I love iTunes, the music store, but I’m no fan of iTunes, the Windows software application. As everyone knows, it has a lot of annoying quirks, and the new version, while improved in some ways, can be confusing and irritating.
I recently spent more time than I wanted to getting up close and personal with iTunes because I bought a new iPod and had to figure how to manage it and my iPhone on the same account.
So here are some tips that address that issue and my recommendations for two third-party software applications that will do a lot to ease the pain of managing your digital music.
Managing two devices isn’t all that hard, but you’ve got to be fairly careful to configure iTunes correctly. After poking around various user forums and Apple support pages, I’ve come across two solutions. If one of your devices is small, say a Nano, and you don’t need all that much content on it, you can simply create a playlist with the tracks you want on it. Then set iTunes to update each device with only the playlists you need.
The other method, which I used, entails creating a separate library for each device. It can be a little tricky, but follow the steps in this link and you’ll figure it out. When both libraries are set up, simply choose which library you want to use with each device and sync them separately. (Launch iTunes while pressing the shift key and iTunes will ask you which library it should open.)
That allowed me to keep my essential music on my iPhone 4S, which only has 16GB of space, and everything else on my 80GB iPod Classic. (Note to self: Next time you buy a smartphone, don’t be cheap; buy one with more storage.)
Moving all or part of your library to a new PC or even a USB drive isn’t hard if you use the awkwardly named but handy “Cucosoft iPhone/iPod/iPad to computer transfer,” which you can download here. It costs $29 but it can save hours of aggravation. You plug your device into your PC, launch the program, and it will show all of the media on the device and give you the option to copy as much of it as you want to iTunes or to a folder on your hard drive. You can then drag that folder onto a USB drive and your music is ready to go.
Over the years, it’s easy to accumulate a lot of duplicate music in your library. If you don’t have a huge number of this redundant stuff you can simply go to the View menu in iTunes and have it show duplicate items.
But if you’re way behind in your digital house cleaning, then sorting out redundant tracks can be quite a chore. Enter Tune Sweeper, a $20 program that will speed up the process without launching an inadvertent search and destroy mission that will remove stuff you want to keep. After it audits your library Tune Sweeper groups items that it thinks are redundant. You can scan that list, and tell it to ignore groups you want to keep before hitting the delete button.
Those files wind up in a backup folder, so if you’ve deleted something you should have kept, you can rescue it.
San Francisco journalist Bill Snyder writes frequently about business and technology. His work appears regularly in CIO.com and the publications of Stanford's Graduate School of Business and the Haas School of Business at the University of California at Berkeley. He welcomes your comments and suggestions.