Activating Home Sharing in iTunes

Prior to iTunes 9, one could have a shared iTunes library; it was read only and required a persistent local network connection. In iTunes 9, there is a second method, called “Home Sharing” that allows the user to simply drag a song or video to another authorized Mac in the home. A new copy is created. This HOW-TO explains how to set it up.

What you will need: a two computers, PC or Mac, iTunes 9, and an iTunes Store account.

In the days before iTunes 9, we could share music or videos to another computer on the home network — one that’s also one of the five allowed to be authorized. You’d set this up in iTunes preferences on the host that has the library like this:


ITunes Sharing

The original iTunes sharing

Check the box in the red circle above. If another computer was told to look for shared libraries, then it could log on and see read-only copy of the library. Any title could be played, even DRM’d videos if you had the right hardware, but the list was not alterable. Songs could not be dragged to the client computer.


The original iTunes sharing log on

In iTunes 9, a more capable feature has been added called “Home Sharing.” It’s similar to the sharing above, except that now one can actually drag songs and videos from the host to the iTunes library on the client. That creates a second authorized copy. It’s something that Apple customers have been clamoring for.

Note that I have been saying “computer,” all along, not “Mac” because this works PC to PC, Mac to Mac, or cross-platform.

To set this up, go to the Advanced menu in iTunes 9, select “Turn On Home Sharing” and enter your iTunes Store account information.


Home Sharing

Home Sharing log on


Do this on the host computer, with your master iTunes library and also on the client computer. These two machines are now linked via the common user acount. After you do so, you’ll see a new kind of icon in your iTunes source list, a house icon. (Also a gentle reminder that this feature is intended only for users in the same home.)

iTunes source list

iTunes 9 source list


Something magical then happens. You can now drag an item (but not whole playlists) from the shared library to the second computer. (Use the disclosure triangle to open up your shared library.) Your destination will be highlighted in blue to remind you where you’re copying the item.

Because you can designate up to five computers per account to be authorized, you could do this with several other computers you may have in the household.

If you want to turn the Home Sharing off, just go back to the Advanced menu in iTunes and select “Turn Off Home Sharing.” The items you copied will still play even after the network connection is broken because these are actual, authorized copies. Also, nothing prevents you from having this mode as well as the old sharing mode running simultaneously - if desired.

Finally, here’s an extra tip. To make it easier to locate and drag items from a source play list, right-click it and select “Open in New Window.” That will make it easier to drag items from library to library.


If you’re still having trouble with Home Sharing, Apple has published a troubleshooting page.