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Unless proven otherwise, this will be another blog that I’ll fail to update after a week or so.

Can the iPhone sync with multiple computers?

This was the question that I had before I purchased my iPhone 3G. Believe it or not, I asked over 5 different people at 2 Apple Stores and walked away more confused than ever. Granted, I searched the forums, so I was pretty confident that it would work, but I figured Apple employees would have the answer, right?

Wrong. Or at least 4 out of 5 gave me a “No”. Wrong indeed. Since purchasing the iPhone, I have been able to successfully synchronize my new favorite gadget to both my PC and Macbook. Here’s the catch: I’m only synching certain items from each computer. So, no, I don’t have music synching from both computers. That doesn’t seem possible to me without a major hack. Instead, I have my calendar and contacts working with my PC and all of my music, video, and apps from my Macbook.

Is this a feat worthy of a “Genius” label? Hardly. Just a bit of forum research and some common sense (thanks as well to the simplicity of Apple) led me to the setup. In iTunes, you’ll notice that each tab has checkboxes that allows you to choose which items you want to synchronize with your iPhone. On my PC, I chose calendar and contacts on the info tab, and on my Macbook, I chose all of the other tabs. Voila! Smooth synchronization.

For the record, I’m running itunes 7.7.1 and iphone 2.0.1, though I had this working under both 7.7 and 2.0.

If you need help on this, I’d be happy to answer questions or potentially film the process using my new Flip Mini!

ADD (8/13/08): This seems to be my “hit” post, so I wanted to reiterate that if anyone has any questions about this or other potential PC/Mac/iPhone problems, feel free to leave a comment. -DC

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13 Responses

  1. Andy says:

    Thanks for posting this clear concise answer on the webs. I’m in the same boat with the multiple computers. I use a PC at work where I need my calendar and contacts from, and a Mac at home, where I do all the awesome stuff. Just a little encouragement to keep up with this blog.

  2. Crystal says:

    DC,

    Thanks for a very useful post! It is very helpful, though I wish that I could do a seamless synch with both my work and home computers (both PC).

    The question I have now applies to the apps. You mentioned you only synch your apps from one computer, but I had heard that you are allowed to synch up to 3 computers for each iTunes ID. Is this true? It would be great if I could purchase and watch movies and apps on 2 computers since I travel overseas a fair bit and am often stuck with only my work computer (and those are usually the times I need entertainment!).

    Thanks

  3. DC says:

    Thanks for writing. I’m pretty sure that you can have apps, movies, music, etc. on up to 5 computers for 1 iTunes ID. Here’s a forum that might help/confirm as well.

    http://forums.macrumors.com/archive/index.php/t-515412.html

  4. JP says:

    Well DC,

    That is an excellent post. It points out the good and bad of iphone syncing.

    I basically wanted to do just what you did, sync music and photos from home computer and sync contacts and calender from work computer using outlook. I was a bit leary of screwing up all my contacts in my phone and outlook, so i synced my phone with my empty outlook at home just to play around with it. It worked fine. All my contacts from the phone went into outlook. Voila, I thought, easy as pie. When I tried this at work, the sync kept getting stuck. Tried everything but my contacts would not sync. Finally a re-install of Itunes worked for me. Seems like there are still some bugs to be worked out.

    The unidirectional music syncing is a big bummer. I would like to be able to sync multiple Itunes libraries. I thought about trying to export my library from one computer and load it onto the other via a flash drive and see if I can sync thereafter.

  5. DC says:

    @JP,
    I’m glad you found the post to be a quality one. I’ve found similar results with regards to the bugs with Outlook (random crashes, slow syncing at times), but I have noticed improvement just in the past month with the multiple updates, so I’m happy to see that Apple is working on things. Thanks for reading! -DC

  6. Max says:

    Hi DC,
    I’d like to be able to synch music, videos, photos only on macbook and synch calendar and contacts in both macbook and PC so I can have business info available on both platforms using iphone as the bridge between both, have you tried this?
    Thanks a lot for the blog, very useful, Regards.

  7. DC says:

    @Max
    Hi Max,

    I totally understand what you’re trying to do. Unfortunately, I don’t have experience with this, and I’m a bit hesitant to try since it may wipe out all of my info. If you can test it using a few items, I’d give it a shot. Another option is to use Google Calendar and/or Plaxo (both free). My gut instinct is that it is possible, but I’d try it selectively before diving in full steam.

    You can also try to decipher this forum for more info. http://discussions.apple.com/thread.jspa?threadID=1032099

    Let me know if things work out and I’ll post your results here.
    DC

  8. Max says:

    Thanks DC, I’ll make some trials and let you know. Regards.

  9. David A says:

    Thanks for the post. I sync my home PC (music and photos – main iTunes machine) as well as my office Mac (Entourage Calendar, Contacts) and everything works well… except for Apps.
    It seems like every time I sync with the home PC it asks me to download the Apps (although Syncing Apps is NOT checked on that computer’s iTunes) or else warns me they will be deleted. So I Sync them, but then some Apps start working weird, meaning they crash right after starting. They get fixed if I delete them off the iPhone and then re-sync, but I suspect this is caused by having them live in BOTH iTunes on a PC and a Mac. Anyone else have this problem?

  10. DC says:

    David,

    Interesting. I’m assuming that you do sync your apps on your office mac? I have my iPhone syncing apps with my macbook (along with music and photos) and not my PC (only calendar and contacts), and everything seems to be working peachy. If anyone else has any experience with David’s comment, feel free to let us know. Thanks!

  11. Jim S. says:

    I’d like to transfer my work/PC Outlook calendar only to my already populated personal iPhone iCal. In other words, have one calendar on iCal called “work” and all the others I already created on my Mac’s iCal.

    Is there a way to do this?

    If so, one might be to install iTunes on my work PC and see if it offers one-way transfer. I’m worried that it will overwrite my personal calendar, however….

    • DC says:

      Not sure about 1-way sync of a calendar via iTunes. What if you established a Google Calendar, synced it to your Outlook (w/Plaxo), then synced it with your iPhone? You can always remove the GCal, Plaxo syncs later if all you need is a 1-time sync.

  12. Abishan says:

    Hi,

    Im on hooliday in Switzerland and me and my cousin downloaded some fantastic HD quality movies.But when i try to sync the movies to my iphone there is no films tab, but there is a videos tab.The itunes on his laptop is in german and i asked him to translate everything to me and nothing made sense . The movies will successfully sync to his though.Do you think that i can only sync videos on my own computer because i am able to sync music from almost any computer but not movies.

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