Sharing iTunes between users

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For many people, having multiple users on the same Mac is becoming quite common, especially since the advent of Fast user switching. However, in many cases, it is desirable to only have one common, shared library of music to draw from. Fortunately, this is possible.

Sharing your iTunes Library

  1. Quit iTunes in all user accounts
  2. Open ~/Music/iTunes folder from the Finder
  3. Open the /Users/Shared folder (cmd-shift-G from the Finder)
  4. Move the iTunes Music folder from your Music folder to the common Shared folder (/Users/Shared/)
  5. Get Info (cmd-I) on the iTunes Music folder, and in the Ownership & Permissions sections, change it to "Read & Write" for everyone and click "Apply to Enclosed Items"
  6. Now, make an alias of the iTunes Music folder and put it in ~/Music/iTunes/. This is most easily accomplished by command-option dragging the folder from Shared to your folder . A small arrow indicates an alias.
  7. Switch to each other user, delete* their ~/Music/iTunes/iTunes Music folder, and similarly make an alias to /Users/Shared/iTunes Music/
  8. Optionally, open iTunes in each user account, go to Preferences->Advanced and set the "iTunes Music folder location" to "/Users/Shared/iTunes Music"

It should be noted that the above steps assume that the first user has all the music in their iTunes library. If not, you must merge first.

Merging two user's iTunes libraries into one

While logged in as the user who has the most music, aka the "master"...

  1. Open iTunes, and ensure that iTunes is set to "Copy files to iTunes Music folder when adding to library" (Preferences->Advanced)
  2. Open /Users/[the_other_user]/Music/iTunes*
  3. Drag the iTunes Music folder onto your iTunes

Note: You may need to temporarily change permissions to be able to access other users' music folders.

This is a tricky method when two users have lots of different songs and lots of repeats. You'll have to spend some time "de-duping" your library, and iTunes provides a pretty minimal tool to assist you.


(Author's Note: March 7, 05: I haven't tried these steps explicitly. I will tonight. For example, I don't remember if I did ~/Music/iTunes or ~/Music/iTunes/iTunes Music. I'll remove this note once I verify this method works)