How to Sync Your iPhone with Multiple Devices

By Joe Hutsko, Barbara Boyd

Technology is constantly changing. The relationship between iPhones and computers is no different. Used to be that you had one computer every two and a half households and the only music you heard through the phone was your father singing “Happy Birthday” to you. Today, you probably have a computer at home and one at work, and maybe a notebook computer, too.

Perhaps you share your home computer with your significant other or children and each of them has an iPhone. Apple has lightened up on its one iPhone-one computer monogamy policy. Here is a way to use multiple computers with one iPhone as well as multiple iPhones with one computer, too.

How to sync one iPhone with multiple computers

The fact is, different pieces of our lives often overlap. You want the contacts on your notebook and desktop computers and your iPhone and iPad to be the same, and you want the option of making changes in either of those places and syncing with the other two.

The simplest solution is an over-the-air, or OTA, syncing and storage service, like iCloud. Just sign in to the same iCloud account on all your devices and everything is kept in sync.

How to sync one computer with multiple iPhones

Your family members share one computer and each of you has an iPhone. You can sync more than one iPhone with the same computer. Each device is recognized by its unique name.

On a Mac, each iPhone can use different sync settings; on Windows, each phone has to use the same settings. Each person has a separate Apple account because each iPhone has an Apple account associated with it. You probably each have different media that you’d like to sync with your respective iPhones.

The ideal solution — the one most highly recommended — is to set up separate user accounts on the Mac or Windows computer for each user, who in turn would have his own iTunes library for media and iCloud account for data to sync to his iPhone.

If for some reason the idea of separate user accounts doesn’t work for you, you can sync different sets of media by setting up a different iTunes library for each family member:

  1. Hold down the option key (Mac) or the shift key (Windows) and open iTunes.

    A dialog gives you the options of creating a new library or choosing which you want to open.

  2. Select Create Library.

    Type in a name and location for the library.

  3. Whenever you start up iTunes, hold down the Option (Mac) or Shift (Windows) key to open your personal library.

  4. Sync your iPhone with your library.

Make sure you uncheck Copy Files to iTunes Media Folder When Adding to Library. On Mac, this is found under iTunes→Preferences→Advanced; on Windows, Edit→Preferences→Advanced.

Perhaps you have an iPhone for business and another one for your personal use. You can sync more than one iPhone with the same account and even sync different things to each. Give each iPhone a different name and when you open iTunes, choose the phone you want to sync from the pop-up source menu and then sync as outlined previously. iTunes remembers which sync goes with which phone.