MacMost Now 291: iTunes 9 Home Sharing

Learn about the new iTunes 9 Home Sharing feature. It lets you easily share and copy media from one computer to another from within iTunes. However, setup requires one or more iTunes accounts and the new features are simply shortcuts to what was already possible.

Video Transcript
Gary Rosenzweig: Hi this is Gary with MacMost Now. On today's episode let's take a look at the new iTunes 9 Home Sharing feature. Well I was very excited when Home Sharing was revealed to be one of the new features in iTunes 9.
For a long time people have been emailing me with questions about how to share music between multiple Macs in the same household. Well, Home Sharing seemed to be the perfect solution. Except that it's not. Let's take a close look at what it can do and what it can't do.
So here's Home Sharing in action. On this Mac, an iMac, I've got my regular music library here and under shared I've got this little home icon and the name of another computer, which is my Mac Pro. There I can go ahead and view all of the songs on my Mac Pro.
In addition to that, I can also go ahead and break things down by category, looking just at movies, TV shows, audio books, things like that. I can even go ahead and look at the playlists on the other Mac.
Now to get Home Sharing going, you've got a few steps. First, you've gotta go to the advanced menu and go to turn on Home Sharing. It says off here because I already have it turned on.
Once you go to turn it on, you've gotta give it an iTunes account ID and password. So this is where it gets tricky because you have to have the same ID and password used for all the machines you want to share things between. So say you have five Macs in your house, you have to use the same iTunes account ID for each of those five machines for the Home Sharing feature.
Now, that does not mean that they have to use the same iTunes account to go to the iTunes store. They can each have a different iTunes account. But here's where it gets tricky. If you want to really share songs between these machines, they have to be authorized for each other's accounts.
So, for instance, if my wife and I each have our own iTunes account and each have our own Macs, we can both turn on Home Sharing but we have to choose one of our two iTunes accounts to use as the Home Sharing ID. So we say choose mine. Great.
Now, I can see the songs on her Mac but I can't actually share them. I gotta authorize my iTunes account on my Mac with her iTunes ID. So basically, it's authorized for my account and her account. You can do that. You can have multiple authorizations. And then she's gotta go ahead and authorize her Mac for both my account and her account. And now we can finally share music between us.
So what can you do now that you have Home Sharing between two Macs? Well you can play a song from the other Mac by simply selecting it and playing it or just double clicking on it and it will stream over your network.
Another thing you can do is you can select a bunch of songs and hit the import button at the bottom right and this will make a copy of those songs over onto your Mac. So you're basically duplicating the songs. You can't push the songs to another Mac, but you can pull them from one Mac to another.
In addition to that, you can also list songs in two different ways. You can list them by all of the songs available or just the items not in your current library. In addition to that, you can try to autosync. So you press the settings button down here and you get this dialog box. And it seems to suggest that if you add new music to one machine, it will then copy over to the other.
But if you read it very carefully, it says only purchases and by purchases it means purchases from the iTunes store. So it will not work for songs that you import from a CD or songs that you copy mp3 files say that you purchase them from another place like Amazon. It doesn't work like that. It only works for purchases. So the automatic syncing is not really automatic synching at all.
And that's not the only place that Home Sharing falls short. For instance, the entire streaming over the network feature isn't new at all. There's already a sharing feature in iTunes and it's still there.
You go to iTunes preferences, turn on sharing, and another Mac can see through iTunes all the songs on there and stream them just like Home Sharing can. So it really doesn't add a new feature. Matter of fact, it's harder to set up Home Sharing to do that because you have to use an iTunes account on both machines to get that going.
With the old sharing, it still works. You just turn sharing on on one Mac and the other Mac can see it and play that music. And just like with the old sharing feature, iTunes has to actually be running for it to work. So if you have a central Mac, you have to have iTunes running on that Mac in order for other Macs to be able to see it -- either the old sharing or for Home Sharing.
As for the importing feature, there's nothing you couldn't have done before. You just had to use the finder before. You could go ahead and share files between two Macs and then look in the iTunes music folder on the second Mac and drag any music you want over to the current Mac to go ahead and share it in iTunes there.
You can even drag it directly from the iTunes music folder on the first Mac into iTunes on the second Mac and it'll import it and organize it basically the same way that the import feature works. So the import is basically just a shortcut to be able to go ahead and do the same thing but with a little bit more of a complex set up, with the whole iTunes accounts thing.
So the new Home Sharing feature doesn't really offer anything new at all. Unless you count the import button, which is just a shortcut for copying files and that only works if you use the correct iTunes account for Home Sharing on both machines and authorize with the same iTunes account on both machines.
People that might find this most useful are those that have multiple Macs in the household and sync different iPods and iPhones to different Macs. So for instance, you have one central Mac where you buy your music and then you have several different Macs that sync to different iPods and different iPhones for different members of the family. They can use Home Sharing to grab the music they want, put it on their Mac and then sync it with their device so that they have that music when they're on the go.
Now, this still doesn't offer anything over just copying the files using the finder like they might have done before, but it might be an easier way to manage that.
What would make the Home Sharing feature so much more useful is if the automatic syncing feature actually worked for anything new added to iTunes, not just stuff purchased in the iTunes store. This way you can truly keep multiple Macs in the same household completely in sync.
Hopefully, Apple will continue to improve on the Home Sharing feature until it actually becomes useful. I'd like to hear from you though and hear whether or not you find Home Sharing useful. You can leave a comment at this post at Till next time, this is Gary Rosenzweig with MacMost Now.

