iTunes syncing, it sounds dynamite on paper
October 10, 2011 7:04 AM   Subscribe

I want to sync two iTunes libraries. Can I do it using a "cloud" backup service? Details inside...

The details:
-Let's say I have two Macs A and B
-I want A's iTunes music, metadata, library, everything on both computers
-The vast majority (99%) of A's music is non-DRM'ed, non-Itunes purchases MP3s.
-A's iTunes folder is in the root directory say /iTunesData
-I set up B's music folder as the same thing /iTunesData
-I use my favorite cloud syncing service to sync /iTunesData on A and B, setting it so the newest file overwrites the oldest file

A couple questions:
-Will this work? It seems like it should as any new music I add on either computer will get synced over to the other as well as any metadata file that updateds the library (e.g. iTunes Library.xml). Am I missing anything? It seems like any location issues would be taken care of by saving them in the same directory.
-Similarly, will I be able to sync my phone and iPod to either computer? Same rationale as above. The wrinkle here is I have a couple paid apps on my phone and a couple of e-books I have purchased. This is a nice to have.

This seems too simple and elegant to work. What am I not thinking of?
posted by bytewrite to Computers & Internet (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The steps you outlined should work. People have done this before using a similar process. Here is a guide for doing it using Dropbox:

You won't be able to sync your iPhone and iPod to both computers at the same time though. They can only be linked to one computer, and if you sync with the other, the link to the first one will be broken.
posted by yodangson at 7:24 AM on October 10, 2011

Couldn't you do this with iTunes Home sharing feature? AFAIK, both computers need to be logged in using the same Apple ID.
posted by omnidrew at 7:29 AM on October 10, 2011

In "late October" Apple will be releasing iTunes Match:
iTunes Match
If you want the benefits of iTunes in the Cloud for music you haven’t purchased from iTunes, iTunes Match is the perfect solution. It’s built right into the iTunes app on your Mac or PC and the Music app on your iOS devices. And it lets you store your entire collection, including music you’ve imported from CDs or purchased somewhere other than iTunes. For just $24.99 a year.

Here’s how it works: iTunes determines which songs in your collection are available in the iTunes Store. Any music with a match is automatically added to your iCloud library. Since there are more than 20 million songs in the iTunes Store, most of your music is probably already in iCloud. All you have to upload is what iTunes can’t match. Which is much faster than starting from scratch. Once your music is in iCloud, you can stream and store it on any of your devices. Even better, all the music iTunes matches plays back from iCloud at 256-Kbps AAC DRM-free quality — even if your original copy was of lower quality.
I'm looking to do what you want and hope iTunes Match lives up to the marketing copy.
posted by birdherder at 8:36 AM on October 10, 2011

I travel between my apartment and my girlfriend's place in another city weekly. We watch a lot of tv on an ipad. After many such attempts I have (sorta) given up and just keep my iTunes folder on a removable hdd that comes with me.
posted by mce at 8:43 AM on October 10, 2011

In "late October" Apple will be releasing iTunes Match:
I'd think twice about using that.

That solution keeps you tied to iTunes, costs you 25 bucks a year, *and* only works if you have a stable, fast-enough net connection. In fact, at that point, calling it "your" music might be a bit of a misnomer.

The phone syncing bit likely will hit some issues, namely due to the app DRM. The music syncing will work, but my bet is that iTunes will want to re-build its library / re-scan the directory in order to find the songs.

You could use a music player like Songbird which supports directory scanning (i.e. it will notice when things are added/changed in a given folder). I did the same thing for a long time -- my laptop and desktop synced their library directories, and Songbird noticed when things changed.
posted by -1 at 9:56 AM on October 10, 2011

What am I not thinking of?

File locking and concurrency.

I've recently set up a similar sort of arrangement, but using AFP rather than cloudishness. It works as long as I only have one client using the library at the time - which is a limitation I can live with - but both at once and you have an issue with the two apps fighting over the xml file.
posted by pompomtom at 1:59 PM on October 10, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks for the responses. A couple comments:

omnidrew: The whole point here is not to have to have the other computer running or worry about being on the same network. I want to have local copies of the music so it doesn't matter where I am or even if i have connectivity.

-1: I don't think I need to worry about directory scanning as each computer would be reading its own XML metadatafile that is continually updated.

pompomtom: Concurrency may be an issue but it seems pretty unlikely to happen unless I was adding files on both machines at the same time. Which realistically wouldn't be much of a problem assuming the syncing happens relativity frequently. I know, a lot of ifs there.

As for file locking that wouldn't be a problem as each machine would be looking at its own local copy of the files. The "cloud" part would only be for backup and pushing changes to each machine.

yodangson: That looks almost exactly like what I was thinking. You are right. the phone/ipod syncing will still be a problem though. I can live with that.

I'm gonna give this a shot if anyone is curious about the results MeMail me.
posted by bytewrite at 4:59 PM on October 10, 2011

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