Friday, July 6, 2007

iPhone Sync With Multiple Computers

The tech reviews haven't covered it and I can't find any mention of it on Apple, TUAW, Digg or Google. But rest assured fair readers and would-be buyers... you CAN sync the iPhone with multiple computers! At least sort of.

Most of us have a computer at home and a computer at work. Many of us, like myself, use our home computers for entertainment (i.e. music, photos and videos) and our work computers for work (i.e. contacts and calendars). This is where the iPhone comes to the rescue with its nary mentioned feature: you can sync your content on one computer and sync your calendar, contacts and email on another computer.

The first day I got my iPhone (OK, I mean the first day I could use it after a 50 hour activation process) I synced my music, videos and photos from my Windows PC at home. The next day when I got in to work I plugged my iPhone into my PC at work to see what would happen. When I looked at all the tabs for the different kinds of stuff to sync, none of the boxes were checked and iTunes did not warn me about the phone having been "synced from another computer".

Hoping for the best I went to the "Info" tab and checked the boxes to sync my Contacts and Calendars. In addition, and this is the tricky part, I scrolled to the bottom and checked the boxes for Contacts and Calendars under the "Advanced" section where it says "Replace information on this iPhone". This cool little feature copies all of your information to the phone so that subsequent syncs will go smoothly. From that point on I have been able to sync my new music, videos and photos at home and sync my calendar events and contacts at work.

What I have NOT tried is playing with the other combinations of syncing data. Could you perhaps sync podcasts from work for your drive home, but sync your music at home where you keep it? Sadly I've have not tried cross platform syncing either. I have an aging Powerbook G4 that is running OS X 10.3, not quite new enough to sync with the iPhone. And I'm not likely to plop down the cash for Tiger unless someone confirms that I can seamlessly sync with my Mac and my PC for two different kinds of content.

So there you have it, go forth and sync. And if you haven't bought an iPhone because you don't want to spend all weekend burning CDs just to have your music on your computer at work, don't worry, you won't have to.


Omar Chavez, MCSE said...

Great article!
Contained exactly the information I was looking for.

Buzz said...

Great article. Unfortunately it did not work for me. iTunes says it's syncing my calendar but none of my meeting show up on the iPhone.

Do you know if you have to be using Exchange? I am using Outlook, but not exchange.


Edmund Fresh said...

The problem is syncing music libraries. The iPhone can only be "sync'd" with one library at a time.

I BUY music off iTunes from work and home. Since my iPhone is sync'd with my work computer, I cannot put the music I buy at home on my phone w/o going through a lot of extra crap. With my iPod I can choose to manually drag and drop music onto it and create my own playlist. This feature was left out of the iPhone for whatever stupid reason.

Elise said...

You can sync you contacts/calendar/photos with one computer and the rest with another. There is no drag&drop like with other ipods (why?!?) so you have to "Sync". The music/video/podcasts will only sync with one computer and you don't get fair warning when data will be completed from the iphone. You do get a message saying the iphone may only be synced with one computer but no more details than that.

MonkeyMan360 said...

thanks! I was really hoping this was possible and I think you've just persuaded me I need on when it come out here in the UK!

I take it no one has figured a way to update podcasts from the second machine. Why doesn't the wifi music store have podcasts!! MADNESS!

billso said...

MobileMe takes care of the contact and calendar sync over the air.

For syncing your music libraries, try TuneRanger.

Daniel said...

Good to read... Although I have a mac at home and a pc at work, I'll keep on looking.

Jim said...

Can anyone tell me if I synching the iphone to a new pc and updating the firmware will result in the loss of all installed (and paid for) apps?

The pc that the iphone was originally activated with has died and can never be used again.

Why isnt there a way to synch a pc to match what is on the iphone?

richard said...


This is all well and good but there is an easier way.

I have 2 laptops (macbook pro and a windows machine) and a PC.

I have my iphone able to share music etc betweeen them all and the process is thus:

Back up all your itunes stuff (including your library files these are important!) to a memory stick.

Replace the Itunes library files (all of them) on each machine with the master one you have created. If you have an 8 gig plus stick then you will be able to save all your music, if not don't worry!)

Once you have replaced the itunes files (and obviously the data you've backed up on your stick)your shiny iphone will be able to share between all your machines.

i stumbled on this when i was looking for a solution, as usual there was the usual wave of BS on the internet, but this method has not given me any problems yet besides the "library was created with a newer version of itunes" message so just make sure you have the same version on all your machines before you start.

Hope this helps everyone else out as much as it has me.

richard said...

Oops, forgot part 2...

If you cannot back up all your music to a stick or DVD-R....

download Tansee iphone copy software.

This will allow you to copy all the music off your iphone to any pc (haven't looked for a mac alternative, didn't need one).

so you'll have the same library, should you wish to.

peace out.