How To

Quick Guide: One iPhone, Multiple iTunes Accounts

Did your spouse just download a song you love using his or her own iTunes account and you want to load it on your iPhone? If you’re in a household with multiple iTunes accounts and iPhones, it’s possible to share content between them, even if they were purchased under different accounts. This Learning iPhone article will show you just how to do this.


First and foremost, however, what we’re talking about here is a legal way to share content between iPhones and iTunes accounts in the same household. Apple allows you to authorize up to 5 computers in one household to play purchased content – the intent here is to allow families with multiple accounts and devices (for example, parents and their children each with their own iTunes accounts and iPods or iPhones) to share purchased content. For more details on this, please see the iTunes Terms of Service. We here at are in no way recommending piracy or violating the iTunes Terms of Service. If you have questions about the iTunes Terms of Service, you should contact Apple directly (or even seek legal counsel).

Note that iPhones and iPods can only sync media content with one computer and this article provides instructions for this set-up.

Step 1: Authorize all iTunes accounts on your computer

In order to track and limit the number of computers associated with an iTunes account, Apple requires each computer to be “authorized” which logs the computer’s information with Apple. Authorizing a computer is as easy as selecting the Authorize command in the Store menu in iTunes


If you’re already using multiple iTunes accounts on your computer, you’ve already done this (otherwise, you wouldn’t be able to play or sync any content from these accounts) and you can move on to the next step.

Step 2: Choose what to sync

When you connect your iPhone to your computer, you’ll be able to choose content and apps to sync with it without needing to do anything special at all. All content from separate iTunes accounts stored on and authorized to play on your computer can be synced to your iPhone just as if you were choosing content from a single iTunes account. In fact, unless you know off the top of your head, you won’t be able to tell the difference between content from different iTunes accounts in your Itunes media library as you select items to sync.

That’s it! You’re syncing items from different iTunes accounts to your iPhone. Easy, wasn’t it? When it comes to apps purchased with different iTunes accounts, things do get a little trickier, however.

Updating apps

On your computer

iTunes lets you know there are updates for apps by showing a number representing the number of updates available in the source list on the left in iTunes. You can also manually force a check for updates by clicking on the Check for Updates link in the bottom right in the Applications view – this will generate a pop-up message letting you know whether or not you have updates available.


Clicking on View Updates will show you all the updates that are currently available for the apps in your iTunes library.


Here’s the tricky part: when there are app updates available and you choose to Update All, you may get an error message if not all of these apps were purchased or downloaded using the account through which you are currently logged into iTunes (you can see the current account in the upper right corner when viewing any part of the iTunes store).


When you see this error, none of the updates will be downloaded, including those purchased with the account under which you’re currently logged in. This did not happen in iTunes versions before the current one, 9.0.3, and we think it’s a bug that will hopefully be addressed in the next version of iTunes.

On your iPhone

You can also choose to update apps directly on your iPhone through the App Store app. The last tab, labeled Updates, will show you what updates are available, if any. If none are available, you’ll simply see a message stating this when you visit this tab.


You can update apps individually by selecting an app in the list and tapping on the FREE button on the right. Or, you can choose to update them all at once by tapping on the button in the top right. Whichever method you choose, you’ll be asked to enter your iTunes account password.

Fortunately, the App Store on your iPhone is a bit smarter than the desktop version of iTunes is at the moment and even though you may be logged in to another iTunes account on your iPhone (you can check this by going to Settings/Store), you’ll be prompted for the password for the correct account under which the app update you’re trying to download was purchased; though note that the iPhone must first have been synced with a computer authorized to use that iTunes account.



That’s it for this week’s Learning iPhone article. You know everything you need to know in order to sync and update content from multiple iTunes account to your iPhone. Hit us up with any questions or comments below!



  1. Don

    June 21, 2010 at 3:02 pm

    If my wife buys an app under her iTunes account, how do I get that app to show up in my iTunes account on the same computer? Currently, that doesn’t happen for us. I don’t understand how I can get her app into my account to sync with my device. Thanks!

  2. s gm

    July 6, 2010 at 3:49 pm

    When I first bought my iPhone I was unable to open an iTunes account. During a visit with my son, who lives half way across the country, I bought a $35 app through his account. I now have my own account, but am unable to down load new apps without being warned that I will loose all prior content. My son is traveling for several weeks and out of contact.
    I would like to down-load apps I just bought, not knowing this was a problem. Is there any way to “save” the old app–either on my phone or on my computer–until he can help straighten this out?

  3. comncense

    July 6, 2010 at 6:06 pm

    s gm, you can access all the applications you download from the app store on your computer. They are stored in the “Mobile Applications” folder generally located in the iTunes folder.

