Set Your iPod Preferences

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If you enjoy doing things your own way, you're in luck. iTunes allows you to change some of its settings to your own liking. If you followed our instructions to make iTunes automatically fill up your iPod, you're already a little familiar with iTunes preferences. If you'd like to have your way with some other options, here's an overview of the preferences you can set.

  • Mac users—From the iTunes menu, choose Preferences.
  • Windows users—On the Edit menu, click Preferences.

The iTunes preferences dialog features a bunch of tabs up top (on a Mac, they look more like icon buttons)—General, Podcasts, Playback, Sharing, Store, Advanced, and Parental Control. Some of these tabs even feature their own set of subtabs. Here's a look at what you can set in each of these preference panes.


The General pane in iTunes preferences lets you choose various iTunes display options, as shown on a Mac (left) and in Windows (right).

This pane allows you to set how and what iTunes displays, and enable or disable some of its functionality. In the upper part of the pane, you can change the size of the display text by choosing either Small or Large from the Source Text and Song Text pop-up (drop-down in Windows) menus. By default, iTunes displays "Party Shuffle," "Radio," and "Videos" in the Source pane. If you don't want to see one or more of these items, deselect the respective Show checkbox.

The middle part of the pane lets you decide whether iTunes shows genres and compilations columns in the browser (click the Browse button in the upper-right corner of the iTunes window to display the browser). You can also choose whether or not to have iTunes display the arrow links in the song list pane that link to the iTunes Store. You can also choose whether to show content ratings in the library, whether to automatically download missing album artwork—you must have an iTunes account for this—and whether or not to remember the view setting for each source.

For video playback, choose the "Play videos" checkbox to allow iTunes to play videos (by default, videos play in the artwork and video viewer pane in the main window). If you want to choose another default view for video playback, choose in a separate window or full screen from the pop-up menu.

In the bottom part of the pane, choose the "Check for iTunes update automatically" checkbox (this makes iTunes connect to the Internet) if you want to stay up to date.

Click OK to save your changes or click another tab to set other preferences.


If you've got a passion for podcasts, use the Podcasts pane to set how often iTunes checks for episodes and what to do with them.

If you subscribe to podcasts, click the Podcasts tab to tell iTunes how often to check for episodes and what to do when it finds them. To set how often to check, choose an interval from the Check for new episodes pop-up menu (drop-down in Windows). You can choose Every hour, Every day, Every week, or Manually.

To set what iTunes does when it finds episodes, choose an action from the When new episodes are available pop-up menu. You can choose Download all, Download the most recent one, or Do nothing (you can manually download episodes by clicking the Get button next to an episode when you choose Podcasts in the iTunes Source pane).

You can make iTunes do a little housekeeping—or not—by choosing how many episodes you want iTunes to keep from the Keep pop-up menu. You can choose All episodes, All unplayed episodes, Most recent episode, Last 2 episodes, Last 3 episodes, Last 4 episodes, Last 5 episodes, or Last 10 episodes. If you need to reconfigure which podcasts get copied to your iPod, click OK to close preferences, click your iPod under DEVICES in the Source pane, and then use the Podcasts tab to change sync options.

Click OK to save your changes or click another tab to set other preferences.


Use the Playback pane to set sound preferences in iTunes on a Mac (left) or in Windows (right).

iTunes has a few audio features that you can set to your liking; just click the Playback tab. Choose the "Crossfade playback" checkbox, which fades out the ending of a song while fading in the beginning of another—kind of like what you'd hear on the radio or at a dance club. Use the slider to set how many seconds of overlap you want. You may want to test out your timing with a few songs—too much overlap between two distinctly different songs can sound odd.

If you choose the "Sound Enhancer" checkbox, iTunes "enhances" the sound of your audio files by increasing the treble and bass response, depending on how you set the slider. Think of it kind of like the "Loudness" button found on an old home stereo system, but adjustable. If you move the slider toward the "high" end, iTunes boosts more of the equalization, meaning things will generally sound punchier and crisper. If you move it towards the "low" end, iTunes will decrease the same frequencies.

If the volume in your songs, audiobooks, and podcasts are all over the map, choose the Sound Check checkbox, which adjusts all audio files so that they have the same playback volume. If you want songs on your iPod to also play at the same volume level as each other, be sure to choose this option and let iTunes adjust your music library before you copy the songs to your iPod.

For those times when you shuffle your music (as opposed to choosing songs or playing a playlist), you can give iTunes a few pointers on how to handle the mix by using the Smart Shuffle setting to dictate how likely you are to hear songs by the same artist or album in a row. You can also tell iTunes what type of items to shuffle. Choose Songs to have iTunes play random songs. Choose Albums to have iTunes play all songs on an album in order and then choose the next album randomly. Or choose Groupings to have iTunes play all songs of a grouping in order and then choose another grouping randomly.

