How to Use Apple Family Sharing

Share your iTunes, App Store, and Apple Books purchases

A photo of three kids on a bed, all using smartphones

Maskot/Getty Images

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 Store — all for free. It's a great feature that makes a ton of sense. After all, if a parent buys a book and their child wants read it, too, why should they have to buy the same thing twice? Even better, Family Sharing is easy to set up and use.

These instructions apply to all models of the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch running iOS 11 and up (devices running iOS 8-10 can also use Family Sharing, but the steps are slightly different). It also covers Macs running macOS X 10.10 Yosemite and higher.

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/responsible party. To set up Family Sharing using an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch, that person should follow these steps:

  1. Tap the Settings app to open it.

    iPhone X homescreen
  2. Tap your name at the top of the screen.

    Screenshot of the iOS Settings app
  3. Tap Set Up Family Sharing.

    Screenshot of the user settings screen in the iOS Settings app
  4. Tap Get Started.

    Screenshot of step 1 in Setting up Family Sharing
  5. Choose the first feature you want to share with family members. Other features can be added once Family Sharing is set up.

    Screenshot of choosing features to use for Family Sharing
  6. Confirm the Apple ID account whose purchases you want to share. This will probably be 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.

    Screenshot of confirming Apple ID for Family Sharing
  7. Confirm the payment method you'll use with Family Sharing. All purchases made by all members of the family are billed to this card. To use the default payment method on file, tap Continue. Otherwise, tap Use Different Payment to select another option.

    Screenshot of confirming payment for Family Sharing

    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.

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

    Screenshot of inviting members to Family Sharing

    Technically, the people in your Family Sharing group don't have to be related, but you do 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 from step 7. If so, enter the information requested and tap Next.

    Screenshot of credit card verification in Family Sharing
  10. Choose how you want to invite the other person. You can send them an invitation via Apple's Messages texting app or do it in person by having them log into their Apple ID on your device.

    Screenshot of inviting users to Family Sharing
  11. When you're done inviting members, tap Done.

    Screenshot of invitation confirmation for Family Sharing
  12. As people accept invitations to join the group, they'll appear in the Family Sharing screen of the Settings app.

    Screenshot of the Settings app with Family Sharing set up

You can also set up Family Sharing from your Mac. Just click the Apple menu in the top left corner, then select System Preferences -> iCloud -> Set Up Family Sharing and follow the same basic instructions just covered.

How to Use Family Sharing on iPhone and iPad

Once you've got Family Sharing set up, using it is very easy. Here's what you need to do:

  1. Go to Settings -> your name -> Family Sharing to choose what features to enable. Options include store purchases, an Apple Music subscription, iCloud storage, your Location, and Screen Time data. Tap your choice.

    Screenshot of the Settings app with Family Sharing set up
  2. If you choose to share purchases, you can download other family member's media by going to the iTunes Store app, App Store app, or Apple Books app.

  3. In those, 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 -> your icon.
    • In the Apple Books app, it's in Reading Now -> your icon.
    Screenshot of the Updates screen in the App Store app
  4. In the Family Purchases section, tap the name of the person whose purchase you want to download.

    Screenshot of the Family Sharing screen in the App Store app
  5. From the list of available items, tap the download icon (the cloud with the down arrow in it).

In any family, there are some purchases that aren't suitable for all members (think R-rated movies; fine for teens and parents, not so good for grade schoolers). Learn how to keep some of your purchases private in How to Hide iTunes and App Store Purchases in Family Sharing.

How to Use Family Sharing on the Mac

Just like you can use Family Sharing on iOS devices, it works on Macs in iTunes, Apple Books, and the Mac App Store, too. Here's how:

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

  2. In those, go to the Purchased section.

    • In iTunes, click Account -> Purchased.
    • In Apple Books, click Store -> Store Home and then, in the right-hand column of the Store homepage, click Purchased.
    • In the Mac App Store, click Discover -> your icon.
    Screenshot of selecting the Purchased menu in iTunes on a Mac
  3. Next to the Purchased menu in the top left, click your name to see all of the users whose purchases you can download.

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

    Screenshot of selecting a Family Sharing user in iTunes on a Mac
  5. Browse the categories of purchases available to you (these differ depending 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 to share content. 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 -> the person you want to remove and then tapping Remove.

    Screenshot of removing a member from Family Sharing

    Get more information about this process and its implications in How to Remove a Family Member From Family Sharing.

  2. Repeat this process for every member of the Family Sharing group.

    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.

    Screenshot of the Family Sharing main screen
  4. Tap Stop Family Sharing.

    Screenshot of an individual user in Family Sharing
  5. In the window that pops up at the bottom of the screen, tap Stop Sharing.

    Screenshot of turning off Family Sharing on iPhone

You can stop Family Sharing on a Mac, too, in Apple menu -> System Preferences -> iCloud -> Family Sharing and the following the same basic steps.

With that done, Family Sharing is off and no one in the group has access to each other's purchases any longer. Now, if you want to access those items again, you'll need to buy them individually.

The Limits on Setting Up Family Sharing Again

Stopped Family Sharing, or just removed one member, and now need to get things set up again? Don't worry! You can always set up Family Sharing again in the future using the steps from the first part of this article.

The one important thing to know is that you can only create and delete two Family Sharing groups per year. If you hit that limit, you'll need to wait a year before you can set up a new group. So, as a general rule, it's better to add and remove members from your family group rather than completely disbanding the group and starting again.