How Do I Share iPhoto and iTunes Libraries Between Two Users? [Ask MacRx]



Sharing an iPhoto or iTunes library between two users is a common request, but Apple doesn’t make this easy. Home Sharing will distribute purchased media but does not allow you to manage a single shared library. Here are some Apple recommended options:

I have my iPhoto library located in my /Users/Shared folder. My wife is an Admin and I am an Admin and both login apps are linked to it. I have gone as far as selecting the permissions to read and write for everyone, but there are still videos she can’t watch and when she imports items they don’t save to the library. Importing can only be done from my login.

Can you detail the exact method for sharing?

I have a similar setup for iTunes with a slightly different problem. If I add media in my login I have to add the media to her login. If she adds media. I have to add it to mine. I do this by just importing the whole iTunes folder that is on my external hard drive. Is there a better solution for this? We currently do not share an iTunes account.

Thanks! Christopher

Hi Christopher,

Apple does have recommended methods for doing what you wish with both apps, but realize these are workarounds with limitations. Both iPhoto and iTunes are designed with a single user, single account in mind. People have asked for years for more ways to share between family members, hopefully iCloud will help with some of this.

According to Apple, ignoring permissions for the iPhoto library is the key to sharing between two accounts. Rather than trying to set the correct permissions on the boot drive, as you’re trying to do inside /Users/Shared, they recommend putting the iPhoto library on an external USB or FireWire drive, and selecting the option to Ignore Ownership on This Volume in the Get Info window. Full details in this Apple Tech Note.

For iTunes you don’t need to use an external drive (though you can if desired), just set the iTunes preferences for both users to use the same mutually accessible library. This prevents duplication of media. However the library database file itself – iTunes Music Library.xml – is separate for each user, it doesn’t track media added to the other account. You need to add new media to the library separately for both users by manually importing files, as you’re now doing. Details in this Apple Tech Note.

I am one of those novice hackers that pokes around everywhere and eventually gets it set up right. I am just getting tired of doing it myself. So, again, thank you so much for your response!

  • Infokai

    I have both, a Mac and a Win7 machine and find it very surprising that a company like Apple doesn’t get a grip on multiple users on a mac. I have been struggling with the above and related network issues for months now. It still doesn’t work nicely (and probably never will). All these are very basic and super-easy-to-use services on a Windows 7 computer.

  • CloudDweller

    My wife and I share the same iTunes library on the same Mac but have separate user accounts.To do this:1. Make a folder called ‘Music’ in Users/Shared and move your iTunes library to this new folder.2. Ctrl + click on the ‘Music’ folder and select ‘Get Info’.3. Click on the padlock icon at the bottom of the ‘Get Info’ window and enter your password.4. Set the permissions as follows:Your user name (Me) = Read & WriteWheel = Read & WriteEveryone = Read & Write5. Click on the gear icon to the left of the padlock and choose ‘Apply to enclosed items’.6. Click OK.7. Close the ‘Get Info’ window.8. Log into each user account and create an alias to the new shared iTunes library in their User/Home/Music folder (the default location for the iTunes library).Note: If an iTunes library already exists in the users ‘Music’ folder you will need to delete this first and don’t forget to backup just in case something goes wrong.Each account will now be able to access the same shared music library.One final thing which usually catches people out. You will need to tell iTunes to ‘Keep iTunes Music folder organised’ and ‘Copy files to iTunes Music Folder when adding to library’.To do this:1. Open iTunes2. From the iTunes menu, choose Preferences3. Click Advanced4. Select the ‘Keep iTunes Music folder organised’ option5. Select the ‘Copy files to iTunes Music folder when adding to library file’ option6. Click OKNote: This needs to be done in both user accounts.The only slight down side of this method is that if I add any new music to the shared iTunes library in my account, my wife has access but she isn’t able to change the info (artist name, album, track number etc…) as I am the owner of that music (the files have standard permissions applied when added so I have Read & Write access but my wife has read only access). The same applies if my wife adds some music through her user account. This isn’t a problem for me as I’m the one who manages the library and adds music, my wife simply wants to be able to access it.If you want to manually change the permissions so that both users can change info, simply navigate to the ‘iTunes Music’ folder which is located in Users/Shared/Music/iTunes/ and Change the permissions using the same method above, making sure you ‘Apply to enclosed items’.This will need to be repeated each time any new music is added. If you want to know how to set things up so both users can change info on tracks without having to manually change permissions each time then this can be done, but it will require delving into ACL permissions.

  • CloudDweller

    Okay for some reason the formatting got messed up so here’s a link to my post on the Apple Support forums (

  • Don Pope

    iPhoto sharing is something I’ve been wrestling with for a long time. iMacs are usually family computers and all family members expect to have access to the family photos.
     It is amazing to me that Apple hasn’t properly addressed this issue.

    There’s a little application called iPhoto Library Manager that can set the right permissions on the iPhoto library, but you basically have to run it every time you use iPhoto.

  • Gursewak Singh

    You can easily share an iPhoto library using the method to share an iTunes library: put the library in the shared folder, set the permissions to read and write for everyone, et voila, you have a shared library. 
    First you drag the iPhoto library from your photos folder to the Shared folder. set permission to Read & Write for Everyone. Then log into everyone else’s accounts, quit iPhoto, hold option and click iPhoto (just like you would do with iTunes), click on ‘Other Library…’, navigate to the library in the shared folder and open it. Now whenever the user opens iPhoto it should open with the shared library. When new photos, albums are imported, faces, places or info added, or any photo edited, it will automatically make those changes on other user accounts. 

  • Adam Rosen

    Yes iPhoto library sharing should work by this method, but this was the exact method tried by the questioner.  Apple recommends the external drive approach. 

  • Splif Topnohgih

    Check out this link on sharing an Aperture library between multiple users. It should work for iPhoto

    As for iTunes, I tend to store all our music in /users/share/music and import them separately into our iTunes accounts. Its more work but less duplicates.

  • mert

    Like the author, I tried this too and found the same problems reported by the author.  Although it’s a shame Apple hasn’t made this easier, I think I can live with the disk image method suggested by the Apple tech note.  Although, even with sparse disk image, TM backups will become larger for the photo library.

  • CharliK

    seems to me that it would be easier to create copy the whole iTunes folder into the Shared folder and make an alias to said folder in each person’s music folder. 

    wouldn’t that give you both access to the same library file so either of you could do whatever and you both see it

  • facebook-599088116

    After setting permissions to Read & Write for the iTunes Music folder, it’s still not working for me as the subfolders still appear protected.  Is there a way to apply the iTunes Music folder permissions to all of its subfolders… other than setting each song/musician folder?