With Apple releasing new devices every few months it’s important to ensure everything you do with iTunes is kept safe. I have written before about moving an entire iPhoto library into Dropbox so that all your photos are backed up and safe, without having to even click anything. iTunes can be backed up in much the same way, with massive bonus benefit!
Apple’s mobile devices – iPhones and iPads – are well-known for using a lot of battery power. I’ll need to charge my phone while at work and overnight at home, too, just to make it through the day. Granted, I am a heavy user of the device, but really, it should be able to comfortably last one day, right? To charge, I connect my iPhone to my work computer. You know that annoying popup that appears in iTunes when an “unknown” phone is connected? What if my work laptop, and my personal laptop running iTunes, thought that they were the same iTunes library? That would mean that it would be possible to plug my phone in to either laptop and for everything to just sync; for everything to just work!
It works, and here’s how you can do it.
Get Enough Space
First and foremost it’s critical there is enough space available in your Dropbox account. If you haven’t already got one, head over to dropbox.com and signup. Dropbox have some massive options now, having recently upgrading their offering to provide a whopping 1TB of space for $99/year. That should be plenty. The biggest iDevices pack 128GB of storage space, that’s about 10% of what Dropbox will give you.
Find The iTunes Library
iTunes typically stores everything it needs in your Music folder. To be sure, in iTunes, go to Preferences, then Advanced. This will show the location of your “iTunes Media” folder. Note down this location. Open a Finder window and find the folder where iTunes is currently stored. Don’t go down to the “iTunes Media” level. Instead only go until the “iTunes” folder appears. Now make sure the iTunes app is completely closed down. If you’re running a Mac (like me), right-click, or two-finger-click, on the iTunes icon in the dock and select “Quit”.
Move The iTunes Library to Dropbox
While your Dropbox account comes with a few folders for you, I made sure I had one called Music. Open another Finder window (File > New Finder Window) and go to your Music folder in the Dropbox folder. Now the fun part. From the Finder window showing the iTunes folder drag the “iTunes” folder to the “Music” folder in the Dropbox folder. Dropbox will immediately begin to sync everything iTunes has. The synchronisation process will take quite a while to complete depending how much media you have. It coud be hours or even a few days. However, there’s no need to wait to keep using iTunes on the same computer.
Open iTunes… Carefully
The next time you open iTunes you need to tell it to look for the iTunes library in a different place. To do this, on a Mac, hold down the OPTION key and click on the iTunes icon. This will force iTunes to ask you if you’d like to create a new iTunes library or find an existing one. Click “Choose Library…” then navigate to the newly located “iTunes” folder in the Dropbox folder. Once selected, iTunes will open just like it always has. This OPTION+click trick only has to be done once. Closing and reopening iTunes will continue to use the most recently selected library.
With iTunes now safe in the Dropbox cloud, and once the sync process has completed, opening the same iTunes library on other computer is simple. Use the OPTION+click trick when opening iTunes on other computers where you have Dropbox synchronised and again choose the library which is now available in the Dropbox folder. Again, the OPTION+click trick only needs to be done once.
With the iTunes library completely synchronised, from the original computer, and now on any other computer, when anything changes in your iTunes library only those changes are synchronised, making the process to keep all your computers in sync much much quicker.
At this point, connecting an iPhone or iPad to either computer will initiate the sync process. As soon as it begins, Dropbox will kick in to action and begin to sync the changes to Dropbox. Your iDevice can now be connected to any computer that is running the same, synchronised iTunes library with no ill effects.
There is one minor point that should be kept in mind when multi-homing your iTunes library. After using iTunes on any one computer, Dropbox must completely finish synchronizing those changes, and those change must be downloaded to any other computer before opening iTunes there. If you open iTunes before any modified iTunes library files finish synchronizing Dropbox will get confused and create “Conflicted Copy” files. Conflicted files can be remedied relatively easily by closing iTunes, deleting the conflicted files, then reopening iTunes (provided Dropbox has finished syncing the iTunes library).