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Everything You Wanted to Know About Apple ID but Were Too Afraid to Ask

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Newcomers to the Mac will be requested to register an email address, and some other details, when they first start up OS X. This email address is often a yourname@mac.com, yourname@me.com or yourname@icloud.com, that can be obtained from Apple specifically for the purpose, or it may be your personal email address such as yourname@yourdomain.tld.

What may not be immediately clear to the new Mac owner, or indeed some existing Mac owners, is why Apple wants you to do this. This article seeks to explain what an Apple ID is and why you need one together with some examples of how an Apple ID can be more useful than you perhaps first considered.


What is an Apple ID?

Essentially, an Apple ID is your passport to the Apple ecosystem of hardware and software. It is an important information that smooths the interaction between you, your hardware, software and services that Apple provides.

The most apparent use, of which you may already be aware, is that an Apple ID is required to download software from the Mac App Store. That’s just part of it’s importance; an Apple ID is used for many other things such as enabling and using iCloud, buying from the Apple online store, making reservations (Genius Bar and Workshops) at an Apple retail store, accessing the Apple Support website and so on. It’s used for lots of things and it’s important that you know why and keep your Apple ID up to date.


Creating an Apple ID

There are two ways to create an Apple ID. The first is to create one online at the Apple website before you use an Apple Mac (or, indeed, iOS device). The second is to register the first time the you turn on your new Mac (or iOS device).

Step 1. Online

This simple Apple ID application form requires you to enter your email address (which will become your Apple ID) together with a password (please ensure this is secure and read our password articles for help on this)

Some further information, including a security question, name, address, date of birth and whether you want to subscribe to Apple’s emails all need to be completed.

This may sound like a lot of personal information to hand over — and it is — but it is all relevant and becomes useful when you have further interactions with Apple be that through the Mac App Store, their retail stores or their website.

Creating your Apple ID on the Apple website.
Creating your Apple ID on the Apple website.

Step 2. On Your Mac

The first time that you start up your Mac you will be invited to either register an Apple ID or enter your existing Apple ID if you already have one.

The information required is the same as the online form, just presented through the initial start up process of OS X.

Creating an Apple ID on your Mac
Creating an Apple ID on your Mac

Why You Need an Apple ID

An Apple ID is required even to start up your Mac for the first time. This makes sense, as it ensures your Apple ID account information is logged with Apple so that all subsequent dealings are as smooth as possible. It saves you having to repeatedly type out the same information over and over again.

This is advantageous every time you download software from the Mac App Store or visit an Apple retail store. They have all of your information and emailing your purchase receipts, rather than giving you a paper copy, makes so much more sense in this technological day and age.


Services Requiring an Apple ID

In addition to the operating system — having already logged in using your credentials — your Apple ID is integrated with a number of apps and services that you can use with your Mac.

These apps and services include:

iCloud

Everything you wanted to know about AppleID but were too afraid to ask.

Newcomers to the Mac will be requested to register an email address, and some other details, when they first start up OS X. This email address is often a yourname@mac.com, yourname@me.com or yourname@icloud.com, that can be obtained from Apple specifically for the purpose, or it may be your personal email address such as yourname@yourdomain.tld.

What may not be immediately clear to the new Mac owner, or indeed some existing Mac owners, is why Apple wants you to do this. This article seeks to explain what an Apple ID is and why you need one together with some examples of how an Apple ID can be more useful than you perhaps first considered.

iCloud on your Mac.
iCloud on your Mac.

Facetime

FaceTime for Mac allows you to make video calls from your Mac to a friend or colleague also using a Mac, or to their iOS device.

It’s, essentially, free video calling in high definition 720p.

iTunes

Whilst it may be considered to have grown in to somewhat of a behemoth of an app, iTunes is widely known for bringing easy digital music downloads to the masses over the last decade or so. Anyone purchasing music via iTunes needs an Apple ID to do so.

It’s much more than that, though. Apple iTunes allows you to download, rent or purchase films, television programmes, iOS apps, books, podcasts and iTunes U for learning resources from top universities, museums and other cultural institutions from around the world.

iTunes on your Mac requires Apple ID.
iTunes on your Mac requires Apple ID.

iTunes Home Sharing

iTunes Home Sharing is designed to permit the sharing of your iTunes media library, easily, between different Macs in your household. You can stream or transfer music, films, television programmes, apps and more amongst a maximum of five authorised computers in your household.

iTunes Home Sharing is authorised on each computer by using the same Apple ID and the iTunes library of each machine will show up in the Shared section of iTunes.

iTunes Match

iTunes Match allows you to store your purchased (and ripped) CDs in the cloud for a fee of £21.99 ($24.99) per annum.