Comments: 50 Responses to “MacMost Now 291: iTunes 9 Home Sharing”

    9/11/09 @ 10:24 am

    Gary, thanks for clearing that up! I was hoping for a feature to get the playlists, playcounts and ratings on my iMac and my MacBook Air in sync. It seems the new feature doesn’t help… Let’s hope, Apple keeps improving it.

    I’ll still have to use Chronosync to do the job!

    Thanks for a great show!!!


    9/11/09 @ 10:38 am

    nice job explaining that. Also note that using Home Sharing brings over ratings and play counts, while copying directly from the finder doesn’t.

    I wish that Apple would come out with a home server solution where all image (iphoto, aperture) and media (itunes, imovie, etc) libraries could be stored on one central machine and automatically synced, shared, or streamed to multiple machines throughout the house. The ease of use of a mac seems to break down when dealing with multiple libraries across multiple machines.

      9/11/09 @ 11:08 am

      My understanding was that it did bring over ratings, but not play counts. I don’t use either very much. I agree with you about the idea of a home Apple server.

        9/11/09 @ 2:28 pm

        Ah, you may be right. I saw it brought over the rating and assumed it grabbed the rest of the metadata too.

      10/18/09 @ 7:32 pm

      I have a related issue and am trying to figure out if I can combine my existing iTunes files with an assortment of other files I’ve collected over the years and store them on a central Windows Home Server and then use iTunes on my kids pc and on my imac and simply share the files with each respective iTunes accounts.

      Basically I’m simply trying to share the files and not the accounts. Is this possible or will there be some rub with the two different systems working from the same collection of files?

        10/18/09 @ 7:37 pm

        You definitely can not use Home Sharing for that. Home Sharing is between two running iTunes programs. So if you want to get the files from a server, you have to use more traditional file sharing techniques. But if you can access the files on your Mac, then you can use them in iTunes. You just need to set up iTunes to not organize your files for you so it doesn’t just copy them over.

    9/11/09 @ 12:18 pm

    Thanks so much for this video! It really clears things up. I know I’ll be heading to MacMost for your next video!

    9/11/09 @ 12:43 pm

    Itunes 9 home sharing is not good at all, from what I have heard for you. I think the old fashion way is the best

    Mark Hurley
    9/11/09 @ 1:20 pm

    Big follower :) Issue I discovered the other night? Copied iTunesU content using homesharing. On the original computer, iTunesU content (video and slides/PDF) were stored in the iTunesU path on disk and visible under iTunes category in iTunes. On the machine I copied both video and slides to, the video stayed under iTunes U, but the slides were moved back to the Podcast folder.

    Note: There is a notice message, that any iTunesU content you downloaded before iTunes9, it is not automatically moved over to iTunesU category. I deleted and redownloaded the content before moving using home sharing.

      Mark Hurley
      9/11/09 @ 1:22 pm

      stored in the iTunesU path on disk and visible under iTunes category in iTunes.

      stored in the iTunesU path on disk and visible under iTunesU category in iTunes.

