Automatic or Manual (Syncing)?

When you get an iPod, you’re faced with many decisions: should I put mostly movies on it? Which songs should I use? Should I manually manage the music, or can I leave it as automatic syncing?

While I can’t help you pick which tunes your iPod will contain, I can help you decide which method to use. Each has its own benefits and drawbacks, and can make using your iPod even more enjoyable.

Automatic Syncing

Automatic as in pressing Sync after plugging it in.

  • Set it and forget it: press Sync, and walk away.
  • Easily integrate Smart Playlists: perfect for loading all the unwatched TV shows.
  • Play counts (on movies) are synced back to the main iTunes library.
  • No need to eject the iPod before removing it from the computer.


  • Care must be taken when using a second computer.
  • Can’t sync a single song.
  • Song choice is generally left to a playlist.

Best for:

  • Having all songs in a playlist available.
  • Always having unwatched TV shows available.

To get around the single song problem, I set up my iPod touch to sync a manual playlist. This way I can add single songs, and still have it sync the other playlists automatically. All the various options for syncing specific parts are found in the iPod section of iTunes when your iPod is connected.

It must be mentioned that this is not the method to use when you want to get music from other computers. For one thing, iTunes refuses to let you to transfer songs manually, and as soon as you link your iPod with the new library, you’ll lose all your current tunes.

Manual syncing

Moving songs over manually

  • Complete control over songs on the iPod.
  • No problems when gathering songs from other computers.


  • iPod must be ejected before removing.
  • Song list must be constantly maintained.
  • Metadata is not synced.
  • Possible to have duplicate songs.

iPod disk ejection and the songs having the wrong names are the reasons that I don’t use this method. Many times I simply forget to properly eject the disk, and often risk corrupting my data.

The multiple songs are likely quite common. I’m sure you’ve seen it before: 1 song, 1 file, and yet there are 2 entries in iTunes because you’ve missed a vowel somewhere. With automatic sync, the files are matched when you change the filename on the computer.

Both methods offer unique benefits, and with a little planning, you can combine the best elements of each into a system that works for you.

[tags]iPod, iPod touch, iTunes, Mac OS X[/tags]

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