No Gravatar

If you have an Apple Mobile Device (iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch) it's actually possible to sync it with multiple computers. You just have to understand the rules. Apple groups things into four categories:

Data – the data or info category consists primarily of things like your contacts, calendar, bookmarks, notes, email accounts, etc. This information can either be sync'd via iTunes or wirelessly via MobileMe or Microsoft Exchange (although Notes currently can only be sync'd via iTunes). 

Media – the media category consists of your music, movies, music videos, TV shows, podcasts, audiobooks, ringtones, iTunesU and now iBooks. This content can either be sync'd or managed manually.

Photos – well this category is pretty self explanatory. It's your photo library and all of your photo albums. Your photos can either be in iPhoto or simply in a folders and subfolders.

Apps – last but certainly not least is your Apps that you've downloaded from the App Store.


Now that you know what the four categories are the content from these four categories can live on one, two, three or four different computers. In my house I sync my iPhone, iPad and iPod touch between two computers. I have a MacBook Pro that is my main everyday computer and we have an iMac that is our "iTunes media server". Of the four categories above I sync my Data, Photos and Apps with my MacBook Pro and I sync my media with my iMac. This works great for me because it means that I don't have to keep every song, movie, TV show, etc. that I own on my MacBook Pro. 

How do I sync between more than one computer?

This is where most people get scared off. First off the categories can't be split if you're syncing. So photos have to be on one computer or the other, not both. Same with Apps, etc. The only thing you could get away with splitting is if you set your media to "Manage Manually" then in theory you could drag content onto the device from more than one authorized computer. I prefer to use syncing, which brings me to the big scary message.

When I set up a new device I start with my MacBook Pro and in iTunes I UNCHECK "Open iTunes when this iPhone is connected" and then I UNCHECK Ringtones, Music, Movies, TV shows, Podcasts, iTunesU, and Books. Basically all of the media category. I perform my initial sync and all is good. Then I unplug the device and move to the iMac and plug it in. In iTunes I uncheck Info, Apps and Photos and I enable all of the media categories. Now when I hit the sync button I'm going to get a big dialog box warning me that this iPhone (or other device) is sync'd with a different iTunes library and if I continue it's going o erase the content. That's what stops people dead in their tracks. YES! This is OK, all it means is that it's going to erase the MEDIA content, not the other content from the other computer. It will put on the media you just enabled. Once this second sync is done your Apple device is now configured to sync between the two computers. You can go back and forth syncing between the two whenever you need to. So If I want to sync new notes , Apps or photos I sync with my MacBook Pro. If I want new movies, songs, or iBooks I sync with the iMac. I've been doing this ever since the first iPhone came out in 2007 and most recently with the iPad. It works great!

Tagged with →  
Share →

160 Responses to Sync Your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch with Multiple Computers

  1. Peter Gamba says:

    Terry-nice post to help, however while in theory one is syncing via multiple computers, in reality they are all “partial” syncs. Yes yes, your explanation is good and yes it is nice to know. I still remain completely miffed that I can’t sync to my own multiple MACS. While I love the Apple world mostly, I dislike the restrictions on MY personal hardware and software. I guess there will always be something to gripe about no matter what.

  2. Jim Barraford says:

    In theory this is nice, in actuality it’s a major flaw on Apple’s part. Here is my situation. I had a windows laptop and pc. I bought an iPad and used it through my pc first and then my laptop. Most of my epub books are not from the bookstore, mainly downloaded free books from the net. My laptop hd crashed within 2 days of installing my iPad on it. I backup every 4 days and the laptop hd had not been backed up, so the ebooks on that were not on my backup dvd’s.. Now when I go to plug in my iPad to my pc I get the message you wrote about erasing the media… ie all my books will be deleted if I continue to sync the several books I now have on my pc. So to load the new ebooks and any future books onto my iPad I will have to lose approximately 90 books and have to redownload them again.
    So really, you’re statement that ALL that means is it’s going to erase your media content is very significant in certain situations.
    As much as I love many things about Apple, they don’t make some things easy. I understand that Apple doesn’t want Johnny with 1000 ebooks going to Joey’s house and installing those 1000 books onto Joey’s computer for Joey to read. I understand that if all my ebooks were purchased via the itunes bookstore they could just be redownloaded, as with Kindle. But there has to be a better way than this.

  3. mindswirl says:

    Thanks for that, can’t wait for my iPad to arrive now haha.

  4. Daniel says:


    This is exactly what I’m trying to do with my iPhone right now (sync contacts/calendar notes with work laptop, and music with home PC). But I’ve been having issues… Can you advise what settings/options you do/don’t use on the iPhone Summary page (“Open itunes when this iPhone is connected”, “sync only checked songs and videos”, “manually manage music and videos”)? Are the settings the same for all machines?


    • Terry White says:

      I do have each Mac set the same in iTunes
      I have it set:
      NOT to sync automatically
      NOT to manage the music manually
      NOT to open iTunes when I plug it in

      Otherwise, the Info tab stuff is checked on the MBP (however for the most part this is all syncing with MobileMe or MS Exchange), so is Photos and Apps. On the iMac I have Music, Movies, TV, Podcasts, Books checked as I want.

  5. Jessica says:

    Is there a way to sync music from one computer and audio books from another? All the music is on my husband’s imac. But I have been loading books from cd’s onto my MacBook Pro. I want them both on my iphone. Help!

    • Terry White says:

      Not unless you manually manage your music on the device. Music and Audiobooks fall under the “Media” category and can only be “sync’d” with one computer at a time.

  6. Phil says:

    I’m confused. Is it possible to manually manages my songs from multiple computers? So I download a song on computer A and manually copy it onto my iPhone, then I go to computer B, download another song and manually copy it to my iPhone? And end up with both downloaded songs on my iPhone?

  7. Dee says:

    My question is can I sync my IPad to my macbook pro and to my pc laptop?
    I would be putting Apps on on the IPad from both.

