Manage Multiple Apple Devices In Your Family With iCloud and Apple ID

Prior to iOS 5 and now iOS 6, managing multiple devices within a family using one Apple ID didn’t pose any major problems. The only restriction being a limit of X devices, which most typical families would fall under. Family members would use one Apple ID for iTunes, so they all had access to apps, music and movies purchased on that account. This all changed with iOS 5 and the introduction of iCloud. A host of new services were introduced that are tied to an Apple ID. Facetime, iMessage, Photostream, iTunes Match and Home Sharing. iCloud accounts also sync reminders, calendars, notes and more. For a good number of families, this caused quite a bit of confusion and still does today. There are a few ways to manage multiple Apple devices in your family, while ending your frustration with iCloud.

Manage multiple Apple devices

Common Problems With A Family Sharing iCloud Apple ID
Devices are tied to an Apple ID and they are treated as if one person is the owner of multiple devices. In a typical household, a parent is the owner of an Apple ID that is used on the assorted iOS devices. Let’s say that Mom has an iPhone and is exchanging texts with Dad, a friend or a co-worker. An iMessage sent to Mom’s Apple ID will show up on her daughter or son’s iPod touch. Similar issues can happen with Facetime. You could be receiving Facetime requests from your child’s friends who shared your Apple ID. Photostream can also be a major issue when a family is sharing an Apple ID. If enabled, photos taken on each device in the family will share to the other family members with an iPhone, iPod touch or iPad. If you have a Mac with Photostream enabled, iPhoto will also start streaming photos from everyone in the family.

If you stumbled across these issues, you are certainly not alone among those frustrated by the impact of iCloud on your family. Hang tight, we’re going to walk you through the changes you can make to fix your shared Apple ID woes.

Understanding how the Apple ID works with iCloud, App Store & iTunes Store Purchases
An Apple ID is used for purchases and it is used for services. Purchases include apps, books, music, movies and anything in the App Store and iTunes Store.

Services include:

  • iCloud, which offers syncing of various data including reminders, documents, calendars, Safari bookmarks, Notes, Passbook and Photostream.
  • iMessage: Instead of using your carrier’s SMS message system, your iOS device sends an iMessage over WiFi.
  • Facetime: Video calling
  • iTunes Match: By subscribing to iTunes Match, Apple will allow you to stream or download your music collection.

Think of it as purchases and all of the other stuff. Before iOS 5, there wasn’t all the other stuff. There are two methods of how we can handle this going forward. If you are ok with no longer sharing purchases, then continue reading below for steps on how to make a clean break. If your family would like to continue sharing store purchases, please skip to Using Multiple Apple ID’s.

Making A Clean Break: App Store, iTunes Purchases
Any purchase that has been made through the existing Apple ID cannot be transferred or used by another device using a different Apple ID. If your family has not made a significant amount of purchases or don’t have any plans to in the near future, the best option for you would be to create new Apple ID’s for each member in your family. This is in affect cutting the cord. Think of these as entirely new devices that are going to be set up as new. A clean break. All purchases and services are completely independent. a word of caution when going this route. If you are using one family computer, iTunes is setup to expect devices from Mom’s Apple ID. Fear not, we’ve got a plan after we set up new Apple ID’s.

App Store

Setting Up New Apple ID’s
Your Apple ID can be any email address, so you can use Gmail, Outlook, Hotmail or any preferred address. If you have an existing email address, you can use it to sign up for a free Apple ID. If you need an email address, you can get a free iCloud email address from Apple using a Mac, PC or any iOS device running iOS 5 or greater. On your Mac, go to System Preferences > iCloud. On an iOS device, follow these steps:

  1. Navigate to Settings > Mail, Contacts and Calendars
  2. Select ‘Add Account
  3. Select iCloud
  4. At the bottom, tap on Get a Free Apple ID
  5. Enter your birthday
  6. Enter your name
  7. Select the option ‘Get a free iCloud email address
  8. Enter your preferred username@icloud.com Note: In addition to being an email address, it will act as the Apple ID for this device. It’s important that you complete this process on the iPhone, iPad or iPod touch that you intend to use with this new Apple ID.

Setup free iCloud account

With your shiny, new Apple ID in place, you can check to be sure your iPhone, iPod or iPod touch is associating the proper account with your services.

  1. Navigate to Settings > iCloud > Account > Apple ID
  2. Navigate to Settings > iTunes & App Stores > Apple ID
  3. Navigate to Messages > Send & Receive > Use Your Apple ID for iMessage > Sign In
  4. Navigate to Settings > Facetime > Use Your Apple ID for Facetime > Sign In

Using Multiple Apple ID’s With One Computer Running iTunes
Each Apple ID will require it’s own iTunes library. When you create a new iTunes library, it doesn’t have any music, apps or books associated with other libraries. It’s as if you just installed iTunes. To create a new iTunes library, make sure that iTunes is closed. Now, press and hold the shift key while launching iTunes. iTunes will let you know that it needs a library to continue. You can choose from an existing library or create a new one. Press the Create Library… option and give it a distinct name so that you can easily know what libraries belong to different members in your family.

Effectively what we’ve done here is created an iOS device that is completely independent. If you are setting this up for your child, you’ll have to setup a payment option within iTunes and you can use the same credit card for the various accounts.

Using One Apple ID for Purchases And One For Services
If your family would like to continue to share apps, books and music as you’ve done in the past, it too is a relatively easy, albeit time consuming process. Apple allows you to utilize multiple Apple IDs on your iOS device. The goal here is to setup your App Store and iTunes Store purchases with the existing Apple ID shared with your family. That will not change. You will have to create a new Apple ID for services and make those changes on your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch. The advantage to this method is that you of course get to continue sharing purchased items as you’ve done to this point and there are no changes needed to iTunes on your family’s computer.

