iTunes appears to have a formidable weakness. It does not appear to be possible to store a subset of one's collection on a Mac, just as one routinely does on an iOS device.


We normally treat an iPod, an iPad, and an iPhone as a slave device, by that I mean that we declare a Mac a master device, store our complete iTunes library on the Mac, and sync the iOS (slave) device using some given criteria.

I would like to do exactly the same process between two Macs. I would like to declare one Mac/OS X the master device and store the complete iTunes collection on it. I would then declare a second (third, etc) Mac/OS X the slave and sync with the master device.

As you can guess, the idea is that one OS X (the "slave" in this context) will be your work machine with its disk dedicated to serious stuff (and/or comes with fast/limited storage), while the other OS X (the "master") will be your media machine with large (disk-based) storage.

Can one sync iTunes between two OS X machines? How?

Update: This question is similar, but the rsync option is not suitable. The point is not to store a duplicate, but a small subset of the full collection. It seems a solution is not possible with stock utilities at this time, at least not until the competing ecosystem offers a viable solution to the same problem, but don't hold your breath.

  • If you are looking simply to have a library available for sharing across a home network, I would then suggest using Home Sharing for your iTunes library. The question is stating that due to limited storage, you want a remote copy of the files instead of a duplicated copy of the files residing on both machines, correct?
    – smoooosher
    Jul 8, 2015 at 17:32
  • IIUC with Home Sharing you are merely streaming. Once you leave your "master" Mac at home and take with you the "slave" mac, you can no longer stream. You do not have access to your music while you're on the road (just as you would with your iOS device).
    – Calaf
    Jul 8, 2015 at 18:29
  • my apologies. You would like a local copy of the data, but just some of it. Correct? I misread the last line :) my bad!
    – smoooosher
    Jul 8, 2015 at 18:31

1 Answer 1


I have a setup in which my entire iTunes library (not just my media folder) is housed on an external hard drive. This allows it to be portable - I take it between computers, open iTunes, and it'll 'update' the database so it can pull from it. All data and settings in mine transfer over.

The drive makes it easier when managing a very large music library with a multitude of playlists and also want to update your phone from multiple computers/eases replacement of an existing computer. This might be able to achieve the same result you're looking for, and will also address the concerns over space. I was able to pick up a 1TB external USB 3.0 drive for ~$100.

  • Could you provide more details. With an iPod and an OS X machine, I can specify "make mp3 versions from the AIFF files and copy them to the iPod such that the total does not exceed 10GB." Were you able to store your (complete) iTunes library on an external drive, mount that drive on your Mac, and say "make mp3 versions... does not exceed xGB"? How?
    – Calaf
    Jul 8, 2015 at 15:51
  • @Calaf I don't use that function. My answer was specifically for library portability. Should this be part of your question, I would suggest editing it to clarify
    – smoooosher
    Jul 8, 2015 at 17:14
  • Done. I reworded the question. I hope it's become unambiguous.
    – Calaf
    Jul 8, 2015 at 17:22

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