Sharing iTunes libraries between two user accounts

Q: My wife and I each have an iPhone 3G. We have separate user accounts on the same Windows XP computer. This makes it possible to sync contacts separately and this is working fine. We want to share the same iTunes media. As the original user, I have put my iTunes media folder in D:ChuckiTunes. When my wife logs in, launches iTunes and uses Edit -> Preferences -> Advanced to set the media location for iTunes, in the iTunes Media browser (ex: Music) the music does not show up. Can you help by telling me what I’m doing wrong. I thought that simply setting the Media location to the same folder would make the same music available to both iPhones.

– Chuck

A: When you are using two separate user accounts on your computer, each account gets its own iTunes library database by default. This database is where the list of files in your iTunes library is stored, along with other metadata about them such as ratings, playlists, play counts, and so forth. Your actual music files can be stored anywhere, but unless they’ve been specifically imported into your iTunes library database, they will not appear in iTunes itself. Therefore, in this case setting the iTunes Music Folder on your wife’s account to be the same location as your music doesn’t bring any of that music into her database unless she specifically imports it into iTunes.

There are two options for how you can deal with this, depending upon how much of your library data you want to share between both accounts. If you want to continue maintaining separate playlists, ratings and play counts, then you will want to maintain two separate library databases and just store the actual media files in a common location. In this case, after changing the iTunes Music Folder path in the Advanced preferences, as you’ve described above, your wife can use the File, Add to Library option in iTunes and choose the iTunes Media folder to import all of the files from that location into her own iTunes library database.

Alternatively, if you want to share the same playlists and other library data, you can easily transfer your iTunes library database to a common location on your hard drive, and then point iTunes under each user account to use the library database in that location. You can tell iTunes to create a new library database or choose one from another location simply by holding down the SHIFT key (Windows) or OPT key (Mac) while starting iTunes. This will present a dialog box giving you the opportunity to either create a new, empty library database or to choose a library database that is stored somewhere else on your computer.

Sharing iTunes libraries between two user accounts

More information on managing and transferring your iTunes library can be found in our article on Transferring your iTunes Library.


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