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Married with iPods, Part 1: I hate your music

CNET's Donald Bell offers some tips for families syncing two or more iPods on a single computer.

Photo of laptop, iTunes, and three iPods.
Managing two or more people's music in a single iTunes library can get messy. In the distance, you can see the CD rack that once made things so simple. Donald Bell/CNET Networks

Back in the CD era, it was easy to keep my wife's music collection separated from my own. We kept my CDs on one side of the shelf and her CDs on the other side, and the few CDs we both enjoyed would sit somewhere in the middle. The territorial lines were easy to maintain, and for the most part, music was never an issue in our house.

In the MP3 era, however, everything's become more complicated. We have a central home computer that hosts our collective iTunes music library. Unfortunately, the CD shelf system we've relied on for years doesn't translate on the computer. Her Tori Amos and Fiona Apple are right up next to my Squarepusher and Black Keys, and our iPods don't include a "his and her" music feature.

Photo of Tori Amos album.
Need a way to filter your family's egregious music taste from your iPod? Click here for a step-by-step tutorial.

Granted, we could have made separate user profiles on our PC with individual iTunes music libraries, but that would make it hard to share the music we have in common. (Editor's note: stay tuned for more on this approach, next week.) We also considered setting up our iPods to manually sync music instead of syncing automatically, but neither of us have the time to carefully groom our iPod's music collection and the extra step of manually ejecting our iPods each day can be a pain. We just want our shelf back.

Fortunately, I found a solution that worked for us. By setting up a couple Smart playlists, we made iTunes intelligent enough to reliably keep the worst parts of her music collection off my iPod, and vice-versa. Unlike typical playlist techniques, which create lists of music you enjoy, the beauty of this system is that it works off the music you hate--which is much more fun. If you're interested, I've put together a step-by-step slideshow on how it's all done.

If you've got your own method of maintaining peace with multiple iPods and a communal iTunes music library, help us all out by sharing it in the comments section.

Read part 2 of Married with iPods