Sharing an iTunes library between multiple users on the same computer


Q: I am trying to share my music library between two users on the same computer. I have followed your instructions from your 04-24 article, as well as your ‘Transferring your iTunes Library’ iPod 201 article. The end result is always the same. The library (after being moved) remains visible on the login on which I made the move, however, I cannot see it from the other user’s login. I’ve tried to consolidate the library etc. but the only way I can access the files is to import them again under the second login. This doesn’t result in duplicate files, but it seems to add them to the iTunes library. This is fine, but I have to do this every time I get new music. I must be doing something wrong, but what?

Sharing an iTunes library between multiple users on the same computer

– Christopher

A: It sounds like the step that you’re missing here is actually copying the iTunes library database either to the new user’s profile, or to a common location that both users can access.

How you should handle the iTunes database depends largely on whether you want to share all iTunes-related information, such as ratings, play counts and play lists, or whether you’re only looking to share the music content itself and keep your other metadata separate.

If you want to share your entire library between both users, including all of your metadata, then you need to move your main “iTunes” folder, located under your user profile’s “My Music” folder to a common location, such as C:\iTunes. Since your media content is also stored under this folder, you’ll also need to update the location of the “iTunes Music” folder in your Advanced preferences within iTunes itself.

Sharing an iTunes library between multiple users on the same computer

Once you’ve moved this folder to the new location, you need to point iTunes itself to this new folder within each user account. To do this, hold down the SHIFT key (Windows) or OPT key (Mac) while starting iTunes and you will be presented with a dialog box that provides you with the option to either choose or create a library.


Sharing an iTunes library between multiple users on the same computer

Select “Choose Library” and browse to the new location of your main iTunes folder (ie, C:\iTunes). This will open the iTunes library database and related support files from the new location. Note that you will need to take this step in both user accounts to point them to your new iTunes folder, since iTunes will want to create a new library under “My Music” by default. Once you have redirected iTunes to use the new path in each account, however, it will continue to do use that location unless you change it again by following the above steps and choosing a new location.

Note that if you’re sharing the same iTunes library database, you need to be careful about using features such as Fast User Switching and having iTunes open in both accounts. iTunes is not designed for multi-user access, and having two copies of the iTunes application actively running against the same database could result in database corruption. If you’re using Fast User Switching on your computer, always ensure that you shut down iTunes in one user account before opening it in the other one.

If you want to maintain separate ratings, play lists, and play counts for each user, then your best option is to simply create a new library database under the second user account and import the music and other media content manually. You can, however, start with a copy of the initial iTunes library database simply by copying your “iTunes” folder from your primary user account over to the “My Music” folder of the secondary user account.


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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.