Q: My daughter, my wife, and I all have an iTunes account. All three of us are using the same computer and each of us has a separate iTunes library loaded on the same computer. This setup uses lots of memory. Is it possible to load one version of iTunes onto an external hard drive and still have our own separate accounts?
A: You can definitely share the same iTunes library across more than one user account on your operating system as well as having multiple iTunes Store accounts for the same iTunes library.
To consolidate your library, you can either use an external hard drive or even a shared folder on your internal hard drive that all users have access to (ie, C:Music). You can start by moving one of your three iTunes libraries to this shared location—detailed instructions on how to do this can be found in our iPod 201 article on Transferring your iTunes Library.
Once you have moved the first library to a shared location, the next step will be to export the information from your other two iTunes libraries so that you can consolidate all of your information into the new, primary library. You can export each library to an XML file by choosing File, Library, Export Library from the iTunes menu and specifying a location for your library XML file. This XML file can then be imported into your new, main iTunes library by using the File, Library, Import Playlist option.
Following the import of these XML files, running the “Consolidate Library” option, as described in the article above, will then bring all of your music from the other libraries into the single “iTunes Music” folder used by the primary library.
Alternatively, if your ratings, playlists and play counts from the other libraries are not critically important, you could instead choose to simply add the media content from the other libraries into your new, primary iTunes library by using the File, Add to Library function in the iTunes menu and simply pointing at the other media files.
Note that in either case, if you had a lot of the same music across your three iTunes libraries, you will end up with duplicates in your new, consolidated library. You can track these down by using the File, Show Duplicates option in iTunes or by using a third-party application such as Dupe Eliminator for iTunes.
On the other hand, if you find that your media content is almost entirely identical across all three libraries, then it may be simpler to just determine which few songs are not in your main library and import those manually.
Once you’ve consolidated all of your music into a single iTunes library, simply ensure that all three user accounts are pointing to the same iTunes library in the shared location. This can be done by holding down the SHIFT key when starting iTunes, which will present a dialog box asking you to either create or choose a new iTunes library to use. Simply click “Choose Library” and browse to the path where your new, shared iTunes library is stored.
Note that although iTunes can easily support all of your family’s iPods from a single library you may want to set up synchronization using “Selected Playlists” to determine which music is synchronized to each iPod. It is also important to note that if you are automatically synchronizing all of your iPods to the same iTunes library, information such as ratings, play counts and last played dates will be shared across all three users, so when one family member listens to a song on their iPod, the play count and last played date will get updated for everybody.
Q: I use three iPods (a fourth-generation iPod nano, a second-generation iPod touch, and an 80 GB iPod classic) with a single copy of iTunes running on a desktop Dell. The main library is synched in its entirety to the 80 GB classic. I have separate smaller libraries for the nano and the touch, selected upon iTunes startup (by holding down the shift key, which lets me specify which to launch). I do all new purchases in the main library and then manually copy the songs/folders to the smaller libraries. Is there an automatic way to have all new purchases appear in all three libraries? I can’t just add the “Purchases” folder because it doesn’t appear when I view the iTunes folder, either in iTunes itself via the “Add Folder” option or in Windows Explorer. Any ideas?
A: Although your playlists in iTunes are not represented in the underlying file system, you can actually copy tracks directly from iTunes itself to another folder simply by selecting them in your iTunes window and then dragging and dropping the selected tracks to a folder in Windows Explorer. iTunes will copy all of the selected tracks to the destination folder.
Therefore, in this case you could simply highlight the newly-added tracks in your “Purchased” playlist, drag-and-drop them to another folder, and then add them to your other iTunes libraries from there.
That having been said, however, it sounds like you may be over-complicating your iTunes setup. There is rarely a need to configure separate, smaller libraries to support lower-capacity iPods and maintain a separate media collection for each. Instead, you could synchronize all of your iPods to the same iTunes library and set up playlist sets for your lower-capacity iPods.
Each iPod you connect to iTunes has its own synchronization preferences, independent of any other iPods that you may be syncing to the same library. Among these preferences is the ability to synchronize only selected playlists rather than your entire iTunes library.
So in this case, you would simply set up a series of playlists to use on your iPod nano and iPod touch, containing all of the music and other media content that you want synchronized to these devices. Once you have these playlists setup, simply connect each of your iPods to your computer, select them from the Devices list in iTunes, and choose the “Music” tab to configure which playlists you would like to synchronize to that specific iPod. iTunes will sync only the content listed in those playlists to that particular iPod, and you would manage which tracks you want on your iPod simply by modifying the content of those selected playlists.
Note that the same method can be used for synchronizing movies and TV shows to your iPod—simply choose the Movies or TV Shows tabs, respectively, and choose either the individual Movies or TV Shows you wish to sync by title, or choose to sync by playlist and select the playlists containing the movies or TV shows you would like to sync to your device.
Since you would be using a single iTunes library in this case, you have the advantage of reducing the amount of storage required on your computer as well as being able to share other metadata such as ratings and play counts across all of your iPod devices.
Further, you would be better able to take advantage of Smart Playlists to help manage the content on each of your iPods. A Smart Playlist is basically just a saved search where all tracks meeting the search criteria are included in a dynamically-updated playlist. For instance, if you wanted all newly-purchased content to be automatically synced to all three iPods without having to worry about adding the tracks to device-specific playlists, you could easily use the built-in “Recently Added” Smart Playlist or create your own variation on it to limit the scope by size.