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Remote Home Shared Library in Play Only Mode
By Jesse Hollington | 04.19.13

Q: I have four computers authorized for Home Sharing, and when accessing my other libraries, two of the three icons that show up are like a little house, while the other one is like a little musical note in a square box. When I try to access the library of the one with the musical note, I don’t get a show menu line at the bottom of the screen; no import box or anything else. How can I fix this so it functions like the other ones? I tried logging in and out of Home Sharing but it didn’t work.

- Steve

A: What you’re seeing here is a remote library using the older “play only” library sharing mode that pre-dates the iTunes Home Sharing feature. iTunes has long provided library sharing that allowed other users to play content from your library without allowing it to be transferred to other computers. This type of shared library could be seen by anybody running iTunes on the same network and has often been used in work and school environments to share libraries among friends. The idea here was to allow other users to listen to your content while avoiding music piracy issues.

Home Sharing changed this by using an Apple ID to authenticate library sharing between computers owned by the same user, thereby allowing copying of tracks while limiting the options for piracy by limiting it to only libraries logged in with the appropriate Apple ID.

Normally, when Home Sharing has been enabled on a computer, it overrides the older library sharing mode between all computers where Home Sharing is enabled. Note that it is possible to use both together, however; computers that are not authorized as part of the same Home Sharing account will see the remote library in the older sharing mode. You can configure this sharing mode from the Sharing section in your iTunes Preferences.

Note that the settings on this screen have absolutely no bearing on Home Sharing, so you may want to disable this feature on the problem computer entirely just to attempt to narrow things down. Most likely this will cause the library to disappear from your shared list entirely, but in some cases we’ve seen it fix the problem and allow the library to appear properly.

Note that logging in and out of Home Sharing on the computer where you’re seeing the shared library won’t help, as the issue is likely that the remote shared library isn’t presenting itself to Home Sharing properly. What you’ll need to do to force it to re-register for Home Sharing is turn OFF Home Sharing on the computer that actually hosts the problem shared library by going to the File, Home Sharing menu in iTunes 11. If you are still using an older version of iTunes, this option can be found under the Advanced menu. Once you’ve done this, turn Home Sharing back ON using the same menu option, and ensure that you’re signing in with the same Apple ID used on your other computers.

If you’ve done this and the library still isn’t appearing properly, be sure you’re not running Windows or Mac firewall software that may be blocking the ports that iTunes wants to use for Home Sharing. This is unlikely in this case as standard iTunes library sharing uses the same ports, so if these were blocked you probably wouldn’t see the shared library at all in either mode, but it’s worth checking just to make sure. The easiest way to troubleshoot this is to disable any firewall software, whether it’s third-party or the built-in Windows or Mac firewall feature, and see if the library appears properly. If it does, either leave the firewall disabled, or reconfigure it to ensure that TCP port 3689 and UDP port 5353 are both open.

One other issue that can hang up iTunes Home Sharing is having the date and time set incorrectly on one of your computers; the encryption used by iTunes relies on the date and time being reasonably in sync between libraries, so if two computers are off by more than a few minutes, it can cause the Home Sharing connections to fail. Most modern Mac and Windows computers should provide an option to set the time automatically via the Internet, which is probably the best way to ensure that everything is in sync.

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