How to Use Multiple iPhones on One Computer

family gathered around laptop

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These days, if you've got more than one person in the house, you've almost definitely got more than one smartphone or tablet. In fact, even if you're a one-person household, you may have smartphone and a tablet, or more. However many people are involved, there may be only one computer and figuring our how to manage multiple iPhonesiPods, or iPads with one just one computer can be tricky.

Trying to sync multiple Apple devices to the same computer poses a number of challenges, including keeping each person's music, contacts, and apps separate, to say nothing of different levels of Content Restrictions or the potential for messing up each other's preferences.

Luckily, there are a number of ways built into iTunes to make managing multiple iPods, iPads, and iPhones on one computer easier. These four methods covered in this article are listed from easiest to maintain to the least precise. Click on the headline for each section to get detailed instructions.

Individual User Accounts on the Computer

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Apple Inc.

Creating a different user account for each person using the computer essentially creates a completely new, independent space in the computer that each person can use. If you do that, each person has their own username and password to log onto the computer, and can then install whatever programs they like, download whatever music they want, and can choose their own syncing preferences — all without impacting anyone else on the computer.

Since each user account is its own space, that means each user has their own iTunes library and sync settings for their iOS device. Because it's easy to understand, (relatively) easy to implement, and easy to maintain, with low potential for accidentally messing up someone else's set up — it's a good approach.

Multiple iTunes Libraries for Each Person

selecting multiple itunes libraries

screenshot from iTunes

If you don't want to create totally separate user accounts for everyone in the house, you can just create separate iTunes libraries for each person. Using multiple iTunes libraries is a bit like having the separate spaces that the individual user account approach gives you, except in this case, the only thing that's separate is the iTunes library.

With this method, each person who uses the computer has their own iTunes library and sync settings. This way, you won't get music, apps, or movies mixed across iTunes libraries and won't end up with someone else's content on your device by mistake.

The downsides of this approach are that parental controls on content apply to all iTunes libraries (with user accounts, they're different for each account), so adults are restricted to the most strict settings applied to their kids. It's also potentially tricky because each user's library is not as totally separate, and so there's potential for some confusion. Still, this is a good option that's easy to set up.

Managing Sync Preferences in iTunes

Sync iPhone to computer, music

If you're less concerned about mixing the music, movies, apps, and other content put into iTunes by each person using the computer, using the syncing management screen built into iTunes is a solid option.

When you choose this approach, you select what content from each of the tabs in the management screen you want on your device. Other people using the computer do the same thing.

The downsides of this technique include that it only allows one setting for parental control of content and it can be imprecise. For example, you might only want some music from an artist, but if someone else adds more of that artist's music, it could end up on your device by mistake.

So, even though it's potentially a bit messier, this is a very easy way to manage multiple iPods.

Creating Individual Playlists for Each Person

create playlist in iTunes, step 1

Want to make sure you get just the music you want on your iPod? Syncing a playlist of the music you want and nothing else is one way to do it. This technique is as simple as creating the playlist and updating the settings of each device to sync just that playlist.

Downsides of this approach include that everything each person adds to the iTunes library is mixed together, the same content restrictions apply to all users, you need to update the playlist regularly, and the possibility that your playlist could be accidentally deleted and you'd have to re-create it.

If you don't want to try any of the other methods here, this will work. I'd recommend giving the others a shot first — they're cleaner and more effective — but if none of them work for you, this should.