My family shares an apple ID, and I can't chose whose contacts I want to sync with when I set up Icloud. For example, I own a Mac and an iPhone. I want my content to only be synced between MY Mac and MY iPhone. Instead, everything including my contacts gets jumbled and duplicated together with my parents' pc and my families' iPhones. Because of this, I have three different instances of my sister in my contact book. My moms version my version and my other sisters version.

Does anyone have advice on how we should go about organizing out content and apple ID?

10 Answers 10


Here is what I do, where I share one appleid for purchases among 3 family members. Number one, only use the appleid for purchases just for purchases. then, each member should have a separate iCloud account with a unique appleid for mail, contacts, iCal, etc syncing. Then, on all devices set the appleid for the store to the purchase id and on the individual devices set the iCloud id to the appleid for each individual separately. Works great for me.

  • 2
    Denitely, THE solution.
    – Herr
    Jan 16, 2012 at 17:16
  • 1
    Don't give your kids the password.
    – Ɱark Ƭ
    Dec 6, 2012 at 20:20
  • I agree. The BEST solution out there for families. I've been using this technique for a long time. Dec 15, 2012 at 16:12

My family's system consists of using a shared Apple ID to buy from iTunes and the Mac App Store. Each member then has their own iCloud account based on a unique email address for Mail & Notes, Contacts, and Calendars.

On the iPhone: everyone should enter the shared Apple ID under the Settings/Store/Apple ID section for purchases. Each user can then enter their own iCloud for all other data in Settings/iCloud.

On the Mac: everyone should authorize their iTunes and Mac App Store accounts under the shared Apple ID by signing in under the Store menu in iTunes and Mac App Store. Each user can enter their own iCloud account for all other data under System Preferences/iCloud.

For both iPhone and Mac: My family shares calendars. If you want to share Mail & Notes, Contacts, or Calendars, add the person's iCloud account to Settings or System Preferences/Mail, Contacts & Calendars. Then choose what you want to share.


I have finally formulated a solution for the "sharing families". Please comment if you find inaccuracies or if you can enhance this solution.

1. Mail, Calendar, Contacts, and Notes:

Since 2 years before iOS 5, we have been using some of the functionalities seamlessly across the family. Seems like, we will have to continue with this set up. We have been using what Neil Trodden describes in this answer. Establish a "family shared account" on sites such as Google, Yahoo, etc. (we use Google) for mail, calendar, contacts, and notes. PS: Contacts and calendar are set up as "Exchange" and the mail and notes are set up as "IMAP". Works like a charm -- as soon as one device adds/updates a contact -- all others have the latest! Calendar entries show on all devices instantly so that family engagements are never double booked and grocery lists (and other notes) are instantly updated across the devices. Hassle free, hands free, as it should be.

Besides the "family shared account", we each have our own employer's accounts (email, calendar, contacts, etc) that are setup the way the employer's systems want. Any additional personal emails can be setup the same way.

2. Music, Apps, Photos, Documents

If a family does not share these, what else will they? If you think of 5GB times 4 devices = 20 GB free, that is the thinking block. Just set up 5GB times 1 free account and enter that information into all devices. The devices will happily share the photos and documents. You probably already had one iTunes account with credit card etc for app purchases, you might as well use that same id to keep things simple.

Now one would ask if single ID works for these 4, why not use the same for mail, calendar, contacts and notes? Answer is you could if 5GB is sufficient for 4 or 6 people. There is some complication about iCloud trying to copy all email accounts to other devices and interfering with the employer's appropriate use policy if you have employer email/calendar showing on one of your devices.

3. Bookmarks and Reminders:

I have found no way to conveniently share the bookmarks across devices/people. I guess search engines are good enough for the job; we don't miss this much. As for the "reminders", the real question is -- why are they outside of the calendar? Apple should have kept it simple. But that was in paper world, one could argue that both apps bell you through the same device, so the system still works if you have one device. I don't yet know if reminders will work through all devices.

