How To: Host Your iTunes Library On One File Server, Manage It From Multiple Computers
For the last few months I was interested in creating a central iTunes library so my family at home didn’t need to rely on the one computer that contained all of our music. Moving all of our music and corresponding image art and ratings to our existing Synology file server on our home network would be the best solution for us – it would be centralized, have more than enough space to grow, and have the disk redundancy my laptop lacked. This solution of centrally locating the library would allow any PC or Mac on our home LAN running iTunes to connect to it and manage it seamlessly as if it were local to the computer.
The one small downside with this configuration is that the laptop would no longer have music stored on it, so that library would be inaccessible outside of my home network, but thats why we have iPhones and iPads. Anyway, when our laptop containing all 250GB of music recently ran out of space it was the push I needed to figure out exactly how one relocates an entire iTunes library. The following is a step-by-step walkthrough of what I did to successfully make this all happen.
Step 1. Create a new directory on the file server, name it Music, and share it. This shared directory will need guest access allowed so iTunes doesn’t have to prompt to a login every time to access the iTunes library.
Advice: in the new Music directory on the file server, create a new folder and name it NAS. This will help avoid any confusion while configuring iTunes to change from its mapping on the local Mac or Windows system to the Music directory on the file server.
Step 2. Copy the iTunes library from the current system (example: /Users/username/Music/iTunes) to the shared directory on the file server (example: //fileservername/Music/iTunes). Below are the default locations for the iTunes directory on a local system.
- Mac OS X: /Users/username/Music/iTunes/
- Windows XP: C:\Documents and Settings\username\My Documents\My Music\iTunes\
- Windows Vista: C:\Users\username\Music\iTunes\
- Windows 7: C:\Users\username\My Music\iTunes\
Step 3. Launch iTunes on the Mac or Windows system that runs the library and select iTunes, then Preferences, then select the Advanced tab. The iTunes Media Folder Location path should be shown at the top of that preferences window. Click the Change… button.
Step 4. Select the path on the file server in Step 1 and click Open. Example: /Volumes/music/iTunes/iTunes Music
Step 5. A prompt will ask, Would you like to move and rename the files in your new iTunes media folder to match the “Keep iTunes Media folder organized” preference? Click Yes, then click OK to close the preferences window.
Step 6. The normal iTunes library will show but the configuration is not completed yet because the iTunes index on the Windows or Mac system is still being used by iTunes.
Step 7. If you have iTunes open, exit it completely then double-click the iTunes desktop icon while holding down the Option key to access the Choose Your Library property window. Click Create Library.
Step 8. In the window that pops up, select the file server directory you created that contains the copy of your iTunes folder, select it (so iTunes can find the index XML file) and name the library, iTunes File Server. The window will close and iTunes is now remotely accessing the files and index located on the file server.
If you only plan on running iTunes from one computer then you’re all done at this point. However if you want to run iTunes from multiple computers so they can all access the library on the file server then proceed to Steps 9 and 10.
Step 9. For other Mac or Windows systems that need to connect to this centrally located iTunes library, repeat Step 7 only this time, when prompted to Choose Your Library, select Choose Library.
Step 10. In the window that pops up, browse to the iTunes NAS folder that contains the index on the file server and open it.
Keep in mind, only one iTunes instance can make changes to the central library at a time. So if I’m running iTunes on my Mac, and my wife wants to sync changes from her iPhone with iTunes on a separate Windows laptop, then I need to close my iTunes instance first. Aside from that one limitation, everything has been working as expected. I’ve been running this configuration for over a week and it is seamless, including the app, movie, and music syncs with our iOS devices. Kudos to Apple for allowing this flexibility of using a non-Apple file server and the cross-platform use for both Windows and Mac instances of iTunes.