    I am a teacher and the Apps off the pc are ones that the school allows and the ones off my macbook are the ones I want.

  8. Dee says:

    But I can sync from both computers at different times?

  9. Terry White says:

    Dee, when you sync Apps from one computer and then later go to a different computer (with a different iTunes account), Apps will be grayed out on the different computer. If you enable App syncing on the different computer it will sync those Apps, REPLACING the Apps already on the device.

    So yes, you can sync to a different computer later, but only one set of Apps will be on the device at a time.

  10. Michael says:

    I have a question, I synced my ipad (and for that matter Ipod and Itouch) to my PC. I now bought an iMac and after some struggle managed to copy music, fotos etc from PC to iMac. However itunes on my iMac does not recognise the iPad (nor Itouch) when I connect it. Whats happening?
    can anyone help
    thanks Mike

  11. […] urządzeń do kilku komputerów. No ale to jest synchronizacja przed zakupami na itunes Sync your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch with Multiple Computers | MacNews Cytuj   + Odpowiedz na ten temat « Poprzedni temat | […]

  12. Carlos says:

    Terry, I recently downloaded an episode of Mad Men on my ipad and I was wondering if I could watch it on my Apple TV. The thing is, the Apple TV is synched to my daughter’s iTunes. How, if possible, can I watch the episode I just downloaded on my Apple TV?


  13. B says:

    is it possibble to sync books with one computer and music with the other?

  14. N. Uddin says:

    Terry, I have been syncing my iPod touch with iTunes on my windows PC. I just got an iPhone 4. Can I sync the iPhone 4 to the same PC? Will iTunes allow syncing of both of my devices?

  15. Lily says:

    Terry, thanks so much for the tutorial and your answers to the various questions here. It seems that the first two comments might address what I’m about to ask, but I’m wondering if there’s an answer-

    I have two macbooks- one at home and one at work. For the most part, everything is the same on both computers (because I bought my old work macbook for personal use, and they transferred all the data over for me). Both computers are authorized for my iTunes also. I started adding new music to my macbook at home, then I synced my iPod Touch with it. I brought my iPod to work to sync it to my work laptop, and it synced everything I wanted (apps, calendar, etc.) EXCEPT the music. It erased the new music I had put on my iPod from my home laptop and only kept the music from my work laptop INSTEAD of putting the new music from the iPod onto my work laptop. Do you know why that might be?

    • Terry White says:

      Hi Lily, thanks!
      But it goes back to what I said above. Media can only be “sync’d” from ONE computer at a time. Even though you’re authorized, and even though it’s the same account, if you SYNC, it can only be from ONE library at a time and therefore once you got to work, THAT library took over. The only solution to just get the music over to your work computer would be to turn OFF automatic syncing. Then sync from home with all the new music. Once you get to work, use the Transfer New Purchases command in iTunes to copy that new music (apps or whatever) from the iPod onto your work iTunes. However, keep in mind that this will only work for iTunes store purchases and not CDs you ripped yourself.

      Lastly, if you want to be able to put music on from both computers onto the iPod, then your best bet is to use the “Manage Music Manually” option. However, then you’ll have to drag and drop music on each time you want to add it. I don’t like this option for that reason. I want it to be AUTOMATIC without having to think about it.

  16. Landon says:

    Can I sync photos from iPhoto on my Macbook and everything else (music, contacts, e-mail, calendar, etc.) from my laptop PC?

  17. David Perry says:

    Hi Terry, I have a MacPro to which my iPhone(3G) and my iPad are synced and backed up.

    I will soon be going overseas with my iPhone, iPad; and not, of course my MacPro, but my 15″ Mac laptop to which I would like to sync the iPhone & iPad whilst away.

    Is this possible?
    Will I be able to download iPad/iPhone apps and updates to my laptop and transfer them to my iPhone/iPad?
    When I return, will I be able to put the new apps & updates back on my MacPro?
    Or what would you recommend?

    Music & photos are not an issue and data is handled by mobileme.

    • Terry White says:

      Apps can only be sync’d to one computer at a time. So if it’s important to you to be able to download the Apps to your computer first, then you should put them ALL on your MacBook FIRST and sync your iPhone/iPad to it before leaving. As long as you have the SAME apps on the MacBook BEFORE you sync, your data App data SHOULD remain intact.

  18. bevin says:

    Hi Terry-
    I have an apple lap top and a home apple computer. Each time i try to sync the iphone with the lap top it erases the calendar. I then sync it with the home apple and recover the info. I would like to use the laptop primarily, but can’t seem to get the settings right….and when it asks if i want to merge or replace i seem to get the answer wrong each time.
    pls help!!
    i am so computer challenged!!

  19. Tony Smith says:

    Hi Terry
    I have had to buy a new laptop as mine was stolen. I have the latest version of itunes but every time i plug my ipad into the new laptop it tells me that if i sync with it i will loose everything on the ipad as it is sync’d with another computer….what can i do?

  20. Ricardo says:

    Great article and it has solved almost all of my sync issues! However, I have found one hiccup!

    iBooks is considered an app, whereas the books themselves are considered media. How can I sync apps to my INFO computer (including iBooks) and the books themselves from my MEDIA computer?

    When I am connected the MEDIA computer, I cannot see books in the iTunes store because it is prompting me to first install iBooks!


    • Terry White says:

      I have iBooks installed on both computers even though it’s only syncing the Apps from the MacBook Pro and it works fine syncing the books from the iMac.

  21. chiel says:

    Why not “merge” data/media… on the iPhone with an iTunes library on the computer where the device is hooked up and vice-versa. Problem is that once “replace” is selected it seems impossible to change your mind and settings into “merge”.
    So the real question is: How to change sync setting from “replace” to “merge”. Then in either iTunes entity the specific sync settings for every categories will be followed.

  22. Ricardo says:

    Not sure what you mean when you say “I have iBooks installed on both computers”, isn’t it installed on the single iPhone?

