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Transferring purchased content between iTunes accounts

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Q: My husband and I share a computer but use separate iTunes libraries. He recently purchased a CD from the iTunes Store that I really want to add to my library. Is there an easy way to do this?

- Cathy

A: Although the term “easy” may be subjective in this case, you can simply transfer the tracks out of your husband’s iTunes library and import them into your own.

The simplest way to do this is to use an intermediate folder that you both have access to, and drag the tracks out of his iTunes library into that folder. You can do this directly from within iTunes itself by highlighting all of the tracks in question (you may want to build a playlist of them to make this process easier), and simply dragging them out of the iTunes window and dropping them into a Windows Explorer folder. This will copy the selected tracks into that folder.

You can then log out of his iTunes library and into your own and import the tracks from that folder either by dragging them back in, or by using the File, Add Folder to Library menu option and selecting the folder containing the tracks that you previously copied out. Note that this will, by default, copy these tracks into your iTunes folder, so you will have to remove them from the intermediate folder when you have finished importing them. Alternatively, if you’re comfortable with Windows Explorer or Finder, and don’t mind browsing through the file system, you can import the tracks directly from your husband’s iTunes music folder itself, rather than taking the intermediate step of copying them out of iTunes. By default, each of your music folders should be located in your user profile’s “My Music” folder, in the iTunes subfolder, under “iTunes Music.”

Another option, if you’re both using iPods and iTunes 7 is that you can simply connect his iPod to your iTunes library. iTunes will prompt you with a warning indicating that the iPod is already synced to another iTunes library, but will also provide you with the option to transfer purchases from his iPod back to your iTunes library. Keep in mind that this will transfer all of the iTunes Store purchased music that is on his iPod that is not already in your iTunes library, however.

You can also access this option once his iPod is connected by right-clicking on the iPod itself and choosing “Transfer Purchases.” If the “Transfer Purchases” option does not appear when you connect his iPod, it is most likely because your own iTunes library is not authorized with the same iTunes Store account as his. You can manually authorize your library to play these songs by selecting Store, Authorize Computer from the iTunes menu. 

Keep in mind that either of these methods will create multiple copies of these tracks, since they will be imported into your own iTunes music folder. If you want to actually share the same music files between different libraries to conserve disk space, you may want to consider either storing them in a common folder on your hard disk for both iTunes libraries, or in the very least importing them and accessing them directly from your husband’s iTunes music folders. You can accomplish this by turning OFF the Copy files to iTunes Music folder when adding to library option, which can be found in iTunes’ advanced preferences under iTunes/Edit, Preferences, Advanced, and then adding the tracks to your library directly from the location where they are originally stored. You will still have separate libraries in terms of the “metadata” such as ratings, playlists, play counts, and so forth, but will be using the same underlying music files, avoiding the need for two different copies to be stored on your computer.

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