How to Set Up and Use Apple Family Sharing on iPhone & Mac

Share your iTunes, App Store, and Apple Books purchases

What to Know

  • On iOS: Go to Settings > your nameSet Up Family Sharing > Get Started to set up Family Sharing.
  • On a Mac: Go to the Apple menu and select System Preferences > Family Sharing.
  • When you activate Purchase Sharing, you can download other family members' media from the App Store, Apple Music, or Apple Books.

This article explains how to set up Family Sharing on iPhones and Macs. The instructions apply to all models of the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch running iOS 13 through iOS 11 and Macs running macOS Catalina (10.15) through OS X Yosemite (10.10).

How to Set Up Family Sharing on iPhone and iPad

The person who sets up the Family Sharing group is referred to as the Organizer. Generally speaking, this should be a parent, guardian, or other authority figure or responsible party. Here's how to set up Family Sharing using an iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch,

  1. Tap the Settings app to open it.

  2. Tap your name at the top of the screen.

  3. Tap Set Up Family Sharing.

    Set up Family Sharing on iPhone
  4. Tap Get Started.

  5. Choose the first feature you want to share with family members. Other features can be added after Family Sharing is set up.

  6. Confirm the Apple ID account whose purchases you want to share. This is probably the Apple ID you're signed in with. It's displayed at the top of the screen. Switch to a different Apple ID by tapping Use a Different Account or use the current one by tapping Continue.

    Family Sharing set up on an iPhone
  7. Confirm the payment method for use with Family Sharing. All purchases made by all members of the family are billed to this card. Tap Continue to use the default payment method on file. Otherwise, tap Use Different Payment to select another option.

  8. Start inviting people to your Family Sharing group by tapping Invite Family Members.

    Technically, the people in your Family Sharing group don't have to be related, but you have to be willing to pay for their purchases. Family Sharing groups are limited to six people.

  9. You may be asked to verify the payment card. If so, enter the information requested and tap Next.

    Family Sharing payment and invitation on iPhone
  10. Send invitations via Apple's Messages app or do it in person by having your family member log in to their Apple ID on your device.

  11. When you're finished inviting members, tap Done.

    Family Sharing Invitations on an iPhone

As people accept invitations to join the group, they appear in the Family Sharing screen of the Settings app.

Have small children in your Family Sharing group? You can require your approval for purchases to keep an eye on their spending. After the child has joined the group, go to Settings > Family Sharing > [their name] and move the Ask to Buy slider to on/green.

What Is Apple Family Sharing?

Apple's Family Sharing lets everyone in the same family or friend group share their purchases from the iTunes Store, App Store, and Apple Books. It's a great feature that makes a ton of sense. If a parent buys an app and their child wants to use it, why should they have to buy the same app twice? They don't with Apple's Family Sharing, which is easy to set up and use.

Devices running iOS 10 through iOS 8 can also use Family Sharing, but the steps are different.

How to Use Family Sharing on iPhone and iPad

After Family Sharing is set up, it is easy to use. Here's what you need to do:

  1. Go to Settings > [your name] > Family Sharing to choose which features to enable. Options include store purchases, Apple Music, iCloud storage, your Location, and Screen Time data. Tap your choices.

  2. If you activate Purchase Sharing, you can download other family members' media by going to the iTunes Store app, App Store app, or Apple Books app.

    In those apps, go to the Purchased section.

    • In the iTunes Store app, it's in the More menu.
    • In the App Store app, it's in Updates or under your photo, depending on the iOS version.
    • In the Apple Books app, it's in Reading Now > your photo.
  3. In the Family Purchases section, tap the name of the person whose purchase you want to download.

    Purchasing Sharing options on iPhone
  4. From the list of available items, tap the download icon (the cloud with the down arrow in it).

Some purchases aren't suitable for all family members, such as R-rated movies that are fine for teens and parents but not so good for grade schoolers. Learn how to keep some of your purchases private.

How to Set Up and Use Family Sharing on a Mac

You can also set up Family Sharing on your Mac. In macOS Catalina, click the Apple menu in the top left corner of the screen and select System Preferences > Family Sharing. In earlier versions of the operating system, select System Preferences > iCloud > Set Up Family Sharing and follow the same basic instructions.

Family Sharing works on Macs in the Music app, iTunes, Apple Books, and the Mac App Store, too. Here's how:

  1. Open iTunes, Music, Apple Books, or the Mac App Store on your Mac.

  2. In those, go to the Purchased section.

    • In Music, select iTunes Store in the left sidebar, followed by Purchased in the right column.
    • In Apple Books, click Book Store or Audiobook Store and then select Purchased in the right column.
    • In the Mac App Store, click Discover > your icon.
    • In iTunes, click Account > Purchased.
    Selecting the Purchased menu in iTunes on a Mac
  3. Next to the Purchased menu in iTunes in the top left corner, click your name to see all the users whose purchases you can download.

  4. Select the user whose purchase you want to download.

    Selecting a member of Family Sharing group on Mac
  5. Browse the categories of purchases available to you. These differ depending on the app you're using.

  6. When you find what you want to download, click the download icon (the cloud with the arrow in it).

How to Turn Off Family Sharing

There may come a time when you no longer want to use Family Sharing. If you're in that situation, here's what you need to do to turn off Family Sharing:

  1. First, you must remove all members of your Family Sharing group. Do that by going to Settings > [your name] > Family Sharing. Select the name of the person you want to remove and tap Remove [name].

    Family Sharing screens on iPhone
  2. Repeat this process for every member of the Family Sharing group until only you, the Organizer, remain.

    One wrinkle here is that kids under 13 can't be removed from Family Sharing this way. To learn how to handle that, check out How to Remove a Child From Family Sharing.

  3. When all family members have been removed, tap your name on the Family Sharing screen.

  4. Tap Stop Family Sharing.

  5. In the window that pops up at the bottom of the screen, tap Stop Sharing.

    Stopping Family Sharing on iPhone

You can stop Family Sharing on a Mac by going to Apple menu > System Preferences > Family Sharing in macOS Catalina or Apple menu > System Preferences > iCloud > Family Sharing in older versions of the operating system and following the same general instructions as stopping the service on an iPhone or iPad.

With that done, Family Sharing is turned off, and no one in the group has access to one another's purchases any longer. Now, if you want to use any of your family members' purchased items again, you need to buy them.

The Limits on Setting Up Family Sharing Again

So you stopped Family Sharing and now want to get things set up again? Don't worry. You can always set up Family Sharing.

However, you can only create and delete two Family Sharing groups per year. If you hit that limit, you have to wait before you can set up a new group. So, it's better to add or remove members from your existing family group than to completely disband the group and start over.

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