    I have now also downloaded iBooks in to iTunes on the MEDIA computer but still, whenever I do a search in the iTunes store on the MEDIA computer, under the books category it says “Books related ro our search can also be downloaded….” followed by a link to “Get iBooks >” which I have clicked, but to no avail.

    • Terry White says:

      What I mean is that in the Apps section of BOTH Macs, I have the iBooks App downloaded and in itunes. Even though I’m not syncing Apps from the iMac (Media Mac), iBooks is there in the Apps. I’ve been doing this since day one and have no problems syncing Apps (including iBooks) from my MBP and media from my iMac (including books/pdfs).

  23. gfs says:

    Nice tip Terry.

    I bet you wish you never started though. You must have repeated the same clear concise info 20 times.

  24. Justin Gilley says:

    My iMac just recently crashed, and some of the music on my iPhone is irreplaceable. If I want to sync it to a NEW Mac, will I lose the songs already on my phone?

    I couldn’t tell in your description whether or not this would happen.


  25. Lily says:

    Terry, thank you for the prompt response on my question! That makes more sense now. So right now, I have checked off the option to not sync automatically on my work macbook. That works.

    A new issue I have now is that when I try to uncheck “Sync music” under the Music tab, it asks me: Are you sure you do not want to sync music? All existing songs and playlists on the iPod will be removed. Then it lets me Cancel or Don’t Sync Music. A similar message occurs with my applications. How do I keep the music and applications on my home laptop and synced with my iPod, and uncheck the syncing options on my work laptop without it erasing the music/apps on my iPod (when I plug it into my work laptop to sync my calendar and contacts)?

    Thanks in advance for your help!!

  26. Gord Millar says:

    Hi Terry,

    My PC has crashed, XP has to be reinstalled, how do I keep iTunes from wiping my iPod touch clean. How do I get all my data into the new XP\iTunes install?

    Sorry if you have had to go over this again. I’m a real iTunes newbie.


  27. Sara says:

    I have an iphone on which I have all my contacts, emails, app photos etc. Originally, I sync’d with my home pc, that is now on its last legs. I have a new laptop, which I want to transfer everything to. I have the same itunes account authorised on both the pc and laptop. Is this doable???

    Thanks! and your explainations are very clear and enlightening!

  28. sylvia ng says:

    Dear Terry
    thanks for clarifying the syncing but now that i understood it, i see the my media and data is in a real mess. my media is stored in an external drive and i have no idea where my synced data because i have an office laptop pc as well as a home imac and i plug into both of the computers. what and where is the data file in my computer? could i look for it?
    if i want to start from clean slate, what steps should i do to ensure all my Data is intact? thanks very much

    • Terry White says:

      There is no specific “data file” to speak of. Data refers to Contacts, Notes, Calendar, etc. So your Data is sync’d via iTunes from whichever computer PC or Mac that you have those items CHECKED in iTunes when you connect your device.

  29. Greg says:


    I am looking at getting iPads for some of my employees. Is there a way to prevent them from syncing with other computers?? (ie. non-work computers, their personal laptops).

    Is there a way to manage what laptops they are allowed to sync to?


  30. Margaret says:

    I have an iMac and an iTouch. I sync music between them.
    Now I have an iPad from my friend. Can I sync her music from her iPad to my iMac ?

  31. Howard Brazee says:

    Sounds like a good reason to buy books from other sources than Apple. At least my wife should buy books from Kindle (or something), if iTunes is synchronized on my computer.

    I would like to have apps on both computers though.

  32. Uli says:

    Hi Terry,

    It took me a while but I finally found some answers, thanks a lot!!

    Would you be so kind to confirm I understood properly how this works?:

    My iPod Touch is synced to my home PC. I manually manage music, but podcasts and apps are synced so that everytime I connect my iPod it downloads the latest podcast, for example.

    My work PC is authorised and is an audible account. I can purchase apps on it, however they don’t transfer to the iPod nor I can drag them to it. Is there a way to do this? I still want to be able to do the same thing from home.

    I think what I need to do is transfer purchases from the iPod to the work PC, then sync the work PC so that the new ones are also copied to it. I will need to do the same thing again at home in order to restore the previous settings, right? Will all of my settings be saved (including saved games etc.)?

    Thank you very much!

  33. Kathy says:

    I’ve read all the responses here but I still have a question, my WinXP box crashed and died, that’s where I sync’d everything to. I bought a new Win7 laptop and installed itunes. I have it set to sync manually but when I hooked up my ipod touch it told me the software for the ipod needed to be updated. I backed up my ipod thinking I’d be ok. I said update the software, it gave me the warning the ipod would be cleared, I backed up so I thought ok, go for it. I have the new software on my ipod but no music whatsoever, no playlist nothing. HELP anyway to get anything back, how do I restore from my “backup”?

    Is it possible to get any music back?

  34. Jeff says:

    Followed the steps. Have a Win7PC at home and a new iMac at work. Synced my calendar with the work PC, and it erased my music, so now I have to put it all back on, and im betting it will wipe the calendar when I do so.

    I unchecked all the boxes, ect. Any suggestions so this doesn’t happen again? (aside from simply entering the data twice, once on the mac and once on the ipod?)

    Have a third gen ipod touch 32 gig.

  35. Steve says:

    Sigh… Despite all things I’m loving about the company-issued iPhone I’ve been getting accustomed to over the past couple weeks, THIS whole article and thread of comments (and frustration after frustration after frustration) is EXACTLY what I’ve been worried about for all the years I avoided getting into the Mac/Apple world. Control, restrictions, hair-pulling, “where the heck is my data?”, etc… Experienced Apple aficionados, is it worth it? Is the confusion of trying to understand where your data actually is and how to keep it truly safe (and how to restore it when theft/loss/damage occurs) really worth the proclaimed benefits of living in the Mac/Apple world? I’m not challenging it or starting any debate about it, I’m just genuinely curious. I haven’t been able to decide.


