What is the best way to sync multiple iTunes libraries?
January 19, 2007 8:12 AM   Subscribe

What is the best way to sync multiple iTunes libraries?

I need to find a good method of syncing multiple iTunes libraries. Currently I have a library at work, home, and one on my laptop. I can't just clone the drives because each one has different music on it. Basically I need to merge all the libraries together. Does anyone have a good solution for this?
posted by ISeemToBeAVerb to Computers & Internet (9 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
I had success using iTunes' "Backup to Disc" feature.

Make a backup of computer A, then "restore" it to computer B. Any songs that are already on computer B won't be touched, and anything that was on A and not B will be added to B. Run the backup on B and select the option to backup everything that wasn't backed up before, then restore that one to A.

It'll be a little more complicated with 3 computers, and requires a lot of discs, but it works.
posted by cathoo at 8:22 AM on January 19, 2007

I have been having this same problem. I haven't actually found a very good method - I bought a 2GB flash drive and ever day, I pull some songs from my iTunes library on my work computer (where I initially ripped all/most of my CDs) and then I pull of 2gb worth at a time, put it on my laptop, and then do the same at home from lappy. It's kind of a pain in the ass, though, it's taking me weeks, but I have a LOT of music.

The good news is that the songs I already have are just replaced,and if you select "copy music I add to my iTunes folder" in preferences, you can add files straight from the flash drive. If you had a larger external drive than I do, you could probably do it pretty quickly, depending on how much music you have.
posted by pazazygeek at 8:26 AM on January 19, 2007

I run into this same problem. I was using Allway Sync and an external hard drive, which was working well until I started changing/updating tags in my music libraries, which would sometimes lead to duplicate files.

If you're not adding high volumes of music, display the "date added" column in iTunes and you'll know which files are newest, and you can then copy those with a flash drive or CD and add them to other computers.

I'm also now in the habit of adding music to the iTunes folder on each computer as I acquire it. Using Hamachi, it's easy to copy the file to each computer very quickly.
posted by RossWhite at 8:54 AM on January 19, 2007

Try MP3Tunes.

The drawback is that it's web based, meaning it's as slow or fast as your web connection. But you can sync multiple computers and there's a bonus web interface, meaning you can listen to your music from a hotel room or office.
posted by skylar at 9:16 AM on January 19, 2007 [1 favorite]

This is a two-step problem, and it's tricky.

There's the problem of maintaining an identical corpus of music (you'd call it your "library," but I'm avoiding that term here)—that is, all your music files—and the "iTunes Library" file.

The whole thing becomes a knotty PITA, especially if you want to rip music on more than one machine, etc, maintain your playlists and star ratings and other data not encapsulated within the music files, etc.

There are a couple of apps I've found that seem to manage the process for you: Slingshot and Syncopation.
posted by adamrice at 9:40 AM on January 19, 2007

You don't say which platform you're on, which might make a difference. FWIW I run Windows and successfully keep my laptop and home system synced using the MS SyncToy. iTunes handles folder arrangement for me (all music moved to "My Music" folder), and then I do a sync on that folder between laptop and home over the network. Add in a work computer, same thing - plug laptop into the network and set up a second sync for that system.

There are some drawbacks. Currently my sync is reciprocal (changes moved both ways) meaning I can add songs to my laptop or home system and have them moved over. However, this means that if I change both computers between a sync, all new songs are copied, but only the newest iTunes library file is copied - so there may be music in my folder that iTunes is unaware of. Only way to fix this easily is to have it add all music in your My Music folder and subfolders, because iTunes is apparently too dumb to have a "monitor folder for changes" setting like every other music library app I have ever used.

Might be easier to designate one computer as the "master" and then do a one-way sync from that to the other two. If you have the hard drive space, use the laptop as master and make the work and home system into carbon copies.

Another issue is getting the music all in one place to begin with. If you don't mind scanning visually for duplicates, just drag the entire music library folder from computer A into iTunes on B over the network. Do the same with computer C (either by adding C to B, and then B to A, or whatever works for you). This puts all your music into one place. Clean up the resulting library on A, either by manually removing duplicates or by deleting the iTunes library file and then rebuilding it by re-adding your music folder into a clean empty library.

Once you've done this, sync things (one-way from your "master" library). If A is the "master" system, and you need or want to add music while using Computer B or C, I'd just save it into a temp folder, then copy it onto the library on A via network or removable media when you have time. You can still play it from the temp folder if you want to hear it.

At any rate syncing the library file itself, along with the music, means you can plug your iPod in to any of the synced computers without getting the "Sync with this computer and delete the other files?" prompt. Your iPod will see all three computers as the same library.
posted by caution live frogs at 10:14 AM on January 19, 2007 [1 favorite]


I'm running on a Mac. More specifically I'm using a Macbook Pro, G5, and a G4 running the latest 10.4.8 update on all three.

Thanks for all the ideas, I've got some testing to do.
posted by ISeemToBeAVerb at 10:52 AM on January 19, 2007

Just another idea to toss out there -- your Mac has a pretty good file-synchronization program already on it, called rsync. It's a command-line tool that you run from the terminal.

The only problem is that it's not bidirectional; it syncs in one direction. Basically it works like copying, only without moving any of the data that hasn't changed.

So if you started out with your laptop and your desktop having the same music on them, and then while traveling, added some music to the laptop, you could propagate the changes to the desktop by connecting the two computers together (in some way; easiest would be to put the Macbook in Target Disk mode, if it will do that) and run:

rsync -av /Volumes/Laptop/Users/yourname/Music/iTunes/ ~/Music/iTunes

This will copy anything that's on your laptop, and that your desktop is missing, to the desktop. It will also overwrite the desktop's 'iTunes Library' XML file with the laptop's. (Which you may or may not want.)

You could copy just the music by syncing between the "iTunes Music" folders inside ~/Music/iTunes/, but if you do that, you're going to have to get iTunes on the target machine to do a search and import the orphaned music into its library.

Problems could occur if changes were made to the desktop AND the laptop before resynchronization; since rsync won't dig down into the Library XML file and merge the two, one of the machines is going to end up with orphaned music that's in the "iTunes Music" folder, but not appearing in the library list.
posted by Kadin2048 at 2:49 PM on January 19, 2007 [1 favorite]

Depending on what sort of internet conncetions you have available, you might want to look into using rsync or its ilk to keep the libraries mirrored.

There unfortunately don't seem to be any utilites meant for merging libraries, and the few designed specifically around keeping libraries in sync that I looked at before coming upon my current solution (below) seem janky at best.

My current solution is to have an external hard drive which is the "master" library. This is then mirrored with the excellent SuperDuper's "Smart Update", which only copies new files.

The problem with this arises when I add things to two different computers' local libraries without syncing either. iTunes' XML Library file doesn't know about some of the additions and then I have to tell iTunes to rescan its library. Which is kludgy, slow, and boring, and probably why I'm considering getting an 80GB iPod just so that I can have most of my library away from my "main" computer.
posted by mattly at 11:28 PM on January 19, 2007

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