How to Add Multiple iTunes Libraries to AppleTV

09 Jul
July 9, 2011

We recently cut the cable bill. Again. (We did this previously while paying off massive student loans with minimal success.) This time, rather than go cold turkey, Levi and I looked into video streaming options for our cheesy television fix. We looked hard at the virtues of Roku and Boxee and the like, but eventually settled on the AppleTV so it could easily integrate with the rest of the Cult of Mac products in our house. We were primarily looking for something to stream Netflix and play videos off the computer and look sexy doing it: that’s AppleTV in a nutshell.

Levi and I are both digital junkies, so we had two quite sizeable iTunes libraries to integrate. And due to our individual OCD methods of maintaining our digital horde, merging into a single account wasn’t an option. We wanted both iTunes libraries to stream seemlessly onto the AppleTV without having to switch log-ins every time. Turns out, Apple does let you do this, but it’s a little convoluted. Since I didn’t find many other write-ups on the process when I was looking, I thought I’d do one myself.

Adding multiple iTunes libraries via HomeShare

The first thing to do is to make sure both computers are on and iTunes libraries are open. Libraries are shared with the AppleTV over the network via HomeShare. The trick is in logging into HomeShare.

  1. Turn on HomeShare on Computer #1. Authorize homeshare by logging into your Apple id.
  2. Boot up the AppleTV and activate HomeShare using the same Apple id. You should see Computer #1′s library already available under “Libraries.”
  3. Turn on HomeShare on Computer #2. Authorize HomeShare using the SAME Apple id as Computer #1. Do not use a different ID.
  4. Check the AppleTV to verify you can now see Computer #2′s library.

Although the steps are short, this is surprisingly tricky to figure out because we’re conditioned to see the Apple id log-in as just that–personal credentials associated with your specific library. When using HomeShare with AppleTV, that log-in actually becomes like a network name. If you’re not both sharing via the same ID, two libraries won’t appear on the same “network” together. It would have been nice if Apple more clearly explained this in their manual, or even better, used some other designation system besides the Apple id credentials.

For extra awesomeness, try turning on AirPlay and installing the Apple Remote app on your favorite iDevice. Now you can browse your libraries in an iTunes like format and seamlessly throw it to your TV. Nifty! AirPlay is also worlds better for typing than the AppleTV’s default interface.

In any case, once you get both computers Sharing using the same credentials, you should be able to happily play media from both libraries as long as the computers are on and iTunes is open. Happy streaming!

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2 replies
  1. Mike says:

    Thx. Your post helped me figure this out for me and my girlfriend.

  2. Ron J Roy says:

    Thank you for posting this! The BEST solution for accessing both iTunes library’s on a shared MacBook with multiple users!


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