How to sync and share your iTunes music across multiple mac computers and iPhones.

When you have more than one computer and more than one iPhone or iPod there are various ways to sync your iTunes songs across all your devices.  This article outlines them all.

Option 1: iTunes Library sharing (between macs)


+ Simple, Free.

– Both Computers must be on.

– Songs can’t be copied from one computer to the other.

– You can only sync your iPhone to the songs on one computer.


So if I am on my iMac in my bedroom, I can listen to songs that come from a different computer eg my little brother’s shared iTunes library on his macbook in his bedroom.

Each person needs to ‘share’ their iTunes library that they want others to access from other computers.

If you go to the preferences menu of iTunes and click on the sharing tab you can turn on ‘Sharing’  of your iTunes library.  This means that any other computer with iTunes on the same network as your Macintosh  can see and play the songs from your iTunes library. You can’t copy the songs from one computer to the other,  so for this to work both computers must be turned on AND HAVE ITUNES RUNNING.

The simplest way to share files to other computers on your network: share your iTunes library from the iTunes preferences.

After you share your library a  new entry will appear in your iTunes window on all other computers on your network under ‘SHARED’  and  will see  the entire iTunes library from your other computer. You can click on and play any song –  they will stream from your other computer. Streaming simply  means the song is played over the network but it is not copied to the 2nd computer,  so after you have finished listening to the song it is gone from your 2nd computer.  If the 1st computer is turned off you do not have access to the song any more.

Remote Control.

Once a Library is


 Option 2: Apple home sharing (between macs)

+ Simple, Free,

+ You can copy songs between computers.

+ You can remotely control (via your iPhone) your computer to play songs.

–  iPhone syncing is still to one computer.

The next step up is Apple Home Sharing.  It requires you to enter your iTunes ID and password,  and is limited to 5 computers, but it will then allow you full access between iTunes libraries including the ability to copy songs between computers that are on your  ‘Apple Home Sharing’  account.

Eg If you sign your imac and your macbook into the same iTunes account, you can have full access to the songs on both computers, but you will need to copy the songs across manually if you want the access to be permanent.

1. To turn on Apple Home Sharing go to the advanced menu on your iTunes application and click on ‘ Turn on Home Sharing’. It  will ask you for your Apple ID which is the ID that you registered up with the iTunes store.  You can register up to 5 computers on the same Apple ID. You need to manually sync your iPhone or iPad to one of your computers.


2. If you want a song to permanently copy across to your 2nd computer select the song and click on ‘ import’. This will copy the song across to your 2nd computer so that you can play it when the 1st computer is off.



3. Apple have an iPhone app called ‘Remote’ (download it here) that will allow you to control your iTunes from your iPhone if you have Home Sharing turned on. You can select songs, play, stop and adjust volume and more. The music plays from your computer, the iPhone controls it.


Option 3: iTunes Match.

+ All songs automatically available to all computers and iOS devices.

– Songs are now limited to 256kbps in iOS devices

– you can no longer manually sync

– you need to be in internet range to play a song the first time, not all songs sync.

It would be nice to have a solution where you can listen to any songs from any computer at any time without having to manually copy them to your computer or iPhone. Apple have solved this problem in the most remarkable way with ‘iTunes Match’. iTunes have 20 million songs ‘in the cloud’ out there on Apple servers. Rather than upload all your songs from your computer it simply looks at what songs you have, then let’s you access those songs (from the Apple server) from any of your iOS devices, anytime!

For example, I have the U2 song ‘One’ on my computer  which I imported into iTunes from a CD. When I sync to iTunes match,  Apple notices that I own this song. I can then listen to this song on my iPhone for free,  without my computer  even being on –  it streams the song from the Apple server.

Of course this uses Apple’s servers and Apple’s computing power so Apple charge a fee for this of  approximately $30  per year depending on where you live.

Here is how to register and setup iTunes match:

1. Click on iTunes match in your iTunes sidebar


2. Subscribe!


3. Wait while iTunes match syncs your files

In the setup process iTunes match takes 3 steps. First, iTunes will scan your entire iTunes library.  My library has approximately 3500 songs and this step took 6 minutes.

