the itunes library on the server too and this all should work. All 4 computers in my house use the same library on my NAS and share files AND metadata.
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Christopher Perabo

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ok us243227@yahoo.com - how DO you do this?
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us243227@yahoo.com

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Chris - step one - have all your music in a folder on a networked drive - I use a small NAS device that is always on. Then, make sure the itunes library on at least ONE of your computers "lives" on that networked drive. In my case the itunes folder is a subfolder in the networked "my music" folder.
MOVING the itunes library to a new location is a whole other subject - lots of web sites show you how to do this .... also there is a cool utility called itunes library updater I use which will create and modify the itunes XML library based on what is in your music folder. Once you have this all set on one computer - go to the others - start (or install) itunes - hold the shift key when starting - and itunes will ask you to locate the library - point it to your networked library / drive and you are in business.
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Christopher Perabo

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Hi us243227@yahoo.com - yes I understand this, but it still doesn't appease me for two main reasons:
- You can't have library open on two computers at same time... very stupid to run between computers to turn off iTunes on one
- Hold "Shift" everytime? I'm a geeky computer guy and "get it", normal people won't (and shouldn't have to) do this.
I think the solution is still to "sync" the library and other functionalities for now
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us243227@yahoo.com

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Chris - send me an email - not sure what you are doing wrong. You CAN have the SHARED iTunes library on a server open by more than one computer at a time (I have it open right now on two of mine). You DON'T need to hold shift everytime - just the first time you want to "repoint" the itunes install on a given PC to the SHARED library on a network drive. You really don't need to resort to SNYCing ... it works very well this way and accessible by all 4 PCs in our house at any given time - all pointing to the same library on my NAS. Tom ...
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andres.waldraff

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All I want is to be able to name a master library, and allow any other apple devices (Ipods, Iphones, Ipads, Apple TV, laptops, desktops) to appear as "slave" syncable devices in iTunes.. It works for any device that is not a laptop or desktop. Should be straightforward for apple to implement this
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us243227@yahoo.com

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Yeah - not doable now. Do a google search on wirelessly synce ipod to itunes ...
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clwjws

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I'm hoping someone can help me, not sure if it's the same question or not. I have purchased something through the itunes store on my work computer. My ipod touch is synced to my home computer so when I plug my touch in at work it says "you can't be synced to two libraries, erase and sync" which obviiously I don't want to do. How can I get the purchased items from my work computer on to my touch?
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us243227@yahoo.com

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It is not the same issue as above where the user really wants one master library and have all devices sync to that. That is doable by loading the master library on a server and pointing itunes on each PC to that single master library. This is what I do. Many though want to have this library on their laptops. The way one can do this is to use a synchronization utility and effectively maintain a shadow copy of the library you use at home on the laptop - this has lots of challenges in that the drive path must be the same but it can be done. On the PC syncback (free) will work. You probably should be a geek to tackle this or know one or hire one!
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moclov555

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I have a large music library on my Macbook Pro that usually stays upstairs. I also have a Mac Mini media center connected to the downstairs T.V. and the speakers throughout my house. The Mac mini has no music on it, only movies. What i would like is to be able to have the mac mini mirror what is on my laptop, but i don't want the movies that are on the mac mini to be copied to my laptop.
As of now whenever i want to listen to music on the mac mini, i have to run upstairs, open the laptop, turn on Caffeine (app that keeps the laptop from sleeping), and turn down the brightness all the way on the laptop (to save the screen). Then i run back downstairs and access the laptop through home sharing on the mac mini... I HATE DOING THIS!
Hosting my library on a NAS or networked server wont work because the point of having a laptop is you can leave the house with it, i need to have all my music on both machines at all times. I couldn't care less about ratings and play counts, i just want to have my music in two places at the same time with automatic syncing maybe once a day. Is that too much too ask?
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us243227@yahoo.com

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Chris -DO-ABLE ... with a little setup work - use something like this http://www.apple.com/downloads/macosx... so you can sync up two copies of your files & iTUNES library - I do this on my work PC .... once setup do a on-demand sync whenever you have updated content - you can set the sync software to skip the vid files - you sync up the media - AND sync the latest copy of the itunes library - it will work fine even though Apple and iTunes don't provide this advanced feature set. Good luck - it DOES WORK.