How to Use iTunes With Multiple Users

Posted by AfroWhitey | Computers,How-to | Thursday 21 May 2009 9:42 pm

Everybody has an iPod these days, but managing multiple iPods under a single roof can become quite a chore. Chances are, little Suzie doesn’t want to listen to Dad’s Led Zeppelin box set and Dad certainly doesn’t want to fill up his iPod with the latest Jonas Brothers albums and videos. Creating playlists and dragging songs over manually can be a real pain, so one of the most common questions I get is, “Is there any way to give everyone separate iTunes libraries using a single computer?” The answer is yes, and I’m going to break it down so you can do it yourself.

Step 1: Make Sure You Have the Latest Version of iTunes – This can be done by either going to the iTunes download page and checking the latest version against your version (found under “About iTunes” in the iTunes menu), or by clicking “Check for Updates” in the iTunes menu. These instructions should work for iTunes 7 and above.

Step 2: Create a New iTunes Library – This part can be a little tricky. Make sure iTunes is closed and then you can either hold down “shift” (“option” on a Mac) while you double-click the iTunes icon, or you can click on the iTunes icon, then hold down “shift” (“option” on a Mac) and press enter. A dialogue box should then pop up (don’t let go of “shift,” or “option,” until you see the dialogue box. If iTunes opens up without the dialogue box, try again), giving you 3 options: “Quit,” “Create Library,” and “Choose Library.”

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Click on “Create Library,” and a new window will pop up asking you to name your library.

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You want to choose a name that’s very specific to your library so it’ll be easy to find later on, like “Suzies Music,” or “Dads Library,” or “Mom’s Shuffle.” You also want to make sure you save it in the same place as your regular old library. In Windows, this is usually in “C:\Documents and Settings\username\My Documents\My Music\iTunes\” On a Mac, this is usually in “Music\iTunes Music\iTunes” and you will need to click the “down arrow” next to the file name to enable folder browsing. A new, empty iTunes library will then open up.

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Congratulations, you now have your own, private library.

Step 3: Add Your Tunes – Now comes the fun part. Now you get to browse through all your music files and pick the exact tunes you want to listen to. Go to “File – Add to Library” and a new file browser window will open.

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Go to the folder that contains your music (should be the same general place your libraries were, i.e. “My Music” for PC, “Music-iTunes Music” for Mac by default). If you changed the default music folder and don’t remember what it is now, you may have to do a search for music files. Just search your hard drive for “*.mp3, *.m4a, and *.m4p” for the standard iTunes music files.

Now that you’ve found your music, you have two options for adding the actual files. You can either select all the folders (“Ctrl-a” on PC,” -a” or “command-a” on Mac), hit enter, and delete the files you don’t want from your new library, or you can go through and select all the folders or files you want individually (hold down “alt” on a PC, “” or “command” on a Mac to select multiple files or folders) and hit enter. If you choose to delete the files from your library, make sure you do not send the files to the trash or recycle bin, they would be unusable by other libraries.

Step 4: Quit iTunes and Try Out Your New Digs – You have now succesfully created your own library, but you need to know how to access it in the future. Quit iTunes and do the “shift-double-click(PC)” or “option-double-click(Mac)” maneuver again on the iTunes icon. The old dialogue box will pop up again. This time, click “choose library” and select your new library (everyone who uses iTunes will have to open iTunes this way or it will just open up the last library used).

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You can now use your library as freely as you like. Create your own playlists, get rid of stuff you don’t want, whatever you want to do. When you sync your iPod with the new library however, it will completely erase your iPod and fill it up only with the songs on your new library. If you don’t want this to happen, enable “Manually select files” in the iPod preferences and drag over the songs you want synced.

It is a bit of a pain, but until iTunes comes up with a simpler way, it’s either this or the old-fashioned select-and-drag. There are third-party applications that will manage multiple libraries with a little less hassle, but I’ve never tried any, so I can’t vouch for any of them. A quick google search for “iTunes manager” should turn up a few options. Either way, sit back wipe the sweat off your brow, turn up the volume to Queen’s We are the Champions, and throw back a bottle of your favorite syrup, because you have just conquered the iTunes libraries.

syrup

  • Awesome! I've wondered how to do this, I'm definitely setting this up! Thanks!

  • What do I do if I just got a new computer and iTunes says my account is maxed out. As in it won't let my authorize anymore users…? HELP!

  • Great question! Common problem, here's the answer: http://support.apple.com/kb/HT1420

  • A nice time saver in the file/add to library process is to use the right click. You can select or whole crapload of stuff to add then just right click and select add to library. Woot.

  • I had no idea that I could do this. Hopefully I won't ever have to, though. If my kids ever touch my iTunes…oh boy are they dead meat.

  • Or you could, um, I dunno, just create separate accounts for Mum, Dad, brother and sister?

  • I have a couple of computers and all have iTunes which won't let me use my Ipod on there without deleting what is on my Ipod, so I only use the Ipod on one computer. So even tho I have downloads on the other computers, I have not known how to add it to my Ipod.

    Ipods are great, tho I am a little unsure of all I can do with them.

  • I was actually planning on covering that very scenario in a future post, so stay tuned!

  • True, but then you risk having duplicate files all over your computer. This is just one work around to a complicated problem.

  • sn9500

    Thanks Luke, I look forward to it.

    Cheers 🙂

  • Kate

    Thanks for the help. I started the process but quit before creating a library. I couldn't the the dialog box to reappear. Now I know I wasn't holding the option button down long enough.

  • Kate

    Thanks for the help. I started the process but quit before creating a library. I couldn't the the dialog box to reappear. Now I know I wasn't holding the option button down long enough.