How to Manage Your Apple ID

Your Apple ID is your personal, unique identity used for just about everything you do with Apple, including using iCloud to store your content, downloading apps from the App Store, and buying songs, movies, and TV shows from the iTunes Store. I'm going to show you to how to manage your Apple ID.

A number of icons representing apps which require the use of an Apple ID logon.

Just a few of the Apple services that require access via an Apple ID logon.

You also use your Apple ID when you make purchases from the online Apple Store or manage and monitor your orders, when you need to log into the newly enhanced, when using Developer services, when you need to register and/or activate your new Apple products, when setting up iTunes Match, FaceTime and GameCenter, when accessing the Apple Support website to get support for your specific device, and when you need to make appointments for Genius Bar services at an Apple Store. All of the above – and more – are available to all Apple ID account holders with a few exceptions in some countries.

Your Apple ID is like a virtual secure access badge that remains with you while visiting Apple online “property.” It lets you access the private areas assigned to you by virtue of owning a unique Apple ID. Some of those places include your private data storage and iOS device backups, email, and photos.

As long as there is access to any computing device that can access the web, anyone can create a free Apple ID. Yes, you don’t need to be an Apple product owner!

A typical Apple ID Logon prompt.

The home page is just one example where you are prompted for your Apple ID and password.

If you don’t already have an Apple ID, you can create one whenever you are prompted to enter Apple ID logon credentials. You can also create your Apple ID by signing up for an Apple service that requires it, such as an iTunes Store or account.

Managing Your Apple ID

Every aspect of your Apple ID can be completely managed by you via one site: This is a special Apple ID Support site, and you might want to bookmark that URL. You can go to this support site directly from any browser or via a link provided on any logon page in case you are having problems signing on.

The web page.

This is the home page of the Apple ID Support site at

The Apple ID Support site is where, among other things, you can create and manage your Apple ID account, troubleshoot account issues, reset your password, edit your Apple ID name, and reactivate an account that has been locked-out for security reasons. Even in case you’re not sure if you have an Apple ID, you can go to the site, and click Find Your Apple ID. You will be asked a few questions to help Apple determine if you are indeed a holder of an Apple ID. If you credentials are verified, you are then given access to a password reset page for your Apple ID.

Via, you are also given the opportunity to significantly strengthen the security of your Apple ID account by setting up two-step verification, a recent addition to Apple’s security and privacy offerings. I can’t emphasize strongly enough that you give this your full consideration. The Support site will explain it all and step you through the entire process of setting up your two-step verification.

Your Apple ID is Your Email Address

An Apple ID is in the form of an email address. You can assign an address that you already own as your Apple ID, even if the address is not at all associated with Apple.

Apple advises that you use your primary email address as your Apple ID – at the very least, one that you monitor regularly. Whichever email address you end up using to establish your Apple ID, that very same email address now becomes your primary Apple ID.

If you’ve had an Apple ID for a while, and find that it was associated with an obsolete or rarely used email address, you can change your existing Apple ID to reflect your new email address. Again, use the site to lead you through this process.

Many “old-timers” enjoy a legacy or Apple ID. These cannot be renamed, but they do work just fine.  If you no longer actively use these email addresses, they don’t go away, but be sure to add your primary email address as an additional email address associated with these Apple ID types. Where do you do this? You are correct:

Apple ID and iCloud

When you sign up for a new Apple ID from a Mac or iOS device, along with the standard Apple services that open up to you, you are also given access to iCloud services. This includes free 5 GB iCloud storage primarily for you to use for device backups, mail, Documents-in-the-Cloud, and sync services.

Your Apple ID does not have to be an email address. In fact, you aren’t at all required to own an email address at all in order to benefit from the free Apple service offerings already mentioned. However, if you wish to avail yourself of free iCloud Mail, then consider obtaining an email address associated with your primary Apple ID account. You can then use this email account on and/or set up your OS X and iOS mail client applications to work with your email.