Secondly,  iTunes compares your songs to the songs in the iTunes library.  This step took about an hour  on my computer. All the songs that were on the Apple server are now available:

In the last step iTunes uploads all the songs from your computer to the iTunes cloud server that it cannot find on its cloud server. This last step took hours and hours.  There was approx 7 Gig of data in total uploaded!

Now you need to go to your iOS device and turn on iTunes Match. Go into ‘Settings’, ‘Music’ and turn on ‘iTunes Match’ to make the songs available to your iPod or iPhone.

Turning on iTunes match on an iPod
Now your songs are available on your iPhone – the cloud means they are on the cloud.


Now, there are a few limitations of iTunes match.

1. Songs are no longer lossless, even if they were lossless on your home computer. This is probably not a huge drawback as iOS devices don’t have the highest quality sound as it is.

2. The first time you play a song there can be a 10-20 second delay while the song starts streaming, depending on how good your network is. If you skip forward on the song with the playback slider there can be a delay while it starts streaming again.  Once you listen to a song it seems to stay on your iOS device and it plays straight away next time.

3. If you are out of phone range you can’t play any of your songs. You can’t even manually sync songs to your iPhone if you know you are going will be going on a drive that’s out of phone range. This is a major problem for people in rural areas.

4. Not all songs are eligible for iCloud.  Of my 4912 items in iTunes, 1676 were not eligible for iCloud sync – a whole heap of talks I’ve collected plus my audio Bible.  The apple website says “You can match or upload music formats that can be played with iTunes. That includes AAC, MP3, WAV, AIFF, Apple Lossless, and more.” But the 1/3 of my iTunes that wouldn’t sync to iCloud were plain old  mp3 files that I can play in iTunes and on my iPhone. To make matters worse, once you enable iCloud on your iPhone, you CANNOT MANUALLY SYNC SONGS, therefore there is no way to get these talks on your phone.

In summary, iTunes match is a handy way to have most of your songs with you anywhere, but at the point of listening it’s not as convenient as having all the songs on your iOS device as you would from a manual sync.

iTunes match woes.









8 responses to “How to sync and share your iTunes music across multiple mac computers and iPhones.”

  1. When iTunes Match was first announced, I didn’t really think that it would be something that I would use.

    But as I read more of the reviews – it really does seem like a good service.

    I am tempted to give it a try for a year, especially for the convenience of having all my music in the cloud.

  2. Jeremiah

    I no longer have the option to import songs with a shared computer. (2. If you want a song to permanently copy across to your 2nd computer select the song and click on ‘ import’. This will copy the song across to your 2nd computer so that you can play it when the 1st computer is off.) My version of iTunes is 10.6

  3. tiredofthis

    Option 2: Apple home sharing

    + Simple, Free, You can copy songs between computers.
    – iPhone syncing is still manually to one computer.
    – All iTunes installations must use the same account; if two or more of you have your very own PCs, iPhones, and iTunes accounts, you’re out of luck.

  4. Catrina

    i liked it until i found out i could no longer sync manually to my ipad. I have enough room on my ipad for all my music, without it being in the cloud and would like to sync it manually. However, i do need to be able to use the cloud for my iphone. At this point of frustration, when my cloud subscription ends I’ll just turn it off.

  5. Chris Sanders

    I dont really like iTunes, check out iStick, pretty cool app by Softorino! No iTunes at all! Can you imagine:)

  6. Kyla

    I bought all of my music on my laptop (Macbook Air) and have tried multiple times to sync it with my phone. I manually plugged in the USB, pressed ‘Sync’ when I opened iTunes, yet I still have no music on my phone. What do I do?

  7. Jan

    Sorry, but this Article is useless. You write ‘If you want a song to permanently copy across to your 2nd computer select the song and click on ‘import’. This will copy the song across to your 2nd computer’. Well, that’s what ‘sync’ means!

    All Options describe “sharing” which is a complete different thing.

  8. Lee

    iTunes is a big mess!

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