Sharing an iTunes library between a Mac and a PC


Q: My husband, lucky guy, has a MacBook. I have a PC. Our iTunes library is located on another satellite hard disk. Can my husband access the library on his Mac? And, most importantly, can he sync his iPod touch to the library if he wants? Or are we stuck synchronizing only from my PC? Secondly, if we were to sync the iPod touch on my PC, does that mean we could never use it on the Mac? Or can it be reformatted? Thanks for your help.

– Renee

A: It is definitely possible to use the same content on both computers, although you will need to configure a separate iTunes library database on each one, meaning information like playlists and ratings will not be shared.

To share the actual media files, you would simply share them across the network from your Windows PC in the same way as you would share any other folder across the network. Your husband would then import the music from that network share to the iTunes library on his Mac, creating a new iTunes library database in the process, ensuring the “Copy files to iTunes Music folder when adding to library” under advanced preferences in iTunes is disabled. This will tell iTunes to leave the media files in their original locations and reference them from there, rather than making another copy of them on your husband’s MacBook.

The main reason you wouldn’t be able to share the same library database is that Windows and Mac OS X references files in a different manner. For example, on Windows your media might be on the E: drive. Since Mac OS X doesn’t use drive letters, it wouldn’t have the faintest clue where to find the “E:” drive, and therefore wouldn’t be able to find your music files.

In terms of using the iPod touch on both the Mac and Windows computers, this is definitely possible with the newer iPhone OS-based devices. Traditional click wheel iPod models needed to be physically formatted like an external hard disk for a specific operating system, whereas the newer iPhone and iPod touch devices use a completely different synchronization model. You could therefore easily set your iPod touch to manual mode and use it back and forth between both computers without any problems.

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Jesse Hollington

Jesse Hollington was a Senior Editor at iLounge. He's written about Apple technology for nearly a decade and had been covering the industry since the early days of iLounge. In his role at iLounge, he provided daily news coverage, wrote and edited features and reviews, and was responsible for the overall quality of the site's content.