One thing to keep in mind – and something that, frankly, confused me for the longest time – is that your address is, in fact, an Apple ID. Let’s understand this better with an example scenario.

Let’s say our good friend Father Guido’s Apple ID is his primary email address [email protected]. Guido enjoys all the benefits that his Apple ID gives him. His Mac, iPad and iPhone are all configured with and logged onto this Apple ID account.

Guido decides that he would like to have an email address so he can take full advantage of everything iCloud has to offer, including iCloud Mail. He can obtain his new account by either going to his iCloud Preferences panel on his Mac, or to iCloud Settings on his iPad or iPhone.

The Create an Apple ID panel accessible from iCloud Preferences.

Both OS X iCloud Preferences and iOS iCloud Settings let you create an email account

When enabling Mail services in the iCloud configuration Preferences or Settings panels, Guido is prompted to create and account. He finds that G[email protected] is available and registers it. 

Guido now has two distinct Apple IDs, however in this case they are “linked” to each other. He finds that he can log onto his account using either his primary Apple ID (his address that ends in or his Apple ID. Either way, he has access to all the same services, mail and data storage.

Guido correctly determines that it is just easier to have his Mac and iOS devices always logged on via his primary Apple ID. Then, when using iCloud Mail, Guido’s address will automatically be used for any eventual email correspondence.

Father G. is camping happily now!

Mac and iOS Newbies

Meanwhile, upon first activating or using their new Mac or iOS devices, many first-time purchasers will be given a choice of obtaining their shiny, new Apple ID either by using their existing email address or by creating an account. It really doesn't matter, but some thought should go into which way to proceed.

iOS set up screens for creating Apple ID and setting up iCloud.

iOS also offers a number of various setup screens for creating new Apple ID and iCloud.mail accounts.

The Problem with Owning Multiple Apple ID Accounts

Aside from the special Fr. Guido Apple ID/iCloud scenario described above where two Apple ID’s are associated with one account, you can have more than one completely separate unrelated Apple ID accounts. However, owning multiple distinct Apple ID accounts should be avoided as media and app purchases made on one Apple ID account that you own cannot be shared with or transferred to another Apple ID account that you also own.

Currently, Apple ID accounts cannot be merged. Settle on one preferred Apple ID for everything and start using that consistently.  However, you can still access your purchased media and software using your other Apple ID accounts if you want, but be prepared to provide the Apple ID, along with its password, if and when prompted.

While it’s perfectly acceptable – in fact, preferable – to use a single Apple ID for both iCloud services and for purchases on the iTunes, App, and iBooks Stores, you can also use one Apple ID for iCloud services and another unrelated Apple ID for media purchases.

Members of a household fall into a trap where they share an Apple ID. Apple recommends that each person have their own, private primary Apple ID for iCloud services – device backups, data storage, Mail, etc. The family can then share one designated Apple ID account strictly for the purposes of administering and sharing purchased media and apps.

If you have two Apple ID accounts; one primary Apple ID for your iCloud services and a separate Apple ID for media purchases, your Mac and iOS devices need to be set up in a specific manner for everything to work properly. Configure your Mac using your primary Apple ID via System Preferences > iCloud. On your iOS device go to Settings > iCloud. This takes care of setting up access to your iCloud services.

You’re not finished quite yet, as you then need to configure your iTunes purchase account using your other Apple ID. On the Mac, if running iTunes 10, go to Store > Sign In. In iTunes 11, go to iTunes Store > Quick Links: Accounts. In iOS 5 or later, go to Settings > iTunes and App Stores and sign in with the Apple ID you want to dedicate to Store purchases.

The whole Apple ID system has proven to be a source of frustration to many Apple ID account holders over the years. While the complexities involved in making fixes would be massive, Apple might still attempt to improve the process, such as allowing us to consolidate Apple ID accounts.

I wouldn't hold my breath. Come to think of it... I’m not!