  4. TDEP

    July 9, 2010 at 3:55 pm

    Does it work with ipod touch as well, or just iphones? We have a shared ipod touch 8G and want to download apps from multiple computers and iTunes accounts. Thanks.

    • Marianne

      July 14, 2010 at 3:19 pm

      TDEP: This works with iPod touch devices as well. However, this article talks about ONE computer with multiple iTunes accounts authorized on it – you can’t sync apps iPhones or iPod touch devices across multiple computers.

  5. Kay

    July 14, 2010 at 2:30 pm

    Is this article correct? Maybe I’m just not getting it, but I’ve seen other postings that state emphatically that “For media content – music, videos and movies – and apps, you can only sync an iPhone to one iTunes library.” Is that what we’re talking about here – one computer, one library, multiple iTunes accounts? Can more than one iPhone be synced to that computer to share apps, as long as you can live with the need to sync media by playlist and contacts by groups?

    • Marianne

      July 14, 2010 at 3:22 pm


      Yes, this article is correct. Again, it’s talking about sharing apps, music, and other media across multiple iPhones (or iPod touch devices) on ONE computer with more than on iTunes account. I do this every day with 3 iPhones synced to a single computer in our house (with 2 iTunes accounts authorized on that one computer).

      • Kay

        July 15, 2010 at 5:47 pm

        Just ONE computer though? Can’t two computers (two iPhones, too) be involved, each primarily used to sync one iPhone (media, contacts, calendars) and both authorized with the two family members’ iTunes accounts?

  6. Susan

    July 16, 2010 at 7:12 pm

    I have a different problem…can someone help? I updated my new e-mail address on iTunes via my computer and now I cannot sign into iTunes on my iPhone. It still has my old email address listed and it won’t accept my password.

    Computer will sync to iPhone but I cannot log into iTunes AT ALL via my iPhone.

  7. Lina

    July 21, 2010 at 7:10 am


    This is extremely helpful.
    I am going to apply to same for my new iPad, as I understand the principle is the same.

    I just have one question:
    I will be manually syncing the iPad with 2 iTunes accounts on ONE computer (got it!).
    Before I go ahead and create and authorize the second iTunes account (for my husband), will the creation of the new account create in fact a new iTunes library?
    How does that work?
    (he will be logging into my computer as me, not a separate user account – that’s not an issue)

  8. nats

    August 25, 2010 at 11:40 am

    pls help i purchased apps from a friends account as those apps were not available in my country itunes store. i paid the money. but i cannot update those apps from my own account? this is frustrating!. the updates are free and once i have purchased the apps i should be able to at least update from any account. is there any way around this?

    • IrisL

      October 17, 2010 at 5:17 am

      @nats: Nope. The only way around it is for your friend to give you his password. BUT you can make your own account with that country to get free apps: On your computer, change your store to that country, “buy” a free app, and the store will tell you to make an account. Put in an address that is real (use google to find one close to your friend 🙂 and a fake phone number etc. Just the address has to be real. Don’t put in a credit card. And you’ll have your account! Then you can update all you want, at least for free stuff. If you want to buy stuff from that country, send your friend money to buy and send you itunes cards from that country.

      Oh, and don’t forget to click on your menu in itunes on “store” and “authorise this computer” and put in your new “other country” account. I think you can have 5 accounts on one itunes, but the number might be 10. Then do all your updates on your phone/touch, not through itunes because your phone is smarter than your itunes.

  9. manuel

    November 5, 2010 at 1:32 pm

    hi I was tryin to create an itunes acount on a new email, and forgot the password of the new
    email account and the password for the itunes, i activated the acount with a gift card, i wouldn’t want to lose my gift card, is there a way to get anything back? whether is the gift card or the itunes account password. please reply to my on the above email adress.

    Thank you in advance

  10. Allison

    November 5, 2010 at 9:16 pm

    I already have my new iphone4 synced to my itunes account but would like to know how i add another my old iphone to my itunes account so my daughter can use it and sync her playlists etc which are already setup in my itunes account without having to set up a separate itunes account for her.

  11. phatzbabii

    November 7, 2010 at 11:27 am

    hi i used to use my iphone on my old computer but that has broken down and i only have access to the hard drive. now that i have the new iphone4 how can i get my back-up off the hard drive please help as i have put the new iphone4 into my friends computer and now every time i need to update an app it gives me her account details and i cant change that so i can not update my apps

    please please reply thanks

  12. Malik

    November 12, 2010 at 9:06 pm

    i have bought iPhone 3g a used cell phone and i dont know the username or password, so how can i find it and how can i make another account on the same phone?


  13. Rick

    November 20, 2010 at 1:34 am

    So I though I had done everything right, but it’s not working …

    I have two iTunes accounts, both authorized on the computer.