    Andrew C
    9/11/09 @ 7:57 pm

    Gary , nice explanation on sharing, you’re right it should sync all music though.

    I’d also like to see it available between users on a single MAC. My kids have user accounts but I prefer to be the only user able to import music so would love to be able to keep control and simply share/sync those files with them.

    I wonder if Apple simply forgot about multiple users on one machine?

    Jim Hallissey
    9/12/09 @ 3:19 am

    Gary. I agree with all other posts, your show really rocks.

    I was very disappointed when I tried out Home Sharing, I assumed I could push files to my MacBook Pro from my iMac but regretfully found I could only drag them.

    I think the old fashioned way of sharing is the easiest way.

    I agree that all content should be available for home sharing as in my case nearly half of my content is from our CD collection.

    Gianni B
    9/13/09 @ 4:21 am

    I personally think home sharing is a great option!! needs work? LOTS!! but still a good solution! previous sharing option wouldn’t allow you to import the songs, bad news is that automatic sync is only for purchases from the itunes store.
    The good thing I found on it is the option “items not found in my library” which, while is far from accurate, it can ease up your task on finding new songs imported into your main computer.
    The way I use home sharing is by leaving my imac as a server and streaming my movies, podcasts, etc… to appleTV, the music gets copied in to it, also have a macbook (sister) and a macbook pro (mine). Those two laptops are now with the home sharing feature enabled, allowing me to have all that content imported to my imac and streaming to my appleTV without the need of having either laptop turned on. And while automatic syncing gets improved (I hope soon!!) i’ll just use the “items not found in my library” option to see what’s new and import.

    Pierre from France
    9/13/09 @ 4:26 am

    Hi Gary,

    First of all thank you for the great videos you’re doing for the Mac community. I’ve been trying to use iTunes 9 home sharing features and it’s way too difficult to use. I finally gave up. I’m disappointed by this feature. We’re all used with Mac to have things done easily. This isn’t the case this time unfortunately. I’ll keep sharing MP3 files via the regular Folder Sharing system.

    This is my opinion. Once again thank you Gary and keep up the good work.


    9/21/09 @ 8:19 am

    Thanks for sharing this info to clarify what shouldn’t be this confusing. Apple usually makes things very simple, but this is overly complex to use. I was stuck on how to actually do the sharing until your video. While it is true you could do all this before, the new way (once its setup) is a little easier for my kids to do. (that is, to hit the Import button) I do hope they fix the syncing so it works properly with all things in the library.

    One other question this raised. I am doing most of the buying of music on my MacBookPro in my office. My kids all use the family computer and have separate accounts setup for each of them. Does each one of their accounts count as one of the “five” I can share with? Is there any way to make all the accounts on the home computer all synced?

      9/21/09 @ 8:32 am

      I don’t know. Try it. You can always de-authorize very easily. Try authorizing one users on the Mac, and then another, and see if the number increases.

    9/21/09 @ 11:02 am

    I shared songs. Fine. Tried to share apps dragging them to the itunes library. At first they seem to be copied (plus sign) but actually they are not. I believed Apple said y can share (copy) apps too

    Matt W
    9/29/09 @ 11:33 pm

    Great review. Completely boiled down the new home sharing feature down to what it is (not much), and saved me the time of trying it out.

    Matt Tunney
    10/5/09 @ 5:08 am

    This just seems like another one of apples misses to be honest, just like the apple tv and time capsule. Disappointing

    iLife and it’s packages are for a single user hence the i, even though apple says one of iLifes features is the ability to easily share files with your friends and family.

    Apple really should take a new approach to these packages and aim towards a family and home environment set of features. Say limit the number of apple ID’s to 5 (just like the family pack bundles of Mac OS X) and that the users have the same billing address.

    10/7/09 @ 2:30 pm

    wuz up,
    i just saw your video and i found it quite interesting… my problem is that my mum and my dad don’t live together and i got a computer in each one of their apartments.
    if i download songs on one of my computers, i cannot listen to it on the other one, of course.

    is there anyway to send the new songs to my other computer without using e-mail (i use the same account on both computers)?

      10/7/09 @ 2:50 pm

      You definitely can’t use Home Sharing for this. The computers need to be on the same network. I would recommend picking up a cheap USB flash drive and using it to bring the files from house to house when you buy new music.