    • Terry White says:

      to answer your question data = contacts, calendars, notes and anything else that you don’t have syncing through the cloud is not in any of the other categories.
      As far as frustrations go I’ve been syncing my iPhone (all models) to two computers hassle free since 2007.

  36. Edecio says:

    I just bought an iPad, stuffed it with apps, and synced it with my desktop pc. I just got a windows notebook with which I am traveling now. The Itunes installed there wont read my iPad, and suggests me to restore it before it can sync (iTunes could not read the contents of your iPad, open preferences on your ipad to restore ot to factory configuration). How can I be sure that this will not erase everything from my iPad? I tried everything on the user manual but nothing worked.

  37. Joel Andr says:

    Thank you! Not often do you come across material of this informative quality. Exactly what I was looking for; had already synced my iPod touch with two different coumpters, without thinking twice about it (didn’t care if everything was erased), but was a little more reluctant to do it after using my iPhone for a while, alot more to lose.

  38. iphoneuser says:

    This isn’t a real sync because I can’t sync music between my laptop and personal computer. What’s the point if you can’t do that?

  39. Jeremy says:

    Thanks! I’d blindly done something similar to this when I initially got my iphone a few years ago but somewhere along the way I actually lost some music and have simply sync’d with my personal computer since. I appreciate you laying out exactly how itunes and the sync function are working. Also helps that you threw in a narrative “step-by-step”. I’ll get this set up again, this time knowing exactly what’s happening so I can keep my work stuff (outlook, calendars, etc.) coming from the work laptop and the rest of the fun stuff sync’d with my home setup. Thanks again!

  40. Vadim says:

    Ipad or Iphone or any other Idevice should have been built to synch with any device and not erase anything.
    I am a PC tech and often re-build my home PC and now my new ITunes on a newly built PC wants to erase all media in order to synch.
    This is bull……………..

  41. Pedro says:

    Terry, Thanks a lot for sharing this very useful solution.

    For me works well except with apps.
    1. I sync info with a PC
    2. I sync everything else with a Mac with no problems – I get the iPhone exactly as I want it to be.
    3. When I need to sync info again – it mentions that the apps are not authorized in that PC and deletes them.

    For company rules this PC must be offline, and therefore I cannot authorize the apps.

  42. Heather says:

    Can I sync my contacts to my home computer while syncing my calendar to my office computer? Or does the Data group always have to sync as a whole?

  43. HeatherP says:

    I’ve synced my iphone between my work and home computers and now have multiple versions of contacts and calendars. I’d like to merge the two so I have all my contacts from both locations on my phone, for example, but I don’t need “mom” on my phone 4 different times which is what is happening. Any helps? Thanks!

  44. Ranga says:

    Hi My Ipad which was synced to my Laptop which froze.I downloaded a new I Tune into a new Laptopp.When I try to syc the I Pad with the new Laptop I tune it states If I sync ,It will erase all of my contents in my I Pad.How do I secure my Audio files and video files from I Pad and what would happen to the Filess in my Apps such as Goodreader and Quickoffice?

  45. Marquings says:

    Hi! Thanks for the explanation! But I have a question about voice memos. I record voice memos on the iPhone and then need to download them in two different laptops. I don’t want to synch anything else other than voice memos. Will this work? Do I just follow these instruction?

    Sorry for asking before trying, just want to make sure there is no problem with that.

    Thank you so much!

  46. Karen says:

    This doesn’t seem to work with books. I’m trying to get books purchased with my account on an iPad onto my computer to store there, (you can’t buy books on the computer yet) but the computer apparently cannot get the books from the iPad, it wants to erase them. Since the iPad the only place they currently exist, I’d rather not delete them in an experiment. Any experience with this?

  47. I would like to add that if you use the same user email to access both the iTunes libraries, the Apps can remain checked and co-exist on both machines and your ipod/phone. Basically all the different apps downloaded on either device will all exist on all devices once synced. I tried this, it works..

  48. Jenny Pettersson says:

    An additional question. I presume your advice will be just as relevant for an iPad, so here goes. I started syncing my iPad with my McBook Pro at work, but would now prefer to sync the iPad with my laptop at home, a PC. This means that I do not really need to sync with multiple computers, but run into the problem that iTunes wants to erase the contents.

    I have quite a lot on there that hasn’t been synced with any computer so if it’s lost it’s really gone. All apps are purchased through the iTunes store, so I should be able to re-download these, but quite a lot of these have different settings and contents added to them. Would these additions be lost if I move ahead and sync with my PC instead.

    I’d really appreciate your help, many thanks in advance!

  49. tensai says:

    Thank you so much! This is exactly what I had with my previous ipod touch, but was hesitant to do with a new iphone 4.

    The ‘erase’ dialogue made me stop but this method just works and no need to do any hexeditting of the itunes library id or anything.

  50. Nancy says:

    Do Ipod touches and ipads count as part of your 5 authorized computers? We have 5 authorized computers and I’m not sure if they are considered part of it or not.

  51. bluewave says:

    How do I sync apps to my ipad with differrent itunes accounts without erasing current apps?
    I have games purchased from my itunes accounts and my friend has his apps purchased to his itunes account. I want to add his games to my ipad ?

    Thank you,

  52. jessica says:

    hi I recently just bought an ipod 8gb 4th gen and I downloaded like 800 songs onto it and than I had to restore my comp to factory default and I re-downloaded itunes and it wont let me move my new songs that I downloaded to frostwire to my itunes it tells me to sync and erase and I dont want any of my files to be deleted is there any way to get past this without deleating my songs already on my ipod because If not this ipod was a total waste of money

  53. Mr. Blue says:

    Just like any facist regime, apple allows you to do something… so long as you follow the rules.

    Sounds a lot like our so-called ‘freedom’ in the USA these days doesn’t it?

