Those who are accustomed to the ways of other iPods have been surprised by the iPod shuffle’s inability to be manually updated.
Sorry. If that sentence leaves you completely in the dark, allow me to fill in the backstory.
By default, iPods are associated with a particular computer. When you plug a new—or newly reformatted—iPod into a computer, iTunes will launch and attempt to fill it with that computer’s iTunes music library. Plug that iPod into another computer and that machine’s copy of iTunes launches, reports that the iPod is associated with a different computer, and asks if you’d like to associate the iPod with the computer it’s currently plugged into. If you click Yes, the iPod’s music library is wiped out and replaced with the music library of the currently connected computer.
Those who didn’t care to have their music vaporized in such a fashion quickly learned that if you reply No to iTunes’ request to replace the music library, highlight the iPod in the Source list, click the iPod Preference button at the bottom of the iTunes window, and configure the iPod preferences so the device is updated manually, you can safely use the iPod on multiple computers. When you plug it into a new computer, simply drag the music you want on that computer to the iPod icon in the source list. That music will be added to the iPod without deleting the other music on the player.
Ah, but along comes the iPod shuffle—the first iPod that doesn’t support manual updating. When you plug a shuffle into a computer it’s not associated with, iTunes will ask if you’d like to replace its library with the current computer’s music. If you reply No, the shuffle becomes iPoda non grata and vanishes from iTunes. On the one hand, this is a good thing because your music remains intact, on the other, it’s not so hot if you had hoped to fill the shuffle with tunes from multiple computers.
So, is it then impossible to update the shuffle with music scattered across multiple computers? No. It can be done via networking. Here’s how:
1. Network two computers (sorry, the whys and wherefores of creating that network is beyond the scope of this article).
2. While seated at Computer A, mount the volume on Computer B that contains that computer’s music library.
3. Launch iTunes and select Preferences from the iTunes menu if you’re using a Mac or from the Edit menu if you’re using a Windows PC. Click the Advanced tab and make sure that the Copy Files to iTunes Music Library When Adding to Library option is disabled.
4. Choose Add to Library from iTunes’ File menu and navigate to Computer B’s music folder. Click Choose.
The titles of the songs in Computer B’s music library will be added to iTunes (but not the songs themselves). As long as the volume that contains those songs is mounted, you can treat them just like any other bunch of songs on your computer.
5. On Computer A create a playlist of songs that are stored on Computer B. Either configure Autofill to choose songs from that playlist or delete some songs from the shuffle and drag those new songs onto the shuffle’s icon in iTunes’ Source list.
The songs will be copied across the network and moved to the shuffle, but not to Computer A. Computer A acts only as a conduit between Computer B and the shuffle.
The catch to all this is that moving music to the shuffle across a network can be painfully slow if that network is slow. Hardly a perfect solution, I’ll grant you, but given the shuffle’s limitations, it’s one of the few we have.