All of your music that iTunes matches, with its 26-million song database, will play back from iCloud at 256-Kbps AAC DRM-free quality — even if your original copy was of lower quality.

iTunes Match gives you access to all of your music without having to take up lots of valuable space on your hard drive — important for those with large music libraries and MacBooks Air!

iTunes Match allows the storing of your music in the cloud.
iTunes Match allows the storing of your music in the cloud.

Mac App Store

The Mac App Store is Apple’s app store for the Mac and is compatible with OS X 10.6.6 Snow Leopard, 10.7 Lion and 10.8 Mountain Lion.

The Mac App Store provides app developers with a sales channel to potential customers and customers with a single app from where new software — for many different uses — may be downloaded with confidence that the software is safe for their Mac (having been vetted by Apple).

In addition, Apple now distributes OS X 10.7 Lion and 10.8 Mountain Lion through the Mac App Store (the latter exclusively so), having advantages for lowering distribution costs and avoiding mail ordering software or having to go to a store.

Your Apple ID is your gateway to the Mac App Store and, having your payment information associated with it, allows for relatively frictionless downloading of software.

Using your Apple ID with the Mac App Store opens the doors to a wealth of software.
Using your Apple ID with the Mac App Store opens the doors to a wealth of software.

iMessage

This is a little confusing. The app on your Mac is called Messages but the service is called iMessage. Regardless of Apple’s peculiar naming conventions, iMessage provides you with a means of sending “text messages” — similar to SMS on mobile phones — to your friends and colleagues who also use Macs or iOS devices.

iMessage is not SMS; it does not send messages over cellular networks, instead routing data via Apple’s servers in their North Carolina data centre. That said, iOS devices will fall back to SMS over cellular connections if, for any reason, the data can not be routed via 3G, LTE or wi-fi via Apple.

It is your Apple ID that is required for using iMessage and this can also form your iMessage contact address by which others can reach you.

Real Word Apple Stores

If you have ever been to an Apple store to purchase something you are most likely to have had a receipt emailed to you. This is made possible by virtue of your Apple ID.

In fact, you don’t even need to tell Apple your email address since when you pay with a credit or debit card associated with your Apple ID they will automatically know where to send your receipt.

Furthermore, your Apple ID is required for the purposes of booking either a Genius Bar appointment or a Workshop in any of Apple’s retail stores.

Apple Support Website

Beyond browsing knowledge base articles or watching video tutorials, your Apple ID is required for Apple’s support website for the purposes of contacting them for support, registering AppleCare polices, checking service and support coverage and checking repair statuses.


How to Maintain Your Apple ID

Since your Apple ID is used for just about everything that you do with Apple, it makes sense to ensure that the information is accurate and up to date.

Your Apple ID can be maintained on the Apple Support website and this is the place to go if you need to reset your Apple ID password.


Resetting Your Apple ID Password

If you ever forget your Apple ID password simply visit the entertainingly-named iForgot part of the Apple website and enter your Apple ID (the email address)

Apple will take you through the necessary security information to ensure the password reset request is legitimate in order to get you up and running with your Apple ID once again.


Apple ID and Your Apple Inventory

Your Apple ID is useful also for registering and maintaing an inventory of your Apple products. This is especially useful for those times that you need technical support either from the Apple website or from one of their retail stores.

You can maintain your inventory of products at supportprofile.apple.com

There’s much more that you can do with Support Profile and you can find out more in our previous article “Get to Know Your Apple Support Profile

Apple ID is used for Apple Support Profile.
Apple ID is used for Apple Support Profile.

Conclusion

You’re not going to get started, with Apple, without first registering an email address as your Apple ID. This is required for so much of your contact with Apple and it’s software. Whilst your initial response may be a reluctance to share personal data with Apple, it really does pay dividends in time savings with your ongoing association with Apple hardware, software, services and stores.

Perhaps you find your Apple ID particularly useful for a given reason. Perhaps you have questions or help for others. Either way, let us know in the comments section, below.

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