How to create and use multiple iTunes libraries on a single computer

How to create and use multiple iTunes libraries on a single computer

Just because you share a Mac at home doesn't mean you want to share an iTunes library. Maybe you and your significant other don't have the same taste in music, TV, or movies. Maybe you want to keep all the kids' stuff out of your carefully curated classics. Sure, you can create different logins for your Mac, but if all you want is separate iTunes libraries, it's easy to do, and easy to switch between them any time you want. Here's how!

How to create a new iTunes library on your Mac or PC

  1. Quit iTunes completely if it's running.
  2. Hold down the Alt key on your keyboard and click on iTunes.
  3. Click the Create Library... button in the popup dialog.
  4. Browse to where you want the library to be located and give it a name. By default all libraries are saved in the music folder. You can choose somewhere different if you'd like.
  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.

How to create a new iTunes library on your Mac or PCHow to create a new iTunes library on your Mac or PC

How to switch between multiple iTunes libraries

To switch from one iTunes library to another:

  1. Quit iTunes completely if it's running.
  2. Hold down the Alt key on your keyboard and click on iTunes.
  3. Click the Choose Library... button in the popup dialog.
  4. A file browser will launch. Navigate to your library, highlight the main folder directory and click the Open button.

How to switch between multiple iTunes librariesHow to switch between multiple iTunes libraries

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.

Note: Originally published, July 2012. Updated, November 2014.

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Allyson Kazmucha

Senior editor for iMore. I can take apart an iPhone in less than 6 minutes. I also like coffee and Harry Potter more than anyone really should.

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Reader comments

How to create and use multiple iTunes libraries on a single computer


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.

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

Not sure this works if your accounts are in different countries' stoes...?
Also, are you sure this doesn't mess up iTunes Match?

What I've done to avoid both the above is create another profile on my Mac where that iTunes has the othher account. I've found this to be very easy to set up and straight-forward to use.

How about if I have 2 iPhones one for business and the other is a personal one. Could I create a separate account for my business iphone so when I plugging my business phone everything that I have on my personal will not download on my business phone.