Click OK to save your changes or click another tab to set other preferences.


Want to share your tunes with friends, family, or coworkers connected to your network? Just enable sharing in the Sharing pane.

If your computer is connected to a local network—either wired or wireless—you can not only share your music with others (up to five computers at a time), you can play music found in your fellow iTunes sharers' libraries too. (Make sure that you're using iTunes 4.5 or later.)

If you want to be able to look through other people's iTunes music and play their tunes (they must be using iTunes 4.5 or later, have sharing turned on, and be on the same local network as you), choose the "Look for shared music" checkbox. You can then access all shared libraries or playlists by choosing the name of a sharer's collection in the iTunes Source pane.

If you want to share your stuff, choose the "Share my music" checkbox, then choose either the "Share entire library" radio button to share everything, or choose the "Share selected playlists" radio button to share only the playlists you choose below that option (if you've got a few "guilty pleasures" in your library, you can avoid embarrassment by sharing only selected playlists). Type a name for your shared collection in the "Shared name" field. If you want to control who has access to your tunes, choose the "Require password" checkbox, then type a password in the field (give this password to your chosen ones for access).

Click OK to save your changes or click another tab to set other preferences.


Planning a music shopping spree? Set your iTunes Store purchasing preferences in the Store pane.

Whether you want to shop for tunes or simply preview albums for sale, you'll find various iTunes Store options in the Store pane. If you have an iTunes Store account (we show you how to set one up in "How To Set Up an iTunes Store Account" if you don't), you can make the purchasing process easier by choosing the "Buy and download using 1-Click" radio button, which lets you buy tunes and download them to your iTunes library with a single click of a button. Or you may prefer to avoid "accidental" purchases by choosing the "Buy using a Shopping Cart" radio button, which lets you buy music in a more traditional online purchase environment.

If you just have to be the first on your block with new music and videos, and have pre-orders set-up, or subscriptions to seasons passes, you can see iTunes to automatically download these purchases as soon as they are available, just check “Automatically download pre-purchased content”.

To have iTunes automatically create playlists when buying song collections, choose the aptly named checkbox. If you want to hear your song once it's done downloading, choose the "Play songs after downloading" checkbox. If you're browsing the iTunes Store over a slower Internet connection such as a dial-up modem (a broadband connection is highly recommended), choosing the "Load complete preview before playing" checkbox can improve playback when you preview songs in the store.

Click OK to save your changes or click another tab to set other preferences.


The Advanced pane contains an assortment of user-adjustable settings for managing, importing, and burning your music.

The Advanced pane features a number of settings that let you control how iTunes manages (or doesn't manage) your music, imports your audio files, and burns stuff to disc. It's divided into three sections—General, Importing, and Burning.


Click the Advanced tab and then click the General tab below it to view the management and playback settings. In the top boxed-out part of the pane, iTunes displays the path to the location where your iTunes Music folder lives. If you want to change the location, click the Change button. In the resulting window, navigate to and choose a location, then click Choose. To return the iTunes Music folder back to the original location, click the Reset button.

If you want iTunes to automatically manage your music whenever you import tracks from CDs or add files to your iTunes library, choose the "Keep iTunes Music folder organized" checkbox. iTunes will create a folder hierarchy of artist and album names that contains all relevant audio files with the correct track names and order. To keep all your music in one place instead of having iTunes point to various files all over your hard drive, choose the "Copy files to iTunes Music folder when adding to library" checkbox.

On a Mac, if you want to use iTunes for all Internet music playback, click the Set button. On Windows, choose the "Use iTunes as the default player for audio files" checkbox if that's what you desire.

Depending on your Internet connection speed, you may want to choose a different buffer size from the Streaming Buffer Size pop-up (drop-down in Windows) menu; you can choose Small, Medium (the default), or Large. If you have a slower connection (such as with a dial-up modem), choose Large to improve playback; the audio stream will take longer to start playing, but the playback should be smoother. If you have a fast Internet connection (such as with a DSL or cable modem), choose Small to start streaming content playback more quickly.

If you have an AirPort Express, choose the "Look for remote speakers connected with AirTunes" checkbox to display a speakers pop-up menu at the bottom of the iTunes window. You can then choose any stereo system you've connected to AirPort Express from this menu to stream your iTunes music. You can also choose the checkbox below this option if you want to control volume from the remote speaker source instead of from iTunes.

Windows users can also choose the "Show iTunes icon in system tray" checkbox and "Minimize iTunes window to system tray" checkbox if you'd prefer to stash iTunes there whenever you minimize the window.

If you use the visualizer regularly, you can set how much eye-candy it provides by controlling the visualizer screen size. Set Visualizer Size to Small, Medium, or Large, or check “Display Visualizer full screen”.

Click OK to save your changes or click another tab to set other preferences.


