Thursday, 23 October 2014

Migrating Your iPhone to Another Mac

You plug your iPhone into the Other Mac and open iTunes. iTunes enforces monogamy: an iPhone can only pair with a single Mac. (I understand the latest version lets you be poly-Mac-amous, but I’m not convinced.) Attempt to use another Mac to manage your iPhone music and iTunes will first delete everything on your phone. Even if you are just changing the setting from Sync to Manually Manage My Music. Hit that Apply button the first time and your phone gets wiped. I hit the button and then cancelled the job by clicking on the cross in the progress bar.

I kept the music on the phone, but iTunes totally lost it. Restarted the phone and iTunes, still no recognition on iTunes of the music on my phone. I looked through the Forums, I called Apple support next morning and I even got told by someone at the Regent Street Apple store that the only way to handle the problem was to book a Genius Appointment. By the time he suggested that I talk to my carrier - who supplied the phone - in case it was a hardware fault, it clicked. Those guys don’t understand how iTunes works and how Macs and iPhones sync. It’s all a black box to them. I downloaded iTunes 12 like the phone support guy suggested and tried again. Nothing changed. By the next morning, I had it figured out.

A Windows program would have an option to “Transfer my iPhone library” or something similar. It would read the music directory on the phone and re-create the computer's view of what was on the phone. It would also have an option to “Re-Sync my Phone Library", which would compare the view on the computer with the music on the phone and prompt for removing or making up the differences. Easy, if a little slow. So if anything goes wrong, a Windows program could read the directories and start over.

iTunes doesn’t work like that. iTunes doesn’t read the file system on the iPhone. It probably can’t read the filesystem, for reasons that Apple thought made sense at the time. (Never drive yourself mad trying to understand crazy – that’s why they call it “crazy”.) What iTunes does is read a special ‘library’ file on the phone, not even the one used by the Music app because, don’t forget, my Music app still had a functioning set of menus and pictures. This is why Apple makes you go through iTunes, because iTunes needs to keep the two catalogue files - one on the Mac and one in the iPhone - in sync.

This is part of a deeper difference between Apple and everyone else. Apple’s approach is to keep the user away from the filesystem. It’s quite amazing how many people don’t really grok file systems, and the UNIX filesystem is especially horrible. Apple’s approach is that the user shouldn’t need to understand the mechanics of the computer, that the user should interact on the symbolic level and leave the messy business of directories and the like to the OS. Apple is like automatic transmission, while Windows and Linux / Unix are for people who like to drive a stick-shift.

iTunes wants me to Sync. Apple wants me not to mess around at the filesystem level. It’s why Spotlight is so fabulous. I decided to get with the program. Here’s how you do it.

Download and install the latest iTunes. This is for version 12.
Make sure you have your music directories connected - mine are on NAS and I have to remember to re-connect to it
Set up a playlist in iTunes called “iPhone” (or whatever) and drag-and-drop all the music you need into it
Connect your iPhone and click on the icon to bring up the control screen

Now do this is exactly this order...
Select the Music Tab...
tick Sync Music at the top left...
tick the playlist you just created...
and only then click the Sync button at the bottom right.

This will delete all the music on your iPhone, copy across the songs in the playlist and re-build the iPhone’s iTunes catalogue and its Music app catalogue.

From now on, to manage the music on your iPhone (or other device), edit the playlist first and let the Sync do the rest. That’s what Apple and iTunes really want you to do. It's just as flexible and you can do it without needing the phone connected. The connect, press Sync and go do something while it does.

Why they don’t just tell us that in the first place, I have no idea. “If you’re from Windows, you’ll be used to manually moving files and re-building the catalogue in your media player. Now there’s no need to do that. Just set up a playlist for your device, edit that and Sync on just that playlist. Here are the exact steps to set that up…”.

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