iTunes: Sharing Music Between User Accounts

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If you have multiple logins for different people on your Mac, you may have wondered how all of the accounts on your computer can listen to the same iTunes music. It seems pretty complicated, right? Well, it’s a teensy bit complex if what you want to do is truly share the same files. If that’s what you’re looking to accomplish, you’ll want to head over and check out Apple’s support article on that very subject.

If what you need, however, is just for other users on your Mac to be able to listen to your music, your task is pretty simple. There’s one box you’ve gotta check, and it’s under iTunes> Preferences> Sharing.

As you can see, you’ll turn “Share my library on my local network” on, and then below that, you can choose to either let others play your entire music library or only some of the playlists you’ve got. 

Afterward, your music will show up in iTunes’ sidebar on the other accounts on your Mac. 

Or you can also pick it under the large “choose library” button in the upper-left of iTunes’ window if the sidebar is turned off.

There are two caveats here—one is an inconvenience, and the other is a possible security risk. The inconvenient part of sharing your music like this is that the iTunes library that’s being shared must be up and running in order for it to be accessed. So you can’t have logged out of your user account, and iTunes must be open. Get around this by using what’s called fast user switching to swap back and forth between accounts on your Mac without having to log out or quit iTunes.

The second caveat is that when your Mac goes with you to other places outside of your house, your iTunes music will show up as available to anyone on the networks you join. You can fix this by either disabling the sharing when you go out or by requiring a password to connect (the checkbox for which is shown in my first screenshot above). In any case, if you’re the paranoid sort, remember to take these steps before you log on to the office network and reveal to everyone how much you like Weird Al.

Not that you should be embarrassed by how much you like him, that is. I’m certainly not.

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The music doesn’t have to be shared with everyone when you go out.

You can require a password if you want to restrict it.

Requiring iTunes to be running is a big constraint, though. Instead of this, there should be a daemon that provides the service as/when needed, without the need for an app to be running. iTunes would handle the UI but not the sharing (and streaming to AirPlay devices such as Airport Express).

Melissa Holt

Hey vpndev,

I did mention requiring a password at the end of the article—but I appreciate you suggesting it anyhow. It’s important that folks know that the option exists!


Lee Dronick

Yeah ugh. My wife and I find it easier to have one account for iTunes music.


I wish Apple would allow multiple accounts to be grouped in a household. There should be a way to designate which accounts are part of ones family and all of those should be able to share songs, movies etc.
There could be one master control account. But umbrella accounts would be useful.

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