The Importing pane in Advanced preferences lets you control the format and quality of your imported or converted audio.

We showed you how to use the Importing pane in "Syncing Music to iPod," but we'll give you a little overview of it again here if you don't want to jump back. Just click the Importing tab in the Advanced pane.

If you want to copy songs from an audio CD (aka rip tunes), the Importing pane lets you set what file format to convert the songs to and the quality. The b pop-up menu (drop-down in Windows) allows you to choose what iTunes should do when you insert an audio CD into your computer. Choose Show Songs to have iTunes simply display the songs on the CD in its interface, choose Begin Playing to also make iTunes start playing the CD, choose Import Songs to have iTunes import all songs from the CD into your iTunes library, or choose Import Songs and Eject to have iTunes import all songs from the CD into your iTunes library and then eject the CD from your computer when it's done.

To set an importing file format, choose a format from the Import Using pop-up menu; you can choose AAC Encoder (the default), AIFF Encoder, Apple Lossless Encoder, MP3 Encoder, or WAV Encoder. Each of these encoders offers differences in sound quality and file size (AIFF and WAV offer the best sound quality, but the files are substantially larger than the other formats). For more information about these encoders, see "About import settings and hard disk space" in the iTunes Help guide (choose iTunes and iTunes Store Help from the Help menu in iTunes).

The Setting pop-up menu allows you to set a quality for the encoding, depending on the file format you chose (the current settings are displayed in the Details pane). You can leave it at the default setting if you wish, choose a higher or lower quality (if applicable), or choose Custom to make your own settings. Keep in mind that the higher you set the Stereo Bit Rate and Sample Rate, the better quality sound you'll get—at the expense of a larger file size.

If you want to set your own sample and bit rates, choose Custom from the Setting menu, then choose your preferences

If you want to hear the songs as iTunes imports them, choose the "Play songs while importing" checkbox. If you want to make sure you get the correct track names for your tunes, choose the “Automatically retrieve CD Track names from Internet”. If you want your song files to appear in the correct order when viewing them in a window, choose the "Create file names with track number" checkbox (otherwise, they may be listed alphabetically or in some other set order). If your newly ripped songs don't sound right, choose the "Use error correction when reading Audio CDs" checkbox and then re-rip the CD.

Click OK to save your changes or click another tab to set other preferences.


To create an audio CD, MP3 CD, or burn files to a CD or DVD, use the Burning pane to choose your options.

iTunes allows you to burn audio CDs that can be played in any CD player, MP3 CDs that can be played in any system that can read MP3 discs, and data CDs and DVDs (great for backing up your music) that you can access on a computer. If you're creating an audio CD, you'll need to create a playlist of the songs you wish to burn to actually burn the disc.

Click the Burning tab in the Advanced pane to view your options. The pane displays your computer's CD or DVD drive next to "CD Burner." You can choose how fast you want your drive to write a disc from the Preferred Speed pop-up menu (drop-down in Windows); for example, choose Maximum Possible to have your drive write content at its top speed for the disc. Select the type of disc you want from the "Disc Format" options—"Audio CD," "MP3 CD," or "Data CD or DVD."

If you choose the Audio CD radio button, you can set how much of a gap to place between songs. Just choose an interval from the Gap Between Songs pop-up menu (the default is 2 seconds); for live albums or audio that plays continuously through multiple tracks, choose none to nix all gaps. If you want to have all songs play back at the same volume, choose the "Use Sound Check" checkbox.

Click OK to save your changes or click another tab to set other preferences.

Parental Control

If you're a parent, you can enforce your parental control over what your kids can access in iTunes. You must be an administrator of the computer on which you're laying down the law.

iTunes 6 and later features Parental Control, which allows you to set some restrictions on accessible content in iTunes. Just click the Parental tab on a Mac or the Parental Control tab in Windows to view your options.

If you'd like to disable podcasts, radio, the iTunes Store, or shared music (or any combination of the four), choose the appropriate checkbox to disable the selection. If you allow trips to the iTunes Store but want to bar explicit content from enticing young minds, choose the "Restrict explicit content" checkbox next to iTunes Store. (These albums will still appear in the store, but you won't be able to preview or purchase items that are marked as being explicit.) Likewise, if you’d like to restrict the movies or TV Shows1 that can be downloaded to certain ratings, check the “Restrict movies to” or “Restrict TV Shows to” checkboxes and choose a rating from the drop-down menus.

To lock your changes in place, click the lock icon. In the resulting dialog, type in your administrator password, then click OK. If you ever need to update your controls, click the locked icon and then type your administrator password when prompted to access the controls again.

Click OK to save your changes or click another tab to set other preferences.

1. Some features for the iTunes Store mentioned in these lessons are not available in all stores, including AOL login, TV shows, and movies.
Published Date: Feb 18, 2012