Q. Help! we have 4 ipod owners and one I-tunes library. We have an Ipod touch, iphone, nano and classic (we are a very diverse family). I have heard that we can keep our I tunes library on multiple computers (so each could have their own library), but I’m not sure how to do that, and I am worried about how to manage it. Any suggestions?
A. Many families share a single iTunes account and manage their music by using playlists for each family member. Everyone can customize which apps, podcasts, audiobooks and photos are downloaded to their devices by checking the appropriate boxes on their iTunes home page when their devices are connected.
Your family definitely will have an easier time syncing your devices if your iTunes account resides on only one computer. But I can understand why you might want iTunes to be on several computers for different family members. Families can run into problems with having a single iTunes account on a single computer when a family member moves away (when a child leaves for college, for example) or when a family member travels and wants to take iTunes along on a laptop.
You will be able to have iTunes on separate computers for your family, but you will have to jump through some hoops to move your iTunes content. You will have three options for managing iTunes among your family’s multiple computers.
1.You could share the same iTunes account on different computers. With this method, you will keep one iTunes account and each computer syncs to the same iTunes account. This involves copying your iTunes content to new computers.
To copy an iTunes account to another computer, load iTunes on to the new computer. Log in to your account. This will not put any music onto your computer. The music files are on your iPods and your old computer. If you sync your iPod to the new computer, iTunes music will be copied to the new computer, but not music you have downloaded from places other than iTunes (Amazon, CD’s, etc.), nor playlists, photos or other data.
The best way I have found to transfer iTunes content is to use TouchCopy software from Wide Angle Software. TouchCopy allows you to transfer the contents of any iPod, iPhone or iPad onto your computer. The software is $24.99, but a free trial version is available for 100 tracks and 15 days. If you buy TouchCopy software, you will be able to download it onto multiple computers in your house, so each person can copy the contents of their iPod/iPhone to their computer.
TouchCopy allows you to copy iPod Playlists, Podcasts, Audiobooks, iPhone ringtones, Album Art, Ratings, Play Counts and other song data from your device to your computer. Each user could either download just his songs to his computer or the entire iTunes Library from the family computer to his computer.
This solution works best for iTunes content that doesn’t have to be updated, such as music. For content that requires updating, such as podcasts and apps, this solution becomes trickier. If apps or podcasts are shared by multiple family members, it might be best to update these on the family computer and then sync devices from that computer to make sure everyone gets the updates.
2. Another option is to open separate iTunes accounts for each family member and use Home Sharing to share music and apps between accounts. Home Sharing is a nifty feature of iTunes that was launched about two years ago. Home Sharing allows up to five computers connected to the same Wi-Fi network to share music, apps, movies and tv shows between iTunes accounts. You have to enable Home Sharing on each computer and approve each user, but then each family member will have his/her own iTunes account and can transfer content on their computers and iPods/iPhones. Learn how to use Home Sharing from the Apple website here: Understanding Home Sharing.
This option has several advantages. First, Home Sharing is free. Second, updates to podcasts and apps will be much easier to manage. Each user can update on her device or computer without having to worry about others’ syncing from the same account.
A disadvantage is that you are limited to five computers. If you want to add a sixth computer, you will have to turn off Home Sharing for one of your computers. Also, Home Sharing only works with content purchased from iTunes so you still might need TouchCopy software to transfer other content.
3. Your third option is to wait until September when iOS 5 comes out and iCloud is launched. iCloud will allow Internet connected devices (iPod Touch, iPhone and iPad) to sync to an iTunes account in the Cloud (see, WWDC: A Slice of Apple’s Future ). Your iPod Touch and iPhone will be able to sync to iTunes in the Cloud. This might be a solution for your iPod Touch and iPhone but you will still have to sync your iPod Classic and Nano to a computer. If your iPod Classic and Nano can share a computer, then this might be a good solution for you.
One factor to consider with using iCloud for your family’s iTunes account is that Apple is planning to charge $25 a year if you want to transfer music to iCloud that you haven’t purchased from Apple. Unless someone in your family works for Apple, chances are pretty good that you have music in your iTunes Library that you didn’t purchase from Apple. $25 a year for iCloud makes purchasing Touch Copy software at $25 for a one time fee seem quite inexpensive.
The price of iCloud may be reduced later as Apple competes with Google Music and Amazon’s Cloud Drive, but in September many people will have to decide if they want to make this $25/year investment in iCloud.
What to Do?
You have three options which you should weigh based upon your family’s preferences, cost and time. The first two options will take quite a bit of time to set up. The third option, using iCloud, will take the least amount of time to set up but will be the most expensive in the long run.
Our family does a combination of these. We have three iTunes accounts: One for me, one for my husband and one the children share with playlists for each of them. We use Home Sharing to share music and apps between our devices. I also have TouchCopy to transfer my iTunes content between computers when I upgrade my laptop. I don’t plan on paying $25 to transfer my non-iTunes music to iCloud in September.
Best of luck in making your decision! I hope whatever your family decides to do works well for everyone.
Does your family share an iTunes account? How do you manage your iTunes Libary? Do you have any suggestions for how to manage iTunes on several computers? Let us know in the Comments section below!
* Image by GUM
** Image by psykomaiaque
*** Image by Jonathan Greene