Creating a new Apple ID
You can follow the directions I’ve outlined above for creating a new Apple ID on your iOS device. You can also create a new Apple ID on your Mac or PC. If you have an Apple ID signed into this account, I cannot stress enough the importance of making sure that all of your iOS devices have been recently backed up. When you sign out of iCloud on your Mac, you’ll receive a number of dialog boxes which remind you that reminders, notes, documents and everything outside of your contacts will be deleted from your Mac. If you’ve backed up properly, you should have no worries, as we’re going to sign back in upon creating these new Apple IDs. The whole concept behind iCloud is that your stuff is saved, so should you go an drop your Mac off a cliff, all of your valuable data comes back after a simple sign-in to iCloud.

  1. Navigate to System Preferences > iCloud
  2. Tap on the Sign Out Button > You’ll receive a succession of warnings about Contacts, Reminders, Notes and Photostream. You can keep Contacts on your Mac, but will have to temporarily delete the others. During this article, I did just that and everything came back.

Upon sign out, you’ll see an option to sign in to iCloud or to Create an Apple ID. As we did with iOS, follow the easy directions to create your new Apple ID. At the conclusion, you’ll want to uncheck the boxes next to Use iCloud for contacts, calendars, reminders, Notes and Safari, as well as Find My iPhone. This being Mom’s computer, once completed creating your new Apple IDs for the kids, she’ll want to sign back in. Like magic, all of your iCloud data should be back on your Mac.

Using your new double identity on iOS devices
Outside of Mom, each member of your family should have an additional Apple ID. On your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch, configure each of the following services with your new credentials.

When you sign out of iCloud, Photostream and associated data associated with that account will no longer be available on this iOS device.

Delete iCloud account

You will be able to retain your iCloud contacts, calendars, Safari data and notes by selecting “Keep on my iPhone”.

When it’s been deleted, you can then enter in your new Apple ID under the iCloud account. You be prompted to ‘Merge with iCloud’. The default selection here is to Merge, which is ok, considering this is a newly created account. If you saved your contacts, reminders, etc., they will all now merge with iCloud and will be available to all devices that use this new Apple ID.

You’re almost finished. There are a few settings that need to be modified to use your new account.

iMessage
iMessage allows other iOS devices to send you messages for free using WiFi. These messages are sent to the Apple ID address. Navigate to Settings > Messages > Send & Receive > Enter the new credentials.

Configure iMessage Apple ID

Facetime
People can make video calls using your email address. Navigate to Settings > Facetime > Apple ID to enter your new information.

Configure Facetime Apple ID

At this point, iCloud, Facetime and iMessage are all configured to use your new Apple ID. If you navigate to Settings > iTunes & App Stores, you should still see Mom’s ID here, so all of your existing purchases are still on this iOS device.

Apple’s iCloud stores all of your music, photos, calendars, contacts and more. Using a free iCloud account, you also have access to the fantastic Find My iPhone service along with access to all your data. The obvious downside to the transition to iCloud were the negative affects on families who were sharing one Apple ID. Truth be told, it’s confusing, even for someone well versed in all things Apple. Our goal when writing guides is to make it easier on you, the end user looking to find a solution to a problem. What I’ve outlined above are two paths to living in a post-iCloud world, both of which will require a few steps to complete. One requires creating a second Apple ID for services and will allow you to continue sharing purchased apps, music, movies and books. The other more drastic move is to create independent Apple IDs and iTunes libraries for each family member. Both are valid options, but it all depends on what’s best for your family.

Have questions? With our free membership, you can ask questions and get help today in our iCloud forums.

Written By

Christopher Meinck is the Founder and Editorial Director at everythingiCafe. You can also find him co-hosting on everythingiCafe :the show. His smartphone obsession started with the Handspring Treo 180. While the phones have changed, the obsession continues. You can find him on Google+ and Twitter.

Comments

  1. Bob says

    Overall, great article! Very helpful…

    Under “Using Multiple Apple ID’s With One Computer Running iTunes” you might mention two things:
    1. The instructions you have provided are for Windows. On Mac, you hold down the Option key immediately after launching iTunes.
    2. Instead of creating separate libraries in iTunes, it is perhaps easier to just use multiple accounts in the OS. As long as each user account has access to iTunes and the music files are placed in a user-accessible directory, there is no need to create the separate libraries in iTunes. By default, the different OS user accounts each have separate libraries.

    On additional tip for #2: users would be advised to turn off autosyncing of apps and music if following this path. This is so that apps that have been purchased by one account don’t autosync to the other account, unless this is desired.

  2. Ryan says

    For iOS devices that have a phone number, is there any benefit to using the new Apple ID over the phone number for Facetime and iMessage?

  3. C says

    is there anyway to call and have someone walk me through all of this and advise me on which is better for my family

  4. David Towns says

    We just bought an iPod touch for my son’s 9th birthday. When I tried setting up an account for him, I received a message saying he was too young. Apart from lying about his age, is there any way around this?

  5. Ratchete says

    Having learnt computery stuff on a pc I found itunes of old impossible to get to grips with the new icloud just makes it worse. We have one family computer and at the last count two iphones 3g, one ipod touch 2g & one ipod touch 4. What I expect to happen is that when I plug a device into my computer it is automatically recognised and syncs to the correct library but oh no it doesn’t do that and the resulting mess takes ages to sort out. Not the intuitive experience I was expecting after all the hype from my iphile friends. icloud’s just another complication Ican do without so I won’t be signing up for it. The kids can do what they like when they get old enough to pay for their own music/apps.

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