    10/11/09 @ 7:44 am

    we have one computer where we have all of our songs, but i want some of the ones that are on my labtop to put on this computer. and the homesharing button disapears evertime i log in. how can i fix this?

      10/11/09 @ 7:47 am

      Make sure both computers have Home Sharing enabled and that both are using the same ID for Home Sharing. Then it should work. If it doesn’t, it could be your home router blocking it or any number of things. Lots of people can’t seem to get Home Sharing to work, so you are not alone.

    10/17/09 @ 7:44 am

    i am very confused about home sharing. i just got a pro but my sister has a dell pc, can we still share and what d we dod to set it up

      10/17/09 @ 8:00 am

      As long as you are both running iTunes and are on the same network, you should be able to use Home Sharing. Turn it on on both and see. If the PC has any sort of firewall or blocking, it may make it tough. But try it and see if you can see each other’s music in iTunes.

    10/19/09 @ 5:40 pm

    Home sharing doesn’t work for me as I want to keep my home PC in sync with my work PC.

    11/17/09 @ 12:14 am

    Great video Gary! I noticed that the iTunes Server that is on my WD ShareSpace no longer shows up as a “Shared” library – I double click a song from the network drive on the finder, and the song starts in iTunes, shows up in the main library, but no SHARED library anymore that I can browse from iTunes. What happened to the old sharing? I checked prefs and sharing is on – is this feature no longer available in iTunes 9?

      11/17/09 @ 7:11 am

      The old sharing feature is there, the same as before. I was using it before and am still using it. Not sure, but perhaps you are running into another problem. Hard to tell from here.

      Crooked Root
      11/29/09 @ 6:50 pm

      I have the same problem, expect that I purchase my WD ShareSpace after I had upgraded iTunes to 9. Still, the WD server does not show up in the Shared list in iTunes. In fact, nothing shows up – there is no Shared list.

        11/29/09 @ 7:00 pm

        I’d definitely contact WD support and see what they have to say.

    11/26/09 @ 7:36 am

    Gary, we have 2 macbooks, and an imac which we use as the server. The two macbooks seem to see the shared library on the imac, but neither have the Import and Settings bar displayed at the bottom, therefore neither can import the music. Any ideas?

    11/26/09 @ 7:38 am

    We have 2 macbooks, and an imac that we use as a server. Both macbooks can “see” the music files on the imac, but we the import/settings bar does not appear along the bottom, therefore neither can import the music files. Any ideas?

      11/26/09 @ 7:45 am

      Just a guess: Sounds like the MacBooks’ iTunes are not authorized using the same account as the iMac — this is different than Home Sharing authorization. They actually have to be authorized to play the music bought with that iTunes store account. Menu bar: Store, Authorize Computer…

    11/30/09 @ 11:54 pm

    I recently just got a laptop and I was not looking forward to transfering all of my music over. I looked into home sharing, I have done every single step, and yet I cannot for the life of me get the import button to appear while using Homesharing.
    I have the same accounts for both computers, and my library from my other computer pops up on my lap top I just can’t find an import button!

    I can’t click and drag songs either!
    I’m so frustrated! I just want my music! PLEASE HELP!

      12/1/09 @ 7:29 am

      Hard to tell which piece isn’t in place. Try turning off Home Sharing and turning it on again on each machine. After turning each off, try logging in to the iTunes store using the account you wish to share — or both accounts to “authenticate” your account. Then turn Home Sharing back on. You’ve got to keep tinkering with it, I think.

    1/8/10 @ 6:19 am

    Hi Gary, thanks for the video, I just discussed with a friend why Apple starts to make things so complicated. I have Macs and a Windows Netbook, plus multiple ipods and an iphone in the household. (I already got rid of all non-itunes compatible players). Since I have an NAS which is running 24/7 I thought it might be a good idea to install my iTunes Library there, and, instead of more or less redundant music libraries, have one “server” to store the music and use the local iTunes as “player”. It kind of works with my iMac, but there is no way I can bring that to work e.g. with the Netbook. Technically it can not be a problem at all, I guess the whole hazzle is only due to Apples fear that somebody might buy and share iTunes files. Do you know if anybody ever succeeded building up an “iTunes NAS server”?

