Sharing iTunes Libaries with Multiple Users in Windows XP

Diann & I have both had our iPods for quite some time now, and I've always had it setup where the iTunes libary is stored within my home directory. Kind of irritating, especially when she needed to update her iPod, I'd have to log in as me.

I realized today that someone out there must have solved the problem, and some quick searching on the Internet led me to this site. I'm not a big fan of the font they used (yeah, it's a normal font, but with so much text I found it hard to read!), so I'll replicate/paraphrase what they've written up here (names changed to make it more akin to my situation, some file locations changed to more adequately reflect how my system is setup, if you want the original, well, the link is just above):

Which means now we have two users on a Windows XP computer, both of whom want to use the same music library and such. So for folks in a similar boat, here's how you do it.

Note that I'm assuming you have Administrator rights on the computer (so you can get into everyone else's My Documents folders) and you know how to work command prompts and stuff…

  1. Go to SysInternals and download a copy of junction if you don't already have it. Put it somewhere in your path; you're going to need to use it from the command prompt later.
  2. Your music library (the file iTunes 4 Music Library.itl) is stored in your My Music\iTunes folder. Your actual music might be too. Point is, if you look in the C:\Documents and Settings\username\My Documents\My Music folder, you'll see a folder iTunes that contains all of that stuff. We need to centralize that. Move that folder to the Shared Music folder: C:\Documents and Settings\All Users\Documents\My Music
  3. You now have all of your iTunes stuff in C:\Documents and Settings\All Users\Documents\My Music\iTunes right? Cool. Now you have to link to it.
  4. Open a command prompt in your My Music folder.
  5. At the prompt, execute: junction iTunes "C:\Documents and Settings\All Users\Documents\My Music\iTunes"
  6. You now have a hard link to the iTunes shared folder instead of a physical folder in your My Music folder. (Junction makes a sort of “shortcut” to other folders, but Windows thinks it's the real thing. That's how we're going to fool iTunes into allowing everyone to use the same iTunes library.) Repeat that command prompt “junction” action in all the other users' My Music folders who are going to share your iTunes library.
  7. Everyone who's sharing now has a junction to the shared iTunes folder, right? Now, have each user log in, one user at a time (not “switch users,” but actually have only one user logged in at a time) and open iTunes. They will all have to set up their own preferences (like their iTunes account, their shopping preferences, etc.) but they will all have access to the same music library and the same playlists.

That's it! You're done!

There are a couple of interesting caveats to note when working in this scenario. Some good, some not so good.

Since you're all sharing the same library and ratings are stored in the library, if one person changes ratings, they get changed for everyone. If you're anal like me, that means you'll tell everyone else not to rate anything. Hopefully Diann won't make all our U2 music 5 stars anytime soon.

This setup does allow all of you to automatically sync your iPods with individual settings. So I can sync my iPod with playlists X, Y, Z and Diann can sync hers automatically with playlists A, B, C. No problems there.

You can't have multiple users simultaneously logged in and using iTunes. That includes the “fast user switching” thing Windows XP provides. If one person is using iTunes, no one else can be using iTunes on that computer.

Important Note: These instructions are for Windows XP. If you're on a different OS/version, you're going to have to adapt paths accordingly. Also, I've only ever run any of this with an account that has Administrator privileges. If you're trying to get this working with limited accounts, you're on your own. All instructions here are provided for your unsupported use and at your own risk. Because, well… “it works for me.”

Regarding that last note, it seems to work as a standard user account as well. That's because the Shared Music folder has Everyone/Everything permissions by default. Ahh happiness, now I can just plug in an iPod and get it to sync without worrying about who is logged in!

UPDATE: Updated to reflect that you do have to put quotes in the junction command.

41 thoughts on “Sharing iTunes Libaries with Multiple Users in Windows XP”

  1. (realizing it was probably just an artifact from the example text you copied and pasted)

    So true about the ratings, but I found a fix that works well for U2.

    Just delete that shit out of itunes entirely. poof all fixed 🙂

  2. I cannot seem to make this work with my new ipod/itunes, even when including both the junction and target path arguments. Maybe Apple has disallowed junctions somehow, though this should be transparent to itunes. What message do you get if the junction is created successfully, and can you detect it with Windows Explorer? Thanks!

