How to Share Your iTunes Library with Your iPhone or iPad

You can keep a lot of music and videos on your Mac because it likely has a larger storage capacity than your iPhone or iPad. Fortunately, you can still easily share your entire iTunes library with all your Apple devices without physically transferring a single media file.

Normally it can be fairly difficult to reliably share media between several devices in your house but with iTunes Home Sharing, it’s easy. Best of all, technically you’re not strictly limited to Apple hardware. As long as you’re using iTunes, you can even share your library with and from Windows-based computers. That said, if you’re using a Windows PC, storage capacity is also likely not a pressing issue.

The first thing you must do is enable Home Sharing on your PCs, especially the media source(s) on which your files are kept. To do this, open iTunes click “File -> Home Sharing -> Turn on Home Sharing.”

This is going to result in a login screen, which will ask you for your Apple ID and password.

Give it a little time and once finished, you’ll get the following message. Click “Done” and if you want, repeat the process on other computers with iTunes installed.

For the Home Sharing feature to work, you need to make sure your other devices are on the same Wi-Fi network and logged into the same Apple ID account. To check on iPhone or iPad, open the settings, tap “iTunes & App Store,” and at the very top it will show you which Apple ID you’re logged in with.

To change this, simply tap the “Apple ID” link, sign out, and then sign back in with the Apple ID that corresponds with your source computer.

Now, open the Music app on your iPad or iPhone. Notice at the bottom there are navigation elements such as radio, artists, playlists, and so forth. You want to tap the option that says “More.” If it doesn’t appear immediately, give it a few minutes.

On the next screen, click on “Shared” to see the libraries you can access.

Our iPad is currently selected, as indicated by the check mark. We tap the library we want to connect to. It may take some time, especially if you have a larger music library, so be patient.

When finished, there will be a checkmark next to the our Mac’s library and we’ll have access to all of its music files.

Now, if you tap back to the main screen and choose a category (Artists, Songs, Albums; in our screenshot, we’ve selected “Songs”), we  see everything currently hosted on our source machine.

If you use iTunes, you know you can authorize up to five computers with the same Apple ID, which means that you can use Home Sharing to share media to and from all your PCs with very little effort and zero configuration. The process is the same whether you’re using OS X or Windows, enable Home Sharing from the File menu.

Then, it’s just a matter of clicking the Home Sharing icon such as in the following screenshot.

Then, you can select a shared library on an available device. Here, on our Mac, we can access the music on our Windows computer.

And vice-versa, we can access the library on our Mac from our Windows machine.

Every shared library will also be accessible from our iOS device.

Know also, you’re not limited to music on your iPad or iPhone either. You can also access whatever video files are in your computer’s iTunes library. To do that, open the Videos app, and simply tap the “Shared” option at the top, then choose your library.

Home Sharing works really well once you’re connected, unfortunately, each time you close the Music or Videos app, it will disconnect from the shared library. You then have to reconnect as we’ve described. This can take a few seconds or a few minutes, especially if you have a large number of files, and in some cases, such as with very large music libraries, Home Sharing may hang or take an inordinately long time to connect.

That said, for smaller libraries with a few hundred or even few thousand songs, it should work flawlessly. Just remember, every time you close out of the Music app or iTunes on the source computer, you will have to reconnect so if you want to stay connected, you need to make sure you leave both Music running on your iPad or iPhone, and iTunes on your PC.

Got a better way to share your media files between your PCs and iOS devices? We’d like to hear from you in our discussion forum.

Matt Klein is an aspiring Florida beach bum, displaced honorary Texan, and dyed-in-wool Ohio State Buckeye, who fancies himself a nerd-of-all-trades. His favorite topics might include operating systems, BBQ, roller skating, and trying to figure out how to explain quantum computers.