How to separate your Apple media after a divorce

Unfortunately, divorce is a part of life for many. Sometimes marriages don't work out, or something drives you apart. At some point in the process comes dividing assets. But in this world of digital content, how do you split that stuff up? How do you, for instance, split up an iTunes library?

Luckily, there are steps you can take to split up at least some of your library. Here's what you can do when it comes time to divvy up your iTunes content.

The first steps

If your ex is going to continue using the iTunes account that the two of you shared, you'll want to follow these steps to get set up with a new account.

First things first, you'll need to get a new Apple ID, which you'll use to login to iTunes and make purchases through the iTunes Store.

You might also need to remove the old Apple ID you and your ex shared from your devices. This prevents things like their messages ending up on your iPhone or iPad.

If you're leaving a computer behind for someone else to use, but are planning to wipe it clean and move your iTunes library to a new computer, you might want to move that library to an external drive.

Splitting up your music

Even if your old Apple ID was used to purchase music from iTunes, you can still transfer it over to your new Apple ID, though you'll have to do a little work with an external hard drive. You'll also want to sign up for iTunes Match, a service that Apple provides that transfers any music you might have, regardless of origin, to your iTunes account's iCloud Music Library. This lets you download these songs on all of the devices on which you've signed in with your new Apple ID as if you purchased them yourself.

Of course, you'll actually need to copy your iTunes files to a new Mac using an external drive of some kind. Here's how.

How to copy iTunes music to another Mac

  1. Connect your external drive to the computer you're moving the files from.
  2. Click the Finder icon in the dock to open a new Finder window.
  3. Click Music.

  1. Double-click the iTunes folder.
  2. Double-click the iTunes Media folder.

  1. Double-click the Music folder.
  2. Select the folders for the artists or albums that you want to copy over.

  1. Click and drag those files over to your external drive. This should only copy the files to the drive, not move them out of the computer's library.
  2. Eject the drive from the older Mac.
  3. Connect your drive to your new Mac.
  4. Click the Finder icon in the dock to open a new Finder window on your new Mac.

  1. Click Music.
  2. Double-click the iTunes folder.

  1. Double-click the iTunes Media folder.
  2. Double-click the Automatically Add to iTunes folder.

  1. Double-click on your external drive on your desktop.
  2. Select the folders for the artists or albums that you want to copy over.

  1. Click and drag your files from your drive over to your other Finder window to place them in the Automatically Add to iTunes folder.

Placing items in that folder causes them to, you guessed it, automatically be added to iTunes, with no extra work required on your part. If you're signed in to your iTunes account and have already subscribed to iTunes Match, it will automatically check your music, match those songs with music in iTunes, and add it to your iCloud Music Library. Do note that to keep access to this music, you'll need to remain subscribed to iTunes Match, which will run you $25 per year.

A note on movies and TV shows

When you're splitting things up in a divorce, you can't always be fair. You can't, for instance, literally split your house in two so you both get half. The same is true for iTunes libraries. While you can transfer music using iTunes Match, that doesn't work for movies and TV shows.

As of right now, there's not a legitimate means of outright transferring TV shows and movies purchased on iTunes from one account to another that lets both accounts keep access to that content. If you're the one creating a new iTunes account, you'll need to re-purchase or re-download any movies and TV shows that you want in your library, unless things between you and your ex are still friendly, in which case you might be more inclined to use Family Sharing.

If you're still friendly

Maybe you're still on good terms with your ex. Or maybe you share custody of your children. In that case, if you didn't do this while you were still married, you might want to look into setting up Family Sharing.


If you're going through a divorce and have questions about splitting up your iTunes content, let us know below in the comments.

Joseph Keller

Joseph Keller is the former Editor in Chief of iMore. An Apple user for almost 20 years, he spends his time learning the ins and outs of iOS and macOS, always finding ways of getting the most out of his iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, and Mac.