I’ve had several people ask me over the past few months how they can share or synchronize their iTunes libraries across all the user accounts on their home computers. This is a complicated affair, and there are different ways to accomplish these goals, depending on what the user ultimately wants. At this point, I don’t pretend to have all the solutions, so if you have a better way to do this, please let everyone know in the comments. I’ll continue to look for other, reasonable solutions for sharing iTunes libraries.
With that in mind, this guide is intended to help you make available your iTunes library to everyone else on your computer so that they do not have to re-import the hundreds of CDs you’ve already added (which allows you to save on hard drive space). This solution does not allow you to “synchronize” the accounts, but you could choose to manually drag and drop new music that someone else has added.
Note: This guide will cause your iTunes library and all of its music to change locations on your hard drive. The worst case scenario is data loss. While this normally goes smoothly, please make sure you have a backup of your music before you do this.
Changing Your iTunes Library Location
The first thing we have to do is get the place where you store your iTunes music to be outside of your user’s folder. This is because other people do not have access to your account folder. By default, your iTunes Music folder is inside your Music folder inside your account folder. We are going to move it to the computer’s Shared folder.
First, open up iTunes and click on Preferences in the iTunes menu. You’ll get a screen like this:
At the top of the screen, you need to click on the Advanced tab. From here, click the Change… button to bring up a window allowing you to select a new location for the iTunes Music library. That window should look like this:
From here, we want to navigate all the way back to the top level of your hard drive. I clicked on “Macintosh HD” in the Sidebar. This shows you the level of the hard drive with the “Applications” folder, along with the “Users” folder, which you want to click on. From there, click on the “Shared” folder. Once you’ve done that, click on the New Folder button to create a new folder inside the Shared folder (I chose to call it “iTunes Music”).
Consolidating Your Library
Click OK three times to get out of the preferences and back to your iTunes window. What we have done is here is told iTunes you want all of your new music to go into the folder you created in the Shared folder (which everyone can access). But how do we get your existing music into that folder AND have iTunes know about it? Simple: we consolidate your library.
Go to the File menu, select Library, and from there, select Consolidate Library. iTunes will ask you if you are sure you want to consolidate your library. Be sure you are ready for all of your music to change locations and continue with the consolidation. Depending on the size of your iTunes library and the speed of your hard drive, this could take a few seconds or 30 minutes. iTunes will provide you with a progress bar.
Getting Everyone Else Set Up
You’ve done your part. You’ve made your music accessible. So how can others access your music? Well, you’ve got two choices: Do you want their iTunes libraries to also be in that shared music folder (so that you can add their music), or do you just want to make your music available to them?
If the answer is the latter, all you have to do is show them the shared music folder you’ve created. All the music inside that folder will be organized by artist and album, allowing those users to drag and drop music onto their iTunes windows from this folder. This will add the music to their library. However, this will copy the music into their music folders, meaning you’ll lose valuable hard drive space. If you don’t want this to happen, you’ll need to change one check box in their iTunes preferences:
Back in your other users’ iTunes Preferences, select Advanced and then de-select the option to “Copy files to iTunes Music folder when adding to library.” By doing this, other users will just link to your music, not copy it. When they import CDs, however, the music will get added to their libraries, just as it should.
If you do want, however, new music other users import to be put into the shared folder, do not do the above step of de-selecting the option to copy files to the iTunes Music folder. Instead, you must repeat the steps in Changing Your iTunes Library Location from above for each user. That way,their iTunes Music library is also the shared folder, and whenever they import new music, it will be stored there.
Both you and the other users will have to manually check the iTunes Music folder to add new music (the albums won’t magically appear in iTunes), BUT this solution does provide one centralized location for music that everyone can access, giving all users the chance to add each other’s music while minimizing hard drive consumption. I hope this helps.
But did this guide actually help? Have you run into problems with the solution? Do you have a better way of doing this? Let others know in the comments.