  3. If you’d prefer not to use juntion’s command line interface, there’s a very simple GUI interface for the same thing called Winbolic:
    http://www.pearlmagik.com/winbolic/

    Also, if you’re primary iTunes folder remains in another user’s document tree, you’ll need to open up permissions for everyone else to use that folder. This includes writing new files. For example, I linked the Guest account?s iTunes library to my user library. So within My Documents/My Music/iTunes, I had to allow others permission to my iTunes folder.

    Otherwise, thanks for the info to get this started!
    J

  4. I have written a little program (iTKiller) for XP which allows you to use Fast user switching with iTunes.

    Basically if you try to run iTunes on a second user the first users copy is closed down first so that iTunes doesnÂ’t complain and the new instance can start.

    If you would like to try it out please let me know.

    I have been using it for a few weeks now without any problems.

  5. This only worked for me if I put the junction target inside quotes, as below. If I didn’t put it in quotes, I just got the junction usage message (I put junction.exe in the root of my C: drive)

    C:Documents and SettingsRachelMy DocumentsMy Music>c:junction iTunes “c:Documents and SettingsAll UsersDocumentsMy MusiciTunes”

  6. okay, i am definitly not a computer person. I came across this blog. and i need some help.
    1st. i have no idea what it means to put the junction somewhere in a path?
    2nd.then i have no idea how to get to a command prompt from the MY music folder?
    3rd. hopefully from help from you i can be able to do the other stuff.

    Please help. Thanks

  7. So why can’t you set the iTunes Music folder location to be in the Shared documents and then point each users iTunes client to that location?

  8. I too would like to know how to open a command prompt in a window. I can open a command prompt from Start>All Programs>Accesories>Command Prompt but I don’t think that is what is talked about.

  9. “So why can’t you set the iTunes Music folder location to be in the Shared documents and then point each users iTunes client to that location?”

    That is what I tried the other day. You can direct iTunes (from within Preferences) to use music from a shared directory however the database file that forms the links between the actual music files and your runtime of iTunes is always in your personal folder. At this point, it cannot be changed – Apple has hardwired it that way.

    This is the workaround that I have been looking for – a way to modify the iTunes database file for each user so that it is actually a link to a centralized file.

  10. To open a the command prompt go to start and run type cmd in the run box and it should open.

    to place junction in the system path copy your junction.exe to c:/windows/system32/ just drop it in there and you should be set.

    To get to your my music folder from the command prompt type “cd my documents”

    then “cd my music”
    without the quotes this is assuming that you are installing this on a standard windows xp machine.

  11. Sloooowwww to open iTunes??? I got this to work, but when I open iTunes it takes about 3 minutes, any ideas? I have a large library (17GB).
    Thanks,
    Steve

  12. My library is around 15GB, and I don’t notice any difference in opening iTunes with the junction’d directories vs. the normal directories.

  13. Nice workaround, but I’d foresee having problems with “junction” down the road. Another, (just as iffy), way to accomplish this is to get Microsoft XP PowerToys – specifically just the TweakUI tool. This allows you to alter where the system thinks your “My Music” folder is. So, for example:

    1) Create a shared folder E:Music
    2) Login as User(x) and run TweakUI.
    – Click: My Computer->Special Folders
    – Pull down: My Music
    – Click: Change Location
    – Browse to E:Music (from step 1)
    – OK to save, etc..
    3) Repeat step2 for any other users neccessary
    4) Start iTunes and the DB will be created in E:Music

  14. I used the winbolic program and the link was created but when I open iTunes with a different user the library still does not load. I even made sure the iTunes Music folder location was set correctlyÂ… if a link is successful should the library already be listed in iTunes the first time it is open since the link was made or is there another step? Any help would be great!!

  15. not sure if anyone can help. i tried a number of times the above advice but didnt succeed. now i cant get itunes to show my tracks up in the library. i removed the junctions and have placed the library back in the original place. by clicking into each song it will then appear in the library although obviously would prefer to avoid clicking each and every song. would appreciate thoughts on how could get itunes to re-recognise the library. cheers, martin

  16. Does anyone have a solution for sharing an iTunes library on a remote (network) drive? Junction very specifically does not work with network drives. It’s so lame that Apple hardwires the location of the database file into My MusiciTunes. There must be a hack out there somewhere! Help?