  54. nancy says:

    I use outlook on my pc and want to sync my iphone and ipad calendars. Updated latest itunes software. Just noticed that the outlook calendar on my pc is no longer syncing with my iphone, just my ipad. How can I “add” my iphone calendar back?

  55. Duke says:

    Why would I have to erase my iPhone to sync it with a second computer?? I own both computers. I own my iPhone. I own all the songs and media that are on my iPhone (even if I didn’t purchase them at the overpriced iTunes store).

    Is there no way for iTunes to iphone media with multiple computers (my laptop and my desktop)? And the hex-editing hack that worked for iTunes 9 no longer works for iTunes 10. iTunes is a piece of crap

    • Terry White says:

      Switch your iPhone to MANAGE MUSIC MANUALLY and it won’t erase. You can only “Sync” to one computer at time. In manual mode you can connect and manually drag songs on from more than one computer.

  56. evelyne bardoul says:

    I have a pc, unfortunately, is there any way i can sync my notes from itouch to computer ?
    thank you

    • Terry White says:

      In iTunes, use the iPhone settings panes to sync with Mail on a Mac or with Microsoft Outlook 2003, 2007, or 2010 on a PC when you connect iPhone to your computer.

  57. Dave says:

    Mom’s got an iPad that she has synched at work. Not knowing any better, I plugged it in at home using iTunes and the iPad is now frozen in the synch mode. I’ve attempted to restart/restore several times on the iPad but it always comes back on frozen in synch mode. Any suggestions?

  58. Rich says:

    Unless I’ve misunderstood you, your blog title seems to be very misleading?! It seems that the bottom line is you CANT sync between multiple computers, save the exception of syncing media?

    For example, my use case:

    1. my own personal iPad synced at home with my own personal iMac. OK.
    2. my work iPod synced at work with my work iMac. OK.
    3. but now: I want to sync my personal iPad with my work iMac. Just the apps. So that i can install them onto the iPod (and vice-verca). Seems a reasonable thing to want to do? The iPod (that’s pod, with an ‘o’) apps already synced with my work iTunes have been downloaded using my own personal iTunes account.

    I’ve also done an initial sync (personal iPad work iMac), with everything turned OFF. Yeah, OK fine, but not much use on it’s own. So I activate “Apps” and that’s when things get scary: “All apps and data on this iPad…” (that’s about 40-50 apps) “…will be replaced by apps from this iTunes library” (that’s exactly 4!).

    So, what gives please? You didn’t mention that (quite common?) scenario! I notice I’m not the first here who’d like to know how to achieve this.

    • Terry White says:

      I don’t know how more clearer I can make it so let’s put it this way: each category (ie Media, Apps, Data, etc.) can only be “sync’d” with ONE computer at a time. In my case Media is synced with an iMac and all else (including Apps) are synced with a MacBook Pro. These are Apple’s restrictions. Not mine! So to answer your question as I understand it you sound like you’re trying to sync apps between TWO computers (authorized to you, I get that) and that is NOT allowed.

      You CAN sync to multiple computers as the title states, just not the same category to multiple computers.
      The original purpose of the post was to show people how sync their device to multiple computers in the case that large libraries of music/movies are on say a home computer and everything else is on say a work computer.

      Your requests ARE reasonable, just not allowed by Apple.

  59. Rich says:

    OK, thanks for clarification Terry. Sorry if it sounded like I was criticising you!

    One thing interests me still though, because meanwhile I found a post elsewhere, suggesting that you *can* sync apps between 2 comps, provided you use the same iTunes account. Apparently the “delete apps on this device?” message is then followed (after positive response) by another asking if they should be uploaded to the computer first. Hm.

    I think I’ll try the reverse of what I want tonight (sync my work iPod with iMac at home) and see what happens. Worse case scenario is I only lose 4 free apps from it. Easier to rectify than if all my iPad apps disappeared! 😉

    • Terry White says:

      No problem at all, but what I think you’ll find is that after the apps are transfered your device will now be synced to that computer for all Apps. Not both computers at the same time. Best of luck. Let us know how it works out with your test.

  60. Fe says:

    Hi Terry! I have a question. My Iphone was syncd to my old pc which is already crashed, so now I want to sync all my music from my laptop to iphone. The BIG DIALOGUE BOX WARNING is preventing me to do that. My question is will your article can do that to my iphone without erasing all the Photos, Apps and Datas?!

    • Terry White says:

      Without a backup of your iTunes library installed on your NEW computer YOU WILL LOSE EVERYTHING if you plug in and sync. You must FIRST install some 3rd party software on your PC to recover your iPhone FIRST before you will be able to do a normal sync.

  61. billy says:

    thanx terry for everything.
    now with itunes 10 things appear not to be working for me.

    the only thing i sync on macbook number 2 are photos.
    all else is on desktop.

    the apps now appear to be deleted everytime i plug into macbook.
    actually the preferences appear to follow the phone

    once i uncheck ‘sync apps’ on macbook and plug in to desktop, the sync app box is unchecked…

    does that make sense?

    • Terry White says:

      You might have to wipe it and start over. I’m on the latest version of iTunes and not having any issues syncing between my MBP and iMac as I always have.

  62. Rich says:

    “Think different!” says Apple and my oh my, they certainly live up to their slogan when it comes to device syncing! I was able to achieve my ultimate aim, but Apple, why so unintuitive please?!?

    As I wrote, my ultimate intention was to sync apps from my iPad to an iPod. Or so I thought, in a layman stylee. The solution, it turns out, after thinking differently is not to *sync* them but to *copy* them into the iTunes library, albeit in a rather overkill kind of way – right clicking on the device name in iTunes allows you to “Transfer Purchases”. And bingo, all your apps gets copied into the iTunes library, ready for syncing to other devices… along with all your purchased media!

    No great problem in my case, just a couple of GB, which I can just delete again (bit of music can stay, but work computer not the place to be storing TV/Film!). But it seems a very roundabout way, just to get a couple dozen apps transferred from iPad to iPod via a 2nd iTunes host. Why not choose between “Transfer App/Media/Book purchases”, etc.?

