Sharing program between iTunes on Mac and PC?
February 21, 2005 6:54 AM   Subscribe

He has a Mac, I have a PC. Is there a way we can all come together on my iPod via iTunes or other program?

I just purchased a 20GB iPod and somehow assumed that it's claim (which is not inaccurate) to be for Mac and PC was one big happy miracle. Where I went wrong was to assume I could seamlessly switch back and forth (in retrospect, incredibly stupid assumption). To make a long story short, I work on a PC at work and an iMac OS 9 at home. Obviously, my OS 9 doesn't support the software which comes with my new 4th gen. iPod (which I was duly warned of ahead of time). My roommate, however, works on a Mac OS X at work and has tons of CDs on his iTunes. We share identical taste in music, so at first I thought the obvious solution would be for him to take it in and fully load it and I can adjust the playlists later. Unfortunately, this leaves me no freedom whatsoever to randomly add songs when I feel like it.

I know you can share music on iTunes if you're on the same network, but we're obviously not. Is there any sort of reliable program out there which allows users to see other people's playlists and grab songs from them? If so, I could just have him import his music to that program, track his playlist down on my PC at work, and go from there. I spent a load of time on iPodlounge trying to find the answer and I didn't, so any advice would be greatly appreciated.
posted by zombiebunny to Computers & Internet (13 answers total)
Well, to answer one thing you seem confused about, you can use your iPod on both a PC and a Mac if you format it for use on a PC (format it as FAT32). A Mac can read disks formatted for use on a PC (FAT32), but a PC can not read disks formatted for use on a Mac (HFS+). (An iPodLounge article on the subject)

Sorry, but I can't help you with the rest of your question. iTunes used to let you share music libraries over the internet, and there used to be programs to rip songs that were being shared. I'm not sure if there are 3rd party utilities to accomplish this now.
posted by chunking express at 7:40 AM on February 21, 2005

Response by poster: Thanks chunking. I didn't see that in the FAQs on ipodlounge. It seemed like every other bit of advice in the forums said that once you format it to PC (provided I loaded the songs on the Mac 1st) meant that I would lose my entire library if I updated or restored or whatever. Sorry if I seem a bit dense, but I just don't get this stuff at all and the more I read about it, the more confused I'm getting. So, if I format it to PC first, I can later grab songs on the Mac?

*bangs head on table*
posted by zombiebunny at 7:57 AM on February 21, 2005

Your problem is not so much a "Mac and PC" problem as it is a general iPod problem. The iPod is designed to "mate" with only one computer, whether that be a Mac or a PC. If all the computers involved here were Macs, you'd still have the same problem, because the iPod simply isn't intended to do what you're trying to do (i.e., manage the iPod's library and playlists from multiple computers).

I think the workaround is to mate the iPod to your roommate's Mac at work and run ephPod on your PC.
posted by jjg at 8:06 AM on February 21, 2005

I'll go a different way.

Sync at home using your pc. Have your roomate copy songs to the ipod in disc mode (make sure your ipod is set to mount in disc mode.)

Now, where your roomate is - have him copy songs to the ipod as a hard drive. At home, copy these songs into itunes (on your computer). Delete the songs from the "hard drive" portion of the pod.

Sync and you have the music.

Go to for ipod "lifting" software that permits you to extract anything from the pod. Some pay attention to the playlists, some don't. What's important is that you know that you can't modify the playlists in either case.
posted by filmgeek at 8:36 AM on February 21, 2005

Response by poster: For me, the modification of the playlist is one of the most compelling features of the iPod, so I'd really like to find a way to be able to do that, given my paramaters. I don't quite understand how I wouldn't be able to modify the playlist once I dump the music into iTunes.

I checked out the ephpod site and it looks like I would just need to purchase the MacBundler software. I'm just really worried about completely fucking up the poor little iPod from the get-go.
posted by zombiebunny at 8:48 AM on February 21, 2005

"The iPod is designed to "mate" with only one computer, whether that be a Mac or a PC."

Did they change something in the 4G iPods? I've only owned a 1G and a 3G, and all I had to do to use it on multiple computers was go into the iPod preferences in iTunes and set it for "manual" update.

Once it's set to manual, it won't try to force an update when it's attached to other computers. It just mounts in iTunes and you can copy whatever you want onto it. I use an AppleScript to copy files back off the iPod and onto the computer if need be.

(Note that these were all Macintosh computers; previous advice about formatting on a PC first if you want to use it in a multi-platform environment probably still applies)
posted by bcwinters at 10:25 AM on February 21, 2005


You can dock many iPods to one computer; you can dock many computers to one iPod. However, the key problem is that you can only have one "home" computer for an iPod, meaning that you can transfer stuff from the iPod to that computer. As a piracy-foiling measure, Apple is preventing people from doing exactly what zombiebunny wants to do (fill up iPod on computer A, offload those tracks onto computer B), unless you use something like the "iPod Download" plugin (very hard to find, and regularly broken by Apple).


