1/3/08: Updated for Windows Vista and clarified the instruction set
so it’s easier to see the intention of each step.
I fully intended on getting Jenn a present for our anniversary. I really
did. I wanted to get her an iPod Shuffle, sort of as a starter MP3
player, since I have an iPod and use iTunes to manage my music library
(and have a lot of AAC encoded music).
I took her to the local Apple store and after seeing all the options,
she determined she wanted a player with a UI (which I can’t really blame
her for). The problem is, the first player up from the Shuffle is the
iPod Mini, which isn’t a bad little player, but for $50 more you can
get a straight-up iPod with five times more space, so why go for the
small one? Then Jenn says she’ll kick in some money to offset, which
puts us into a new price bracket…
…and so the justification goes. Point being, I went in to get her an
iPod Shuffle but walked out handing her my 15GB iPod and buying myself
the 60GB iPod Photo. I’m not sure how that happened, but it did.
Which means now we have two users on a Windows computer, both of whom
want to use the same music library and such. So for folks in a similar
boat, here’s how you do it.
- This is all at your own risk. If it doesn’t work for you, I’m
sorry, but I can’t offer individual support.
- You may not be able to follow this verbatim. If these steps
don’t work precisely, I recommend looking at the intent of the
steps - putting the iTunes library in a central location and
creating links to it from individual user profiles - and adjusting
things according to your setup.
- As new versions of iTunes, Windows, etc. come out, I may not
always update or catch all the little “gotchas.” I originally
wrote these back around iTunes 4 time frame (but I just followed
these with iTunes 7.5 on Windows Vista)… things change, versions
change, OSes change, and I can’t keep these up to date for every
possible combination of software.
- You must have Administrator privileges to set this up. You
don’t need Admin rights once you’ve got it set up, but some of the
stuff you do here needs to be run as Administrator, so make
sure you can do that.
- You need to be comfortable at a command prompt. If you’re not,
this may be very frustrating for you.
Now… here’s how to get it running:
- Get the required tools. You’ll need a tool that allows you to
make symbolic directory links.
- On Windows Vista, this is built in - the
- On Windows XP, you need to go to SysInternals and download a
if you don’t already have it and put it somewhere in your path
C:\WINDOWS\System32 folder); you’re going to need to
use it from the command prompt later.
- Make sure everyone runs iTunes once. For each user you want to
set up, make sure they’ve run iTunes at least once so they’ve
accepted the EULA and iTunes has created their initial/empty library
- Choose the iTunes library you want to share. Decide which user’s
iTunes library you want to be the main one that everyone else will
share. You’ll be manipulating this library. I will call it “the main
iTunes library” from now on so you know what I’m talking about.
- [Optional] Consolidate/move the main iTunes library into a shared
location. iTunes has the ability to automatically manage your
music folder and ensure it stays organized. Allowing it to do this
as well as consolidating all of your music into one place will save
you a lot of headache when you find that one user can’t access all
the music that another user can due to security restrictions. Move
into a shared location (like create a folder called
C:\Users\Public\Music\iTunes Music in Vista or the
C:\Documents and Settings\All Users\Documents\My Music\iTunes Music in
XP and move it there) using the Consolidate feature to save some
- Find the main iTunes library. The iTunes library for each user
is stored in a folder called “iTunes” inside each user’s “My Music”
folder. It has an “itl” extension and is generally called
iTunes Music Library.itl. You will probably see an
iTunes Music Library.xml file in there, too. Both of these are
part of the library, so when you’re working with the library, copy
them at the same time and keep them together.
- In Windows XP, it will be in
C:\Documents and Settings\username\My Documents\My Music\iTunes.
- In Windows Vista, it will be in
- Back up the main iTunes library. Copy the main iTunes library
files somewhere safe for backup purposes. Just in case something
- Create a shared iTunes library folder. Create a new iTunes
folder that all users have access to. I recommend putting it in the
“Public” or “All Users” areas so you don’t have to worry about
security issues. If you consolidated your library like in step 4,
you’ll have an “iTunes Music” folder in the “Public” or “All Users”
music folder (given your version of Windows). Make a parallel folder
to that called “iTunes Library.”
- In Windows XP, this will be
C:\Documents and Settings\All Users\Documents\My Music\iTunes Library.
- In Windows Vista, this will be
- Copy the main iTunes library files into the shared iTunes library
folder. As simple as drag and drop - copy the .itl and .xml files
from the main iTunes library into the new shared library folder you
- Create symbolic links to the shared iTunes library. You’re
logged in as Administrator (or otherwise have Administrator rights),
right? Here’s where you really need them.
- Open a command prompt. In the Start -> Run box, type
and hit Enter. A command prompt should pop up.
- For each user who needs to share the iTunes library…
- Change to the user’s music folder.
- In Windows XP:
cd "\Documents and Settings\username\My Documents\My Music"
- In Windows Vista:
- Delete the old iTunes library folder and all of its
contents. (This is why you backed the main library up
rmdir /s iTunes
- Make a symbolic link to the new shared iTunes folder. This
will replace the old iTunes folder and will “fake out”
iTunes so it thinks it’s talking to a local user’s iTunes
- In Windows XP:
junction iTunes "C:\Documents and Settings\All Users\Documents\My Music\iTunes Library"
- In Windows Vista:
mklink /d iTunes "C:\Users\Public\Music\iTunes Library"
- Verify the settings by logging each user in. Everyone you just
set up should now be working off of the same iTunes library. Have
each user who’s sharing log in and verify they can see the shared
library. Do not use “Switch Users” - you must fully log off each
user and log the next one on. They will all have to set up their
own preferences (like their iTunes account, their shopping
preferences, etc.) but they will all have access to the same music
library and the same playlists.
- [Optional] Update music library/import settings for each user.
You may need to set up each user account to import music to the new
shared music location. You also may need to update the settings in
iTunes to keep the library organized (if you’re using that). I’ve
had hit-or-miss luck getting these settings to come along for the
ride. By default, people will be set up to rip music to their
personal iTunes folder (you probably don’t want that) and to keep
the music library organized (you probably do want that).
- That’s it! You’re done!
There are a couple of interesting caveats to note when working in this
scenario. Some good, some not so good.
- Everything is shared. Literally everything - playlists, ratings,
etc. If one person changes a song rating, it gets updated for
everyone sharing. If you’re anal like me, that means you’ll tell
everyone else not to rate anything.
- You can set up different users with different iPods. So I can
sync my iPod with playlists X, Y, Z and Jenn can sync hers
automatically with playlists A, B, C. No problems there.
- Authorization for music is shared. It doesn’t seem to matter
which user’s iTunes account purchases music, everyone on the
computer has access to it and can play it on their iPod. For
example, Jenn bought a song last night using her account, but when I
log in and sync the song to my iPod, it plays just fine. QTFairUse
can also will take care of un-DRM-ing music for multiple accounts.
- You can’t have multiple users simultaneously logged in and using
iTunes. That includes the “fast user switching” thing Windows
provides. If one person is using iTunes, no one else can be using
iTunes on that computer.
I haven’t run into any other issues.
AGAIN, PLEASE NOTE: Your mileage may vary. You may need to adapt
folder/file paths to match your system; this set of instructions is
pretty simplified so it should work with the out-of-the-box default sort
of system. Also, you definitely need to run this with an account that
has Administrator privileges. If you’re set this up with limited
accounts, you probably won’t get too far. (You don’t need Administrator
privileges once it’s set up, just while you’re setting up.)
All instructions here are provided for your UNSUPPORTED use and AT
YOUR OWN RISK.