I just got a macbook pro and i am trying to figure out if I should create multiple users for my family or just share one account. I like to keep all photos organized in one library and share access to music, videos, etc. Right now we are sharing 1 apple id (although we have different iphones)

The issue is that if i want to use messages or other apps that are particular to a specific phone number then it would be nice to have each family member use their own solution.

If i setup different accounts on my macbook can I still share all of my applications and data (like iphoto library, etc) ?

  • Do you have an external HD? – duci9y Sep 22 '12 at 11:35
  • I do but its a laptop so I use external HD just for backups (not connected all of the time) – leora Sep 22 '12 at 11:40
  • Ok… How large is your internal HD? How much space free? How large is your iPhoto and iTunes library? – duci9y Sep 22 '12 at 11:46
  • i have a 500GB hard drive with about 200 GB free. iPhoto library is about 100 GB and itunes is about 50 GB – leora Sep 22 '12 at 11:52
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    @leora The answer below doesn't look too bad at first glance. If you are not happy with it, can you please elaborate (either in the comments or by amending the question) on which specific things you are looking for? – nohillside Mar 29 '13 at 10:19

iTunes and iPhoto libraries are, unfortunately, built upon databases that are designed for only one user. Apple recommends the following workarounds, each with their own drawbacks:

iTunes music folders can be placed within a central location (such as /Users/Shared). Only the music files themselves should be moved to the new location, not the library files (the files located at /Users/yourusername/Music/iTunes/iTunes Media). You then point each library to this new location (through iTunes > Preferences > Advanced). The big caveat to this approach: when another user on the computer adds music to the library, your library won't automatically see it. You will essentially need to tell iTunes to scan the music folder manually each time for it to pickup the changes. This support article from Apple describes this entire process in great detail.

With iPhoto, Apple technically recommends placing the shared library on an external hard drive, but you should be able to use /Users/Shared as well. Once the iPhoto library has been moved, open each user's iPhoto while holding down the option key. This will cause a pop-up screen to appear where you can select your library's location. The major caveat to this solution: if you switch between user accounts and another user has iPhoto open on their account, iPhoto will prevent you from opening the library. Again, Apple has a nice support article to cover this in great detail.

  1. Resize your current partition and make a new one of 175 GB. Or you can store the stuff in the /Users/Shared folder. Your choice.
  2. Copy your iTunes Library and iPhoto Library to this new partition.
  3. After a successful copy, you can delete the originals. To test, I recommend just renaming them instead of deleting.
  4. Open iTunes. It will be blank.
  5. Open iTunes preferences. Open the Advanced tab.
  6. In the iTunes media folder location field, click on change. Point it to your new library. You may need to restart iTunes to see the changes.
  7. Open iPhoto. It will ask you which library you want to use, and the process is very straightforward.
  8. Delete the originals if you want to reclaim the space.
  9. Do this for all the different user accounts.
  10. Done!

PS: If the Shared folder creates permissions problems, as it is wont to do, try using the Partition approach and disable ownership on that volume.

This can create issues if members of your family have different tastes in Music. You are essentially sharing the whole iTunes library, not just your songs.

Edit: I am receiving criticism due to my suggestion of using a separate partition instead of the Shared folder. Please note that it is just that, a suggestion, and it is up to you to decide which method to use. I suggested using a different volume as I personally have had less problems with it.

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    Why a separate partition for music/photos? – nohillside Sep 22 '12 at 14:31
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    I'm guessing because it might be an easy way of disabling ownership, which would allow everyone to access it. There is a /Users/Shared directory which is already accessible by everyone, though. – gabedwrds Sep 22 '12 at 14:41
  • Yep, there is a Shared directory. But I don’t like it, I have had problems with it. – duci9y Sep 22 '12 at 16:06
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    what are the problems with the Shared directory... partition feels like overkill – leora Sep 22 '12 at 18:09
  • Your choice, but I’ve had permissions and ownership problems. I haven’t stored my library files there, but I have had problems with files I tried to share with other users. – duci9y Sep 22 '12 at 18:18

its not really to hard to do is to create a Basic Shared Folder and then from there share your libraries between your accounts

here is specific info regarding iTunes library

iphoto is a little harder to do but here is how to!

let me know if there is something that is unclear, but this is how to do it properly!

  • This is a much simpler and more elegant solution for the task. I was going to suggest changing permissions of certain folders using the finder Info panel accompanied with links. – ismail Apr 1 '13 at 6:08

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