4. Conclusions:

Apple considered a cloud of devices while designing iCloud, but a lot of us are a combined cloud of devices and people. I guess they were in a hurry. Hopefully, there will be added human cloud consideration to a future version. Trying to automate across this simple scenario is the first. Next level will be to deal with the fact that each of us is a point shared in multiple people-clouds (e.g. family, work, professional circle, PTAs, etc.). Automating across that scenario will require the end users to grow up to the challenge.

Any comments on this set up would be appreciated. Your comments will help, as I am considering adding a couple of devices for additional members of my family who will join this man machine cloud soon. The point is to keep it as much hands free as possible in a most economic way. Good products Apple!


I have the same setup as @Tank and @DaggerDone and it has been working great for the whole family. One Apple ID (Mine) for store purchases and my wife, son and daughter each have their own iCloud accounts for email and iMessage.


I use the single I.d. for purchases and separate for cloud as well. In addition, I have a young son and I have set him up with a separate I.d. for purchases that is funded by gift cards and not a cc, which is any easy way to limit spending.


I shared an iTunes account with a device I gave to my mother. What we do differently though, is not use contact syncing to my main machine. We sync our email, contacts and calendar using google.

I then choose which things on her machine that we don't want to sync - ie I don't want my bookmarks and hers replicating to each other's devices so I disable the iCloud sync of those and they get backed up when I periodically force an itunes sync of her device.



I use the single I.d. for purchases and separate for cloud as well. In addition, I have a young son and I have set him up with a separate I.d. for purchases that is funded by gift cards and not a cc, which is any easy way to limit spending.

In regards to your son's account, this is not such a great idea. If your son is buying kids apps, fine. However in a few years if you and he want to have the same movie or music, then you will have to have two accounts authorized in iTunes, or you will have to repurchase things.

For example, my mother, sister, father, and I all love musicals and many of the same movies. We share an Apple ID so that when I buy a movie or album, we can all enjoy it. If my sister had kept on using her Apple ID for purchases we would have spent a whole lot of money re-buying these things so that we could all enjoy them on our own Macs and iOS devices.


With the release of iOS8, use the new Family Sharing feature. It allows you to share purchases (apps, books, music, movies, TV shows), calendar information, photos, location and some other information with up to 5 family members. Some more information can be found here.

Each member needs their own iCloud account (or Apple ID), yet everybody will be able to see the other's purchases.

Many of the other previous workarounds are no longer necessary, as Family Sharing takes care of showing the purchases, asking permission before buying since everything goes to the same payment source. It's a really nice solution for families and takes care of many of the problems mentioned above.


Honestly, the best solution is to have each user needing an iTunes account have their own separate account. iCloud accounts are designed to be used by a single user. If it's an issue with needing each user to have the same credit/debit card attached to the iTunes Store account, each Apple ID can have the same card.

As much of a pain this transition can be in terms of apps, books and music, it is worth it in the long run so you don't have to deal with having everyone else's data on your machine.

  • I'm sure they are sharing one account to be able to share purchases too.
    – Gerry
    Jan 11, 2012 at 21:06
  • I would say that sharing an Apple ID for the purpose of sharing purchases isn't worth the hassle of jumbled up iCloud data. It doesn't take too much time to type in the same credit/debit card number in each individual account, which basically does the same thing, but that's just me.
    – Matt Love
    Jan 11, 2012 at 21:12
  • 1
    Yes, but that same credit card would be charged every single time the (same) purchase happens for a different account. I can imagine that is the reason holding a household back to just having completely seperate Apple ID's.
    – Gerry
    Jan 11, 2012 at 21:39
  • That's a good point, I didn't think about that. In that case, I would create an Apple ID with a Gmail or other email address and use it exclusively for purchasing and have every family member use their own iCloud account.
    – Matt Love
    Jan 11, 2012 at 21:43

The recently released "Family Sharing" feature should make this simpler. You still might want to pick and choose between the old method and the new "family sharing".

I use one Apple ID for Music purchases and have one computer as the main device. I use a 3rd party app (syncopation) to synchronize iTunes library with another computer (this has saved me a few times, especially when I was trying to wipe a phone and deleted all of my playlists on the compu

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