    @Terry, yes I think you’re right. Didn’t actually do a proper sync in the end, but what you say sounds logical. Well at least, as you say, once you understand Apple’s rules ^^

  63. Rich says:

    LOL… even crazier… I just noticed that “Transfer Purchases” did *not* transfer my Music files. Everything else (apps, books, video, etc) but not Music! How mad is that?!? Perhaps because I haven’t “authorised” the computer yet… whatever… I should be working!

  64. Richard says:

    Our office just got an ipad that will be shared between a few of us when we travel. I would like to be able to add/delete files from more than one PC. I understand from what you have said that I should do this manually and not “sync” the ipad to any one PC. I created a new itunes account that will be only for this ipad. Can this account be used with this ipad from multiple PC’s? What other rules and conditions will be elvant in this effort?

    • Terry White says:

      The iPad can manage “media” manually like songs. However, when it comes to data and other files, it will sync to whichever PC you set it up and yes it will REPLACE that info if you sync it on a different PC. It sucks yes, but Apple didn’t build these devices to really be multi-user. I wish they were. I actually wish that the ipad itself had multiple users just like Mac OS X for the exact reason you’re stating. If I share it with someone I want to log OUT and let them log IN. Today it just doesn’t work that way.

  65. Terry White says:

    Here’s another solution for those of you suffering from a Hard Drive crash and want to get everything off your iDevice back to your computer:

  66. Andy says:

    Happy Holidays! Just came across your article. My compliments – nicely written with great information. Now, my situation – and question. I have an iPOd, syncing with one PC. Santa brought me a new iPAd. I would like to share (almost) everything among both iPOd, iPAd, and PC. I figure that I should (must?) re-download the same iPOd apps for the new iPAd. And I do have a 2nd PC that I can use for the iPAd. Your opinion, please – would I simply be better off starting from scratch on the 2nd PC with a new, freshly installed copy of the latest iTunes and using PC#2 exclusively for the iPAd? Thanks…

    • Terry White says:

      Happy Holidays Andy, it’s actually easier than that. Just plug your iPad into the same PC choose which Apps you want to sync to it. You can have an unlimited number of iOS Devices, iPods and Apple TVs syncing to the same PC or Mac.

  67. Judy Weaver says:

    This sucks. I’ve had several smart phones, both windows and palm os and was always able to sync “data” on both my home and office pcs. The only thing I had to select was whether the pc or the phone prevailed if both the pc and the phone were independently updated between syncs. In this way I could select either computer or my phone as the final authority on changed information.

  68. Ugo says:

    Hello Terry White, I have a question for your. I have a friends laptop and the PC that is my own. On my own PC I have purchased the movie Inception however the downloading of the movie onto my own PC gets the ‘error -50’ an unknown error and will not download. I authorize my friends laptop and download the movie on his own laptop.

    When I enter my iPhone into his own laptop to retrieve the movie now on the laptop library I erase and sync with the library. This deletes everything but podcasts on my own iPhone.

    How is it that I can put the movie I have purchased and downloaded on a different PC/laptop into my iPhone/iPod without erasing all. If apple allows me to authorize 5 computers or devices what is the point of doing that if I cannot have full access and mobility between libraries of these 5 authorized PCs/laptops.

    I am not happy with the complexity of iTunes and its self protecting

    • Terry White says:

      Media can only be “sync’d” to ONE computer at a time. A movie is Media. So either it will be all the stuff on your PC or the Laptop. Not both. Once the movie downloads to the laptop, why not copy it to your computer and then sync it?

  69. Harry says:

    Thanks for all you info. I use my Macbook for business and the only thing that is of real interest to me to sync are the business contacts I put in there. My iMac stores everything else for our family including family contacts. I would like to sync my business contacts and my family contacts but they are on different computers. If I understand you correctly I can not do this as I can only sync one catagory to one computer… is that correct? If I can not get the family contacts to sync on my iPhone because I do that with the Macbook, is there a way I can get the family contacts on my iPhone like copy and paste or something?

    • Terry White says:

      You can sync contacts over the air from multiple sources. For example, if your family contacts were sync’d with MobileMe and your business contacts were sync’d with MS Exchange or Google. That would work. However, if they are not in the cloud then it’s one computer at a time!

  70. jimg says:

    What I’d like to do is sync my contacts and calendars with two computers, but my media with just one. Will the above syncing set up work if calendars and contacts are checked to sync on BOTH computers, if the media is only syncing on one?

    Right now I have it set to manually manage media, but I have to recheck the calendar and contacts blocks when I go from one computer to the other.


    • Terry White says:

      Contacts, calendars, mail accounts, etc. fall under the category of “Info” in iTunes. You can only enable “Info” on one computer at a time!
      The only way around this is to have your calendars/contacts sync from multiple computers over the air to your iOS device. For example, if both your computers sync to MobileMe or Google or MS Exchange and then to your iOS Device, then you could update the calendars in either computer or online or the phone/iOS device. If you’re syncing just with a cable, it’s one computer per category at a time.

  71. Marcus says:

    I got an iPad and did not know that I couldn’t sync (the same type of files) from different computers (I usually do not buy Apple products or use iTunes, and this is one of the reasons why) and this has been really frustrating. I stayed at a friends house the first week after I got my iPad and bought a few applications for it, and when I returned home I bought a few more and, obviously, can’t put them on my iPad, even though I bought them with the same iTunes account. I can’t access the ones that I bought from my friends computer at all. Am I just going to have to delete the applications on my iPad, rebuy them, and continue to hate apple?

    • Terry White says:

      1) if you bought the Apps with YOUR iTunes account, then there is no reason to “re buy” them. Just download them again as much as you want for FREE.
      2) You can also download the ones you bought with YOUR iTunes account on your computer.
      3) If you grabbed your friend’s Applications, then you’re pirating and complaining that Apple doesn’t let you. If not then you haven’t lost anything.