  17. I am Xp itunes user. I did exactly same thing with junction as mentioned above so everyone can access the itunes library. Unfortunately, users having admin privs are able to access same library without any issues but a limited access user is not able to access the same library getting the error “itunes library.itl file is locked, on locked disk”. How can i resolve this?

    P.S. I have done exactly everything specified with junction above.

  18. Hi Everyone > Merry Xmas!

    I’ve just come across this discussion while trying to do just this > run itunes on xp with multiple users, man this was helpful ; >) I too would love to try out iTKiller if it works and Jason or anyone who got a copy, is willing to share. If it is effective I’d be more than happy to paypal you for it.

    Again Happy and Safe Holidays to all,

    Kevin

  19. This is pure genius. I have been attempting to do something similar but with negative results. I will be implementing this as soon as I get home this afternoon. I am curious to try out iTKiller. Does anyone have a copy they are willing to share 🙂 Please send it to prkid424@gmail.com.

    Thanks so much and happy holidays

  20. I have recently had a few requests for iTKiller. Apologies to anyone who has tried to get a copy and not been able to. I will rectify this as soon as I get back from holiday. If you would like to try a copy please email iTkiller.support@ntlworld.com and I will contact you as soon as I can (probably 1st Jan 2007)

  21. “This setup does allow all of you to automatically sync your iPods with individual settings. So I can sync my iPod with playlists X, Y, Z and Diann can sync hers automatically with playlists A, B, C. No problems there.”

    Question. What if my wife has a smaller iPod than I have? Since we’d have the same library, my question is, can she simply uncheck my songs that she does not like in her iTunes Music Folder (and vice versa) so that they are not synced on her smaller iPod? In other words, we have lots of the same music, but we both have plenty of music that the other does not like and don’t want to waste space on each of our iPods, especially hers which is smaller than mine. Thanks for you help!

  22. I answered my own question. I just tried this and unchecking a song in iTunes under my wife’s section, then opening iTunes on my side I saw the song was also unchecked. She was also able to delete one of my playlists. That’s too bad…this approach was promising.

  23. In case anybody is trying to do what I was trying to do, here is the solution:
    http://docs.info.apple.com/article.html?artnum=93195
    So now we don’t have to carry duplicate files but can maintain our separate iTunes libraries on the same computer.

    Also, I was unable to delete the junctions I created trying out the method described on this site with the junction -d command. I found a simple solution for this problem using NTFSLink, that I downloaded on this site:
    http://www.elsdoerfer.info/=ntfslink

  24. So am I correct in saying that noone has a solution for a copy of Itunes in OSX to use a network share on a PC as it’s base for all it’s music?

  25. Did anybody figure this one out I just got both admin users working great but guest login in says locked and can get permissions figured out

    “Space4u2go (20:29:22) : ”

    “I am Xp itunes user. I did exactly same thing with junction as mentioned above so everyone can access the itunes library. Unfortunately, users having admin privs are able to access same library without any issues but a limited access user is not able to access the same library getting the error “itunes library.itl file is locked, on locked disk”. How can i resolve this?

    P.S. I have done exactly everything specified with junction above.”

  26. Excellent. Does exactly what I wanted to do.

    So many sites attempt a solution to this problem…most I’ve read are similar to mine in that you want your wife/girlfriend, etc. to be able to access your playlists, purchases etc. in a centralised library under their own login. This does it.

    It’s easy enough to move your songs to a central location, the problem is that iTunes maintains it’s own library for each user which means if they buy a song and haven’tg told you about it then you will never hear of it. This method gets around the problem of multiple libraries.

    I especially like the junction tool. Me thinks I will be using it for other things…

    Cheers.

  27. Any idea why when I do this iTunes would tell me I don’t have permission to access the iTunes folder which I’ve put in Public/Public Music/iTunes on W Vista?

  28. This has worked for me for 2 years. Even when you move the folder containing the music (I use D:\Music) you just need to repoint each user to it. Perfect solution.

  29. This has also worked for me for years. Great solution. I’ve just upgraded to iTunes 9 and the programme in iots wisdom has copied all the music from the shared directory into each users iTunes folder. The User/Music/iTunes still shows up as a shortcut but now contains a copy of the central music folder. HELP its doing my head in.

  30. Just set this up with iTunes 9/XP. Used Winbolic to create a junction from each MyMusic/iTunes to one under Shared Music. So far, so good…

    I’m still *completely staggered* that iTunes doesn’t support this. In 2010.

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