      1/8/10 @ 7:16 am

      You should be able to do this. Just turn off “Keep iTuns Media folder organized” and “Copy files to iTunes Media folder” in the Advanced section of the iTunes prefs. Then store your music on the NAS, and add it to your iTunes library (maybe start it fresh). iTunes will then act as normal, but your NetBook can then access these files however it wants to access them.
      Or, you could simply leave the default settings and store your iTunes library on the NAS.

        1/8/10 @ 7:59 am

        Thanks for your quick reply, Gary. The Netbook seems to be connected to the NAS “server” library, since the local iTunes folder is empty and there are titles visible (that can also be played). But it seems like some old status, not all the titles (regardless if from CD or iTunes Shop) on the NAS are accessible. Maybe I have to install iTunes on the Netbook new…

          1/8/10 @ 9:04 am

          See what the differences are between the files that are accessible and the ones that aren’t. For instance, are the accessible ones .mp3 files and the others .aac? Then your NetBook may not know how to play .acc files. Things like that.

            1/14/10 @ 9:59 am

            Hi Gary, that is not the case. Some mp3s are accessible, some not. I cut the wlan connection, threw out all files in the local iTunes folder on the Netbook and restarted iTunes. The Netbook still showed the files like before, but could not access them (because the wlan connection was cut). I threw out all files of the playlist manually. Then I relaunched wlan and connected iTunes with the iTunes folder on the NAS again. Nothing happened. I went to “import playlist” and imported the iTunes music library.xml file from the NAS. After some time I stopped thein-progress-window and files appeared in the local playlist. However, this time there were even more files missing than before. This is rather frustrating…

              1/14/10 @ 10:23 am

              Sounds like something is up with the NAS, perhaps?

                1/17/10 @ 7:29 am

                No idea. I just found that my MacBook has the same problem. It shows an older status of files (as far as I can tell the same as the Netbook). The only machine showing the file list in complete is the iMac. The files are on the NAS, though. Weird.

                  3/1/11 @ 9:31 am

                  Hi Oliver – did you get this fixed, I am having the same issues

    1/16/10 @ 3:46 pm

    I have 2 Macs on a wireless network, one an older G4 with a giant hard drive and my music, the other a MacBook pro. I recently bought an iPhone and would like to use the MacBook for syncing. I upgraded to iTunes 9 on the MacBook and got home sharing set up to the point where I can see and play my music library that’s on my old Mac, however, there is no Import button visable when I select music in my shared library, nor will the MacBook copy files to the local library when I drag them. Any ideas?

      1/16/10 @ 3:54 pm

      Do you have Home Sharing turned on for both Macs? Are both Macs authorized in iTunes for the account? Are you using the same account for a “Home Sharing ID”? Are both running iTunes 9 (I assume so, because you need that for Home Sharing). If all that is true, then it is hard to say what might be wrong. Try turning off and on Home Sharing.

        maggie Powell
        6/27/10 @ 10:09 am

        of course we’ve tried tinkering with it and have tried several times. I have the same problem, i get so far as to see the other library then i can;t mport or click in drag. Please come up with a more helpful answer to why this doesn’t work at all

    1/17/10 @ 8:00 pm

    tried everything mentioned – still no luck. I ended up copying what I wanted to my laptop through drive sharing. Thanks anyway!

    Tinker T
    3/12/11 @ 10:47 am

    thanks this is the only place i’ve found an explanation of why i couldn’t drag music from one library to the other. i authorised all three computers on my home network under both our itunes accounts – mine and my partner’s. i turned on home sharing under my account for all three computers – it didn’t work when they were logged on to different accounts. i may not have needed to do all that but anyway, it works now!

    3/28/11 @ 9:42 pm

    Will this work on transferring apps (importing from iphone) also?

    My husband had an iphone. He got a new phone (not iphone) and gave our son his old phone. I’d like to put my husband’s apps from the old iphone onto my itunes account (the Mac) so I can share the apps with both of my kids (especially the ones he’s paid for).

    He has a PC, but he does have an itunes account.

    Any help would be appreciated. If there’s any way to email me, I’d appreciate it, also!!!


      3/28/11 @ 9:47 pm

      If he purchased the apps with his iTunes account, then those apps can only get used on devices that use his iTunes account. You can authorize your iTunes (on your Mac) for both yours and his iTunes accounts. Then it should work where you can re-download the apps he bought as long as you are “logged in” as him. But I’ve never tried it quite that way.

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