  72. Bevan says:

    Hey Terry, Thanks for the good info…

    My issue looks much the same as what you’ve described, just want a clarification.

    I have been using iTunes with a PC and happily syncing etc both my iPad and iPhone.
    I just bought a MacBook Pro and want to use that as my main machine for iTunes. I have no problems with Audiobooks, Music or Photos if they disappear as I have backups galore for all that and transferring is no problem.

    My concern is Data or Media that is saved inside Apps (on my iPad mainly). Like GoodReader, MaxJournal & PenUltimate to name just a couple.

    How do I make sure that when I finally get the balls to sync to my Mac that the data in these Apps will not be lost ??

    Is this just a straight up Home Sharing solution ??


    • Terry White says:

      Which ever computer you use to Sync Apps “should” perform a backup of your iPad FIRST and backup the App data. However, if your Apps get wiped during a sync, then most likely the App data will go with it. Best thing to do first is to make sure that you turn OFF automatic syncing and that you have all the Apps loaded in iTunes on both computers before making the switch.

  73. karen b says:

    I am getting an Iphone from Verizon soon. I have exchange at work, but want to be able to save contacts and calendar on my home computer. Can I sync via exchange at work, then via itunes at home?

  74. dion says:

    i just bought a new ipod touch and want to sync my contacts from my iphone to the ipod using the same computer that i currently sync my iphone to. How do you suggest i do that.


    • Terry White says:

      You can sync as many iOS devices as you want to the same computer. Plug in your iPhone and sync, then plug in your iPod touch and sync. The contacts will be on all 3.

  75. benton says:

    I am trying to sync iphone, ipad, powerpc, mac desktop all together through Mobile me – but i often time get duplicates of contacts and then sometimes a contact will never migrate out to the other devices.. Is there a procedure to sync all the devices together and have them update the other regardless which on i enter the data on?

    • Terry White says:

      It should just work, however sometimes a device gets out of sync. Start with your computer and get everything set the way you want it. Then in your System Prefs for MM tell it to REPLACE DATA ON MOBILE ME FROM this COMPUTER! That should reset all the other devices.

  76. Billy says:

    I am trying to sync my ipad to a new computer, the old one is dead. Even though I de-authorized all computers it continues to tell me that my ipad is synced with another computer. Any help? Thanks.

    • Terry White says:

      Your iPad doesn’t know that your other computer is dead. Deauthorizing isn’t the problem. Unless you were able to copy your old iTunes library over to your NEW computer your iPad is going to tell you this. You only option is to copy the old library over from the old computer or a backup or sync your iPad to the new computer (losing what’s on the iPad now unless you transfer purchased items first from the file menu) and syncing what’s in your NEW iTunes library.

  77. Meenakshi says:

    Hi, I wanna sync music on 2 different PC’s. Is there any way to do that. Also I wanna get my Contacts from a backup but not from my Iphone. Can u help me pls.

    • Terry White says:

      There is no way to “sync” music from two different computers. However, you can “MANUALLY” manage your music from two different computers by setting your iPhone to manually manage the music instead of “syncing”.
      As far as your contacts go, load them from your backup, get them the way you want on your computer and then tell iTunes to REPLACE the contacts on the iPhone.

  78. lambdse says:

    Hey! This sounds almost too good to be true! I only had a PC desktop when I first got my iPhone 4, but now I have a Mac and want to use it as my main sync-ing computer. But I got super freaked out when I got the “this will delete all content from your phone” message. I just want to verify… if I say “ok” will it just re-sync my music, pictures, and apps? (I’ve already moved everything onto my mac) And it won’t delete my contacts/calendars/text messages??

    I’d really like your advice on this! I’m very worried about losing all the stuff on my phone 🙁

    • Terry White says:

      I can’t “guarantee” what will happen in your particular situation because I’m not there, I’m not looking at your devices or iTunes settings.
      However, if you have BACKED UP everything and you have JUST the music, picture and Apps CHECKED and NOT Contacts, Calendar, etc. the scary message is only referring to those checked items and not the ones that are unchecked.

  79. Rude Guy says:

    Is there a way to manually manage Apps on different computers? I’ve done Google & YouTube searches and tried the method that requires a hex editor but it still doesn’t work. Basically, I use a Mac Pro and a MacBook a lot. Sometimes I want to be able to move apps around on the iPad using my MacBook but it’s grayed out. The “manually manage” option is only for music & videos. What about Apps?


  80. Guus says:

    Hello Terry,

    Is it possible to put an iTunes library on a NAS Server (Itunes Server) with the possibilty that this library is used from two or three different computers.
    What I want is that I Sync my iPod Touch and iPhone from my Macbook and my iPad from my iMac using the same library which is located on a server in the (local) network.


  81. aimee says:

    i have an ipad that is synced with itunes on my husbands macbook pro used for his job. the itunes account belongs to my husband. he is turning in the laptop at work for a new one. We would like move our ipad syncing to our mac mini which has itunes where we already sync our iphones & ipods. how do we do this without losing our purchased apps and movies on the ipad? Thanks for your help!

  82. Dominic says:

    I have:

    1 Macbook Pro for myself
    1 Macbook for my wife
    1 iPhone 4 for myself
    1 iPhone 4 for my wife

    I also have a MobileMe account

    What is the best way for my wife and I share a single ‘family’ calendar that will sync on all 4 devices when a change is made from any of those devices? Will iCal do that? Should I use a 3rd party app to do this?

    I don’t want her to have to sync up to her laptop to get event updates. We don’t share contacts or music or anything else. All we need is the ability to have 4 Apple devices in lockstep.

    Any thoughts?

