Sharing an iTunes Library on a NAS device

Q: I have an iTunes library stored on a NAS. I bought a new computer and turned on home sharing, but the “sharing” doesn’t show up in iTunes on the new computer, and I can’t locate the library via my home’s wireless network. How can my new computer access the library without copying everything over to the new machine? I want just one library but I want to access the music from all my computers.

– Rob

A: It’s important to keep in mind that iTunes Home Sharing is designed to work between the iTunes applications running on two or more computers, and does not provide any way to access the iTunes library on a NAS device directly. Therefore, to share the iTunes library from your NAS device, you will need to have at least one computer running to “host” the shared iTunes library, regardless of where the actual media files and library database are stored—iTunes basically needs to access your files from the NAS device in much the same way as if they were on a local hard drive, and then makes them available from there via its own Home Sharing protocol.

So in this scenario you first need to enable Home Sharing in iTunes on whatever computer you’re already using for your iTunes library. You can then enable Home Sharing on any additional computers that you want to access the content from your main iTunes library. As long as the primary computer is online and iTunes is running on it, the secondary computers can then access your media content.

Note that Home Sharing is only designed to provide you with the ability to play or copy your content from other computers—it will not allow you to actually manage your library from anywhere other than your primary computer. Essentially, each computer still retains its own iTunes library database, and you can use Home Sharing to playback or copy content between these multiple libraries.

This is particularly important regarding synchronizing iPods and iOS devices, since they will still be associated with the primary computer that stores your actual iTunes library database, and you will need to synchronize them with that computer.

If you’re looking to actually manage your iTunes library from your other computers in terms of features such as creating playlists and modifying track information you will basically need to ensure that your actual iTunes library database is on the NAS device and then configure each computer to use the common library database. This will effectively give you full access to your iTunes library from any of your computers, but it’s important to note that the iTunes database is not designed for multi-user access, so you will only be able to have iTunes open on one computer at a time without risking database corruption and other problems. You can find more information about moving your iTunes library database in our article on Transferring your iTunes Library.

If your primary concern is sharing your music, you may find that Apple’s iTunes Match service provides a possible compromise.