Quick Tip: How to Use Home Sharing in iTunes


In the days before iTunes 9, users had to copy their old library from one computer to another using an external hard drive, or even a series of DVDs. Everyone knew it was possible to transfer it over the local network using either Ethernet or WiFi, but there wasn’t an official solution for it. When the ninth revision of Apple’s music player released, a fancy new feature called Home Sharing accompanied it. This finally brought the much-needed LAN transfer feature. I’m here today to teach you everything you’ll ever need to know about iTunes Home Sharing.

What It Lets You Do

Before I begin, let me explain what Home Sharing allows you to do. Basically, you can already transfer files between computers on a network using AirDrop. With Home Sharing though, you get a focused functionality that lets you move any iTunes content from one computer to any of the other five authorized on your iTunes Store account. Whether you need it at the office, home, or a friend’s house, it’s going to be right in iTunes and ready for you to use. Let’s get started.

Enabling Home Sharing

Switching on Home Sharing requires a quick log-in. Switching on Home Sharing requires a quick log-in.

First, you’re going to need an Apple ID as Home Sharing relies on it to ensure that you aren’t just giving your friends music. Once you’ve signed in to your account in the iTunes Store, click File, hover over the Home Sharing pop-out, and click Turn On Home Sharing. You’ll now be prompted to type in your Apple ID password to proceed. When finished, click the blue Turn On Home Sharing button and you’ll get a confirmation message reminding you that the feature is “for personal use” only.

The success screen. The success screen.

For reference, clicking the "No Thanks" button will not enable Home Sharing. You need an Apple ID to use the feature and you must sign in with it.

Using Home Sharing

Home Sharing a Thomas Newman album. Home Sharing a Thomas Newman album.

With this newly-enabled feature, you can transfer pretty much anything between your home computers. So, if a friend comes over and connects to your network, you can activate his computer with Home Sharing and then give him a few of your apps. The same goes for your wife, kids, and even coworkers around the office. If there’s a great book you want friends to read, set up a quick transfer without the use of a flash drive or file upload service.

Tip: You can have multiple computers using Home Sharing on the same network, so feel free to stream all your music.

Signing in to my Home Sharing account (left) and opening the library (right). Signing in to my Home Sharing account (left) and opening the library (right).

Something I haven’t touched on yet is the compatibility of Home Sharing. I’ve already said that it works with all computers, but what about your iOS devices? Pull one out and head to the Settings app, then scroll down and sign in with your Apple ID. Now all you have to do is go to the Music app, tap More, and tap Shared. All your items will pop up for streaming and all you have to do is tap them. Think of this functionality as a reverse Remote app.

You can also enable photo sharing for Apple TVs. You can also enable photo sharing for Apple TVs.

Lastly, you can share your library with an Apple TV on your network. To switch on the service, head to the Computers tab on your device and enter the Apple ID and password you used for Home Sharing on your computer. You can also share photos with your Apple TV by clicking the File button in iTunes on your computer, then hovering over Home Sharing and clicking the Choose Photos to Share with Apple TV button. From there you can a select events and individual photos, or just the whole library.

Not Working? Let’s Troubleshoot

Consider checking this box for continuous streaming capability. Consider checking this box for continuous streaming capability.

Is Home Sharing not working for you? Here’s a short checklist to make sure you have things set up correctly.

  • Make sure you're running the latest version of iTunes available for your computer. You will also need iOS 4.3 or later to use the feature on a mobile device.
  • Your Apple TV must be a 2nd or 3rd generation model and running version 4.2.1 of the software.
  • Make sure you are using the same Apple ID for all your devices.
  • Check your network settings to see if all your devices are connected to the same router.
  • Turn off your firewall’s “Block all incoming connections” and “Allow only essential services” settings.
  • If your computer is sleeping, access may not be granted. Go to Energy Sharing in System Preferences and check the box beside “Wake for Wi-Fi network access”. Take note that this option is not available when your Mac is on battery power.

If none of that works, restart your computer and even your router if need be. Also make sure you’re in range of your router — you know, the usual routine for fixing poor connectivity.

Will You Use It?

Now that you know how to use Home Sharing, our question for you is, will you be making use of the feature in your daily life? Thanks for reading and I’ll see you in the comments!

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