How to Use Multiple iTunes Libraries on a Single Computer

Keep everyone's music in the same place

It's possible to have multiple iTunes libraries, with completely separate content in them, on one computer. While not only a neat lesser-known feature, it also helps you keep multiple people's music, movies, and apps separate and lets you sync multiple iPods, iPhones, or iPads to a single computer without getting other people's music on your device unintentionally. Other options for the second feature include using playlists and multiple user accounts.

Having multiple iTunes libraries is similar to having two separate computers, each with iTunes on them. The libraries are completely separate: Music, movies, or apps that you add to one library won't appear in the other unless you copy the files to it (with one exception).

These instructions apply to iTunes 9.2 and higher.

How to Create Multiple iTunes Libraries

To begin creating multiple iTunes libraries on your computer, follow these steps:

  1. Quit iTunes if it's running.

  2. Click the iTunes icon to launch the program while holding down the Option key (on Mac) or the Shift key (on Windows).

    A Mac desktop with the iTunes icon in the Dock highlighted
  3. Keep holding the key down until a pop-up window appears, and then click Create Library.

    Choose iTunes Library window open on a Mac with the Create Library button highlighted
  4. Give the new iTunes library you're creating a name by typing it into the field next to Save As.

    It's a good idea to give the new library a name sufficiently different from the existing library or libraries so you can keep them straight.

    New iTunes Library dialogue box with the Save As field highlighted
  5. Decide where you want to store the new library on your computer using the Where menu. Select a folder where the new library will be created.

    It may be easiest to create the new library in the existing Music/My Music folder to keep everyone's content in the same place.

  6. Click Save to create your new library.

  7. ​iTunes will launch using the newly created library. You can start adding new content to it now. 

Using Multiple iTunes Libraries

Once you've created multiple iTunes libraries, here's how to switch between them:

  1. Launch iTunes while holding down the Option key (on Mac) or the Shift key (on Windows).

  2. When the pop-up window appears, click Choose Library.

  3. Another window appears, defaulting to your Music/My Music folder. If you stored your other iTunes libraries somewhere else, navigate through your computer to the location of the new library.

    When you've found the folder for your new library (either in Music/My Music or elsewhere), click the folder for the new library and click Open.

    You don't have to select anything inside the folder.

    iTunes window on a Mac with an iTunes library folder and the Open button highlighted
  4. iTunes will launch using the library you've chosen.

Managing Multiple iPods/iPhones With Multiple iTunes Library

Using this technique, two or more people using the same computer can manage their own iPods, iPhones, and iPads without interfering with each other's music or settings.

To do this, launch iTunes while holding down Option or Shift to select a given iTunes library, and then connect the iPhone or iPod you sync with this library. It will go through the standard syncing process, using just the media in the currently active iTunes library.

The iPhone and iPod can only sync to one library at a time. If you try to sync with another library, iTunes will remove all the contents from one library and replace them with material from the other. 

Other Notes About Managing Multiple iTunes Libraries

A few other things to know about managing multiple iTunes libraries on a single computer:

  • If you have multiple iTunes libraries on your computer and don't hold down the Option or Shift button when you launch iTunes, it will open the last library you used.
  • To make sure that each person uses only their iTunes account with their library, always remember to sign out of your iTunes account when you're done using the program.
  • Despite having multiple iTunes libraries on one computer, you can't have different parental control settings for each library. To have different Restrictions settings, you'll need to use multiple user accounts on the computer.

Watch out for Apple Music/iTunes Match

If you use Apple Music or iTunes Match, you must sign out of your Apple ID before quitting iTunes. Both of those services are designed to sync music to all devices using the same Apple ID. If both iTunes libraries on the same computer are accidentally signed in to the same Apple ID, iTunes will automatically download the same music to them.