Filmgeek's method is pretty foolproof. I think the only metadata you could really hope to retain via the computer-ipod-computer transfer would be the play count and song ratings. Your playlists are going to be different from your friend's, unless you have painstakingly set them up to be identical. If you do want to duplicate your friend's playlist structure, it wouldn't be that hard to get a playlist listing (you can copy/paste these into a text editor) and use that to do it manually.
posted by adamrice at 11:24 AM on February 21, 2005

Response by poster: The thing I find annoying in all of this is that I'm not pirating anything. These are CDs that I bought with my hard-earned money and they just happen to reside on a computer other than my own. Any additional purchasing or downloading of songs I don't currently own would be on my end only. I don't want to regularly switch between computers. I had just intended to grab all of the CDs he's borrowed from me and put on iTunes to put on my iPod in one fell swoop, and then as needed I could download missing CDs from my collection on my own.

As for his playlists, he's just got them sorted into albums in their pure form. Nothing fancy. I have no problem putting in the extra effort to manually plug in my own playlists, I just wanted to know if it could be done on my end once the songs were downloaded on the pod. From filmgeek's comment (and I may have misunderstood), it sounded like there was no way.
posted by zombiebunny at 11:54 AM on February 21, 2005

If you just want to sort by artist and album, iTunes will do that for you. That's not even a playlist thing. Also, note that it can automatically organize the files on your hard drive to have a nice artist/album/track directory structure (and will even keep compilations together rather than splitting them into their various artists, if you flag the files properly). To do this, go to Preferences:Advanced and click on "keep itunes music folder organized" and "copy files to itunes music folder when adding to library."

But even if you don't do that (itunes can keep track of files scattered all over your hard drive), it will present a genre|artist|album browser inside iTunes regardless, by reading the metadata embedded inside each MP3 file and building an internal database.

All you need to do to see the genre|artist|album browser is click the "browse" button at the top-right when you have the Library selected as your current playlist (or look for the "edit:show browser" menu item with any playlist). If you want to create a playlist of an album (which is redundant, unless you want to burn it to a CD), just click and drag the album title out of the Album column into the Playlist sidebar.
posted by adamrice at 1:55 PM on February 21, 2005

The short answer to the question is that the things you're having trouble doing are things that the software is designed to prevent you from doing. Basically, it's part of Apple's efforts to prevent music piracy.

Ever look at the way music files are stored on your iPods? It's the world's most esoteric hash. No accident, either.
posted by ikkyu2 at 2:31 PM on February 21, 2005

Response by poster: Well, the really crappy part is, I just bought it 2 days ago, haven't had access to either computer in question, nor have I ever even been on the iTunes site, so I haven't had any chance to play around with different options. This is all completely (no understatement) new to me. It would probably be a lot easier if I had access to everything besides my as yet unformatted iPod in front of me.

The last time I did anything even close to downloading music and organizing playlists was when napster was free. I'm just trying to troubleshoot ahead of time and figure out my best option before I get myself into a situation that my incredibly un-technologically-advanced self can't get myself out of. I apologize for my unsophistication, but this is a whole new terrority for me right now.

More specifically on the subject of playlists, I want to be able to organize my music into my own personal mixes and I was hoping to do so on the actual physical unit instead of relying on iTunes, using my initial stash of CDs from my collection on roomie's iTunes.
posted by zombiebunny at 2:56 PM on February 21, 2005

"I just wanted to know if it could be done on my end once the songs were downloaded on the pod"..."More specifically on the subject of playlists, I want to be able to organize my music into my own personal mixes and I was hoping to do so on the actual physical unit instead of relying on iTunes, using my initial stash of CDs from my collection on roomie's iTunes."

zombiebunny: you don't actually do any playlist making on the iPod itself when it is disconnected from a computer, aside from a somewhat-limited "on-the-go" playlist. You do the editing while hooked up to a PC/Mac. When the iPod is mounted in iTunes, you can see a list of playlists on the iPod which you can toy with to your heart's content, as well as your massive complete song list (which can be sorted by artist, album, whatever). I'm not sure that that was 100% clear from the other responses.

I'm afraid trying to write it out in a forum makes it all seem very complicated; once you actually sit down in front of the computer with the iPod all hooked up, it will make a lot more sense. It's very intuitive.

Also, I have never found copying songs onto or off of an iPod complicated in any way -- the only program Apple has really clamped down on is the one mentioned before called "iPod Download," and that's only because it hijacks the iTunes software itself, adding itself to the "source" list that runs down the lefthand side of the iTunes window. I have been using the same "copy this song from iPod to desktop" AppleScript since I got my first iPod in 2001; there are a dozen other programs available that let you copy songs back off an iPod, too. Once you get situated, you can play with them to your heart's content until you find the one you like the best.
posted by bcwinters at 11:34 PM on February 21, 2005

Response by poster: Thanks bcwinters. I'm guessing that once I actually have access to the computers, software, won't seem so completely foreign. It's just really overwhelming trying to figure it out without actually experiencing it.

At any rate, tomorrow I'm back to the computer I'll most likely be using, so I will hopefully be able to navigate my way to music bliss.

*fingers crossed*
posted by zombiebunny at 12:20 AM on February 22, 2005

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