How to share iTunes with a Mac & a PC, using one collection of music, and multiple users & computers :
So here is exactly what you’ll get as the result of this tutorial: all of your PC’s will have the exact same iTunes library. If you open up iTunes on your laptop, it will look exactly like the iTunes on your PC. It will see the same podcasts, same videos, same playlists, you get the idea.
However, if you have a Mac, that will have a different iTunes library. You won’t have duplicate MP3 files, but you will have a different “library”. Apple calls the music database your iTunes library. It’s just a fancy way of saying “your list of music”. Now then, anytime you add music in iTunes on the PC, you’ll have to manually add it to the iTunes library on the Mac if you want the music to appear. If you have multiple Macs, they’ll all share the same library, so a change to the Mac iTunes library will look the same on all Macs.
This is how my wife and I wanted it. We have a large collection of music, a Desktop PC, a Vista Laptop, and a MacBook. We wanted to be able to save our music (the MP3′s) to one place (our home media server) but be able to access it from any computer and be able to plug in our iPods to any computer to sync the new stuff.
1. Copy all of the music to one folder in Windows XP (like C:\music). Now share this folder using Windows File Sharing (right click the folder and select Sharing) then be sure to click “allow users to edit the files”.
If you are computer savvy and have considered setting up a home server, you can do what I did and install a FreeNAS server instead. It is a separate computer used just for the music. (or in my case, music, photos, video & documents) It does the job really well, but I wouldn’t recommend this unless you need a Network Attached Storage device. Don’t know what I mean? Then use Windows XP. You’ll be much happier.
Several of you reported that you were having issues with FreeNAS, and I came up against a few roadblocks myself. I haven’t played with FreeNAS enough to figure out why it doesn’t work out of the box, but Windows XP does. I replaced my FreeNAS server with Windows XP and have not had any problems since. I would recommend setting up a Windows XP box with file sharing and keep your music on this box. – Again, this is only if you want a central file server. For most folks, sharing the C:\music folder on your primary PC will do the job just fine.
2. Map a network drive on all computers (even the Windows XP machine where your music is located). Map the drive to this shared folder and call it the M:\ drive (music, media, etc). Make sure you have copied all of your music into this folder. (yes, do this before you open iTunes for the first time)
3. Fire up iTunes for the first time on the host computer, but hold down the shift key on a PC (or Alt/Option on a Mac) while it is opening. Select Create a New Library, and point it to your M:\ drive (it will create a folder called M:\ITunes if it doesn’t already exist).
Here’s what you need to know: your music will be located in the M: drive. iTunes will create a folder inside the M: drive called iTunes. No music will be inside the “M:\iTunes” folder. This is just where your newly created library will live and where the database that keeps track of all of your music will save information about your music.
4. Now then, if you are also going to use a Mac with this collection of music, you have to create a different iTunes library database. No, you don’t have to copy any of your music. You can still point the library to the same music files, but iTunes libraries are specific to the OS, so you will need to create a separate iTunes folder. I call mine “iTunes for Mac” so it is clear. So when you start up your Mac iTunes for the first time, hold down Alt/Option and select “Create Library”. Now it will ask you where you want to save the new library. Go into your M: drive and select “M:\iTunes for Mac” (or create this folder now if it doesn’t exist).
Something important to note about this: these are different databases. Changes made to the PC library and the Mac library are not the same. But, the music is in the same shared location. So if I’m on my PC and I copy a new CD into my library, it is copying into the iTunes Library for PC’s only. The iTunes for Mac library won’t ever know about the new CD. So you must go in and select “Add Folder to Library” when a new album has been added to the other library.
NOTE: If you open a PC iTunes library with your Mac iTunes, it will break all of the links and you’ll have to recreate the library from the PC again. Remeber, the “library” is different from all of your MP3 files. The library is just the iTunes database, and it is only chosen when you first set up iTunes. If you do make this mistake, it’s not big deal. Just go back to the PC and delete the iTunes library folder then recreate a new library. Remember, the iTunes folder is just the database and doesn’t touch your music files.
5. On each machine, one at a time, go into iTunes, Preferences, Advanced Tab and change the iTunes Music Folder location to M:\ (not M:\ITunes). When you import CD’s later on any of the machines, it will then save your music into the M:\ folder (not the M:\ITunes folder). That way, if you have to recreate the database, music isn’t mixed up with your iTunes folder. You may lose some playlists, but music files will still be there.
6. I uncheck both the Copy to iTunes folder and the Keep my Music Organized boxes. “Nope, I’m good. I can handle keeping my files organized. Thanks.”
7. Once you have setup your iTunes Libraries on one PC and one Mac, your ready to add other PC’s to those libraries. When adding new computers, hold down the shift key and click “Choose Existing Library”. This will allow new computers to share the existing library and all your stars, playlists, etc. instead of creating their own. You will share all of your settings. But remember to choose the correct library for your OS (“iTunes” folder for the PC’s and “iTunes for Mac” folder is how I set them up).
One other important thing to note is that iTunes doesn’t save the database until you close the application, so if you make changes to one copy of iTunes, you have to close it before another PC accesses the library again if you want to see the changes right away.
That’s it. I hope this helps someone. It keeps our music synced in our house, and so far we haven’t had any problems with it.