Daily Tip: How to use multiple iTunes libraries on a single Windows or Mac PC

Daily Tip: How to use multiple iTunes libraries on a single Windows or Mac PC

Not keen on using one iTunes library to manage several family member's iPhone, iPod touch and iPad content and curious how multiple iTunes libraries work? While it's not exactly obvious it is fairly easy to use multiple iTunes libraries on the same Windows or Mac PC. We'll show you how after the break!

[Inside iTunes]

When we posted one how to manage syncing multiple iPhones, iPod touches, and iPads with a single iTunes library, many of you commented that you preferred using multiple libraries. Fair enough!

Creating multiple iTunes libraries

If you don't already have multiple libraries here's how to create them:

  1. Make sure iTunes isn't running. Quit it if it is.
  2. Hold down ALT (Windows) or OPTION (Mac) and click the iTunes icon.
  3. A dialog box will pop up. Click the button that says Create Library...
  4. Browse to where you want the library to be located and give it a distinctive name (we recommend having one folder for all your libraries and then naming libraries after your devices or members of your family so they're easy to identify later).
  5. iTunes will open with a new, empty library that can you can fill with music, movies, TV shows, podcasts, apps and other content just for the iPhone, iPod touch or iPad you want to sync it with.
  6. Repeat these steps for each additional library you want to create.

Switching libraries

To switch from one iTunes library to another:

  1. Quit iTunes if it's running.
  2. Hold down ALT (Windows) or OPTION (Mac) and click the iTunes icon.
  3. A dialog box will pop up. Click the button that says Choose Library...
  4. A file browser will launch. Navigate to your library and choose the one you want to open.
  5. Your iTunes library will open. Plug in your iPhone, iPod touch or iPad and sync away!

More

Multiple libraries are good for more than just multiple devices and family members. For example you might want a separate library for seasonal content like Christmas music that you only sync for a few weeks out of the year. Maybe you're going on a special trip and want apps and media that you won't sync again once you get back home. Anything that you want to keep clean and separate is a good candidate for its own iTunes library.

If you have any questions or any iTunes ninja tips of your own to share please let us know in the comments. If you're already using multiple libraries, let us know how it's working for you!

Tips of the day will range from beginner-level 101 to advanced-level ninjary. If you already know this tip, keep the link handy as a quick way to help a friend. If you have a tip of your own you’d like to suggest, add them to the comments or send them in to news@tipb.com. (If it’s especially awesome and previously unknown to us, we’ll even give ya a reward…)

Georgia

Senior Editor at iMore and a practicing therapist specializing in stress and anxiety. She speaks everywhere from conferences to corporations, hosts the ZEN & TECH podcast, and should be followed on Twitter @Georgia_Prime.

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Daily Tip: How to use multiple iTunes libraries on a single Windows or Mac PC

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Thanks for the tip. I tried it in Windows 7 and the alt key did not work but holding down the shift key and clicking the iTunes icon did.

I think Joe is talking about separate Windows or Mac OS accounts, not separate iTunes accounts.

Exactly.
Creating separate accounts is the obvious and only reliable way. Anything else is just looking for a mistake to happen and the wrong library to be used. Multi-user OSs were built for a reason. Use them.

This one doesn't work for me either (there's no pleasing somebody....). I want to share apps with my two kids who have ipod touch'es. I initially had to set up their units using my account to get them started but now they are getting apps on their own. They don't always bring their ipods and then they resort to using my iphone and if I don't have all the apps on, I wont hear the end of it. So I have to synch my phone and type in each of their passwords every single time, or the synch gets interrupted - very annoying; I need the accounts to stay logged on/authorized on the pc which it seems to me is not presently possible?

how to refresh library content? For example, when I change mp3 ID tag, add album art or something (outside of iTunes), it doesn't show in iTunes library. I have to click on each updated song to see it in iTunes.
Is there an easier way, maybe "refresh" in menu somewhere that refreshes all library tracks, albums?
Can iTunes library "watch" some folder, like many other music apps do?

None of these instructions are working for me at all. I would love to be able to do this, just never knew how. But since I can't I'll just have to continue using my laptop for my wife and kids and my desktop for my account.

Thanks, pjbertling. It wasn't working for me either until I read your post about needing to hold down the shift key until itunes is finished loading.

Really super top tip, i had no idea that was even possible, before this tip i created a separate user log in on my mac for this purpose, but this is a much better way of doing it, many thanks for this top tip

I have two kids that get itunes gift cards. What is the best way each can manage their gift, but share the purchase with each other?

It should be noted that (on a windows machine) if you double click an iTunes shortcut on your desktop it won't work. It must be the actual executable file. I tried the holding the shift key and double-clicking the shortcut and it only opens the last opened library and does not give you the choice of libraries. At least this happens for me.

I have the same problem that MANY people have reported:
I followed the easy steps: Created new library.
LOST ORIGINAL!!! BOTH libraries are now empty...all metadata gone.
How can I make a new library WITHOUT losing the old one?

Many thanks, it worked! I have had many frustrating years of listening to my partner's music! Today, I got a new MacBook and there will be no more listening to bad music! Phew! lol