I am quite confused about the iTunes sync process.

What I expect to happen is that whenever I add any new songs to iTunes, it should only sync those songs. I do not want to wait for the entire music library to be synced again. (Doesn't this also create duplicates?)

So how do I do this? I was reading online and some people said to use the "Sync only checked songs..." option and others said to use the "Manually manage..." option. What is the difference and which is the best way?


How do you sync only new songs? You put them in your library, and click sync. If you have duplicates in your library, you will have duplicates on your device. What you see listed in iTunes is exactly what you will have on your device.

The answer is not any harder than this. "Sync" means exactly what it says on the tin, it updates your device with the data in your library. It will "update" songs that have had information changed (cover art, lyrics, or if a title was corrected, etc.), and it will add new ones you've put in the iTunes library.

When you click sync, iTunes does not overwrite everything and start from scratch. It synchronizes your library. It picks up new changes and writes them to the device, and it will even bring new content back from the device if you bought something from the store on your device.

Considering your exact requirements:

Do not change any settings in iTunes. Leave music syncing options completely default, and iTunes will do exactly what you want it to do.

Your exact requirement is exactly what iTunes is supposed to do.

  • You say "Every time you click sync, iTunes does not overwrite everything and start from scratch"........However my observation is totally different.. It does sync everything again....So I wanted to ask does any of the settings might be causing the complete rewrite thing ? – hmthr Nov 20 '11 at 9:05
  • There are no settings that I know of that can cause this issue. How long are your syncs taking? – Jason Salaz Nov 20 '11 at 23:48

According to Apple Support, "Manually manage" is a means to use your iDevice with multiple computers. From this article:

Automatic Mode

When your device is set to automatic mode, iTunes automatically updates your device's music library whenever you connect it to your computer. iTunes transfers new songs you've added and erases songs you've removed. The first computer you connect your device to is its "home" computer. The music library from that computer is copied to your device. When you connect your device to a different computer, an alert box appears with this message:

iPod is synced with another iTunes library dialogue

If you want to delete the music library on your device and make the new computer its "home" computer, choose Erase and Sync. iTunes will delete all songs and playlists on your device, and then will copy the music library and playlists from the new home computer to your device.

If you want to move the iTunes Store purchases on your device to the new computer, choose "Transfer Purchases." The new computer must be set up with your iTunes Store account and authorized to play your iTunes Store purchases in order to transfer your iTunes Store purchases.

Manual Mode

If you want to keep the music library on your device, but copy songs or playlists from the music library on the second computer, click Cancel when the dialog box appears, and then set your device to manual mode

The article also has this caveat:

iPod shuffle and iPhone are intended for use with a single computer. You cannot load music from multiple computers or iTunes libraries onto iPod shuffle and iPhone like you can with other devices.

On the other hand, "Sync only checked songs" provides you with control over which songs you want to sync with iTunes - you can select the following items to sync music from: playlists, artists, genres or albums. More details can be found in this Apple Support article.

If you're not using either an iPod shuffle or iPhone, you can combine both options for maximum control over music syncing options.

  • Again, I have become a bit more confused after reading all this...I'll just add the following info; Say I have only 1 device (iPad) to sync..How do I sync "ONLY" the new songs which I add to my library to my iPad ? – hmthr Nov 20 '11 at 8:09
  • iTunes syncing is… syncing. not copying. It won't copy dupes, it'll only ensure that both libraries (mobile and main) are full with the entire set of info. – Alexander Nov 20 '11 at 8:19

Although it's basically been said already before: Syncing means copying only changes over.

It may still take time to sync for other reasons, but it should not be because old items in library are copied again. How have you confirmed that iTunes is in fact copying old items over to the device rather than copying only new changes?

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