  83. Darren says:

    I am looking to get a iPhone 4 for my work phone. I am hoping to be able to have all work & personal contacts on my iPhone, but only sync my work contacts at work and not have my personal contacts & calendar sync to my work computer. (or else they will sync with our CRM software.) My personal contacts/e-mail is through Google. I would prefer to have my apps here at home as my iPhone 4 would most like be replacing my personal 3GS I have now. Is this possible at all? My work contacts are in Outlook, not an exchange account. Thoughts?

  84. Bryan says:

    I have desktop, IPOD, and Iphone and my wife has IPAD, IPHONE. How do we keep our devices seperate except for music and calendar. We would like to share music libraries and calendars. Should I invest in Mobileme or sign up for Gmail?

    • Terry White says:

      Setup a second user account on your desktop computer and have her log in to her account.
      Now she has her own iTunes setup for syncing the things that are hers.
      She can log in to your account to sync music and the calendar..
      You can sign up for GMail or MobileMe if you want to sync the calendars wirelessly.

  85. CalvinL says:

    I have 2 ipads at home and 1 iphone. Recently I rename one of the ipads and sync it. Then the problems starts and it says that my ipad is sync with another laptop itunes library. Though I can sync 1 ipad but everytime I connect the other one, the same message comes out. How do I overcome this, do I have to reset my ipad and start again. Please advise.

    • Terry White says:

      Call AppleCare to help you overcome this.

    • Megan Price says:

      Your iPads and iPhone will only sync to one computer at a time. If you wish to change the computer your device sync to, you can copy everything from your iPad and iPhone to your other computer using a program like TouchCopy and then re-sync your device to iTunes on the new computer.

  86. CalvinL says:

    If I have bought some apps and during sync, these are lost, can I download again without being charged or do I have to contact Apple and ask for special permission and how do I do that?

  87. Ezio says:

    My iPad has synced with another computer.If I click Replace Photos will the photos on my iPad will be delete or replace?(Link to the picture is above.

  88. Ezio says:

    My iPad has synced with another computer.If I click Replace photos will the photos be replace?

  89. Ezio says:

    Sorry for duplicate post. When I clicked submit comment nothing happens..
    So I wrote a new comment and press it again sorry.

  90. John says:

    Hey Terry,

    I sync’d my apps, data, and pretty much everything (including music) on my work PC. Ideally, I’d like it all on my home laptop, but I think it will erase all the apps I’ve spent this past week installing/purchasing. I’m willing to deal with not syncing the apps (unless you know away around that) on my home laptop, but I would like to put movies, my actual music & ringtones onto this iphone without messing things up. I read your article, and I don’t care about the music currently being sync’d from my work PC (I have since unchecked the sync media boxes). I simply want to make sure when I go to move my music/media library over, that it will not erase the apps/data/photos. Would I also have to be signed in to the apple store/itunes or does that matter? I cannot for whatever reason connect on my laptop but can at work, and didn’t know if this was an issue. Thank you.


  91. Glenna Day says:

    Terry, hope you can help me. I am sure this has been asked before, but since I am new to apple, a lot of what I am reading is not making sense. I have and Ipad on which I have pics, apps, music and books. I just purchased a Mac desktop and would like to transfer to my new computer. When I try to “sync”, nothing is transferred to my desktop. I thought that was what “syncing” did. How do I move my info over. Need it in “really easy for dummies” version.

  92. nancy says:

    I bought 2 apple ipads for my boys, I purchased a game from the app store for them and was able to download it onto one boys ipad but the other one when I sync it says ” Some of the itunes files in the itunes library were not copid to the ipad “his name” because the ipad may only contain content from 5 itunes store accounts”
    Not sure what this means can anyone help?

  93. Sue says:

    I am planning on purchasing Verizon’s iPhone 4. I already have the iPad. Can I sync all the apps on my iPad to my iPhone using my itunes then?

  94. Lynn says:

    Hello — I have a personal iMac at home and a company MacBook Pro for work. My iPhone is set up to sync to my work computer but I would like to sync only contacts, calendar, photos and apps to my home iMac — not my work email (I also do not use the iPhone for music). Can this be done? Thank you!

    • jefflakee says:

      Hi, Lynn. Now you can many transfer tools to do that. Just transfer the files you want. You can search about the FonePaw iOS Transfer which is a popular transfer software. It can support to transfer many kinds of files between iOS devices and computer. Of course, you will see many tutorials on their website.

  95. Holli Johnson says:

    I have iPhone 3GS
    Husband has iPhone 4
    Daughter #1 has iPhone 4
    Daughter #2 has iPhone 3GS
    We have a Mac

    How do we sync & or store our own info on our phones & not lose what we have when we update our individual phones? I don’t have the same phone #’s as my kids & husband & the last time I updated my phone I lost all my contacts photos & info!!

    • Terry White says:

      The easiest thing to do is to setup a different user for each person in Mac OS X. This way each person would have their own iTunes setup on their account, their own contacts, music, playlists, etc.

  96. Holli Johnson says:

    And if I BACK UP info what exactly does that do?? How do I update my info that is on my phone to my Mac?

  97. Alan Taylor says:

    Can I sync my personal itunes content on to a shared work ipad (used for sales demos of our products) and then wipe my content later without interrupting cell/data service?

  98. Dave West says:

    Thanks for the guide! Now I know how to sync iPhone with new PC.

  99. Jacob Purvis says:

    How can I keep someone from grabbing my iPhone 5 and syncing to their computer without my permission? Have a roommate that has done this a couple of time….swearing that they are just getting my music. Is there a way that a person would have to have a password to sync my phone to their iTunes?

  100. Flippaa says:

    iTunes>Click the iPhone on the left tabs>Info>Sync .Or using Coolmuster iPad iPhone iPod to PC Transfer software to backup and sync ios data. It’s very convenient to help you transfer all iphone data to PC.

  101. Vincent Van Horn says:

    Here’s also a solution about syncing music to iPhone.

  102. jackw3c says:

    Maybe you can read this.Transfer iPhone & Android can sync iPhone to new computer.