    All apps are from one account, but one is on the other.
    When I try to install the app from the second account, iTunes tells me it’s going to erase all the original apps.

    what am I doing wrong?


  14. Clayton

    November 30, 2010 at 3:26 pm

    Does the above article address the following issue and if not, could you send me detailed (dummy 101) instructions? Here is the question: How do I copy movies and apps from someone else’s computer and iTunes account (Person X) onto another computer and iTunes account (Person Y), so Person Y can get those movies and apps onto Person Y’s iTouch? Can you give me detailed 101 instructions?

  15. Imaan

    December 5, 2010 at 12:07 am


    I have my own itunes account on my laptop, and I also want to use my mum’s account on her Mac. Can I authorize my laptop with her account, even though it’s not on the same network?

  16. inquizzitive

    December 9, 2010 at 1:02 am

    Thx for a good article, Marianne. I get it – one computer, multiple itunes accounts, multiple iphone syncing. However, the question I have is, if i were to do this, can I manage the songs list separately for the two iphones?
    My wife and i have varied interests in music. So, for example, if i wanted to check all Beatles songs for her and only Black Sabbath for me, will it be possible to do that with your model without having to do it using two playlists.
    I know that using playlists it’s possible, but you lose so much flexibilty with importing the songs as playlists that I did away from your model, and instead ended up using two separate accounts on the computer itself to keep the lists separate. It works great, but the flip side is whenever I download a new album or app, I have to add that album’s folder (or the app) into her account. To do that i log into her account on the computer, open itunes, file -> add folder to library. When done, sync her iphone.
    It works, but it’s a lot of manual work and i’m wondering if there’s an easier way to manage two songs list on one computer for multiple iphones. Any help will be greatly appreciated. Thx in advance.

  17. Subarna

    December 9, 2010 at 7:55 am

    When I Open my application store they need iTunes account but and if fill up all those things again I dint get so

  18. simon evans

    January 31, 2011 at 5:08 pm

    i am trying to sync my latest iphone to my laptop,without success,as i believe ive already synced ipods totalling 4 and my previous iphone to this computer,could anyone please advise as to how to overcome this as i’m totally lost ,i would be extremely grateful for any assistance,thank you

  19. Lori

    February 25, 2011 at 10:55 pm

    Helping a friend find the answer to this question..can you help us?

    Her son has an ipod…he used her email address to sign up for itunes…now she has an ipod and when she went to sign up on itunes she can’t use her own email what does she do???? Your help is appreicated

  20. pbaldwin

    March 12, 2011 at 4:11 pm

    My problem is that my wife’s iphone has her itunes which works fine, but my 2 daughters have used their accounts to buy apps and she constantly needs to enter their passwords but they wont share them, so I am trying to remove their stuff and accounts so my wife can avoid this hassle. How do I do this? Sounds so simple….

  21. woody

    March 23, 2011 at 2:28 am

    I have an i phone that i was given from a friend and when i tried to authorize my computer it said i had reached the limit of 5 computers for the phone. I bought some apps before i figured it out how do i get it to work and sync apps from my computer?

  22. Lauren

    March 23, 2011 at 3:48 pm

    I have a problem!!
    i recently got a new laptop, I downloaded itunes and have tried to transfer all my purchases from my ipod across. It said i needed to authorise my computer, so i did that was fine. Then it appeared that another item was not authorised on this computer, so I clicked to authorise it again (which i thought was odd as i had already done it once) and when i did it appeared with the apple log in only there was someone else’s email address in the username tab. It won’t let me use mine, and it won’t let me sync my ipod with my new itunes unless I have authorised this purchase (which isn’t even mine!) I have emailed the person but they have no idea what i’m talking about apparently.

  23. marcia

    April 16, 2011 at 2:14 pm

    I have two authorized computers, one ipad, one itunes account. I have movies downloaded onto both computers. My ipad will not sync movies from one computer to the other without deleting previously synced ones from other computer. I get a popup box telling me my ipad is “linked” to a different computer. Can someone be a miracle worker and help me?

  24. Guido (Guy) Moscatelli

    April 20, 2011 at 12:24 pm

    If I’m using my brother-in-law’s iPhone, and I want to search and download music from iTunes to his phone, using my own iTunes account information, (screen name/password) But his iTunes account information, like’ his screen name and password request keep popping’ up in order to begin download, how can I temporarily switch iTunes accounts, (from HIS to MINE) so I can download music to his phone using my account and available balance? Is this even possible? If so, please explain to me the procedure of logging out of HIS iTunes account and signing into mine, temporarily. Thank You – Respectfully, Guido Moscatelli

  25. Guido (Guy) Moscatelli

    April 20, 2011 at 12:25 pm

    If I’m using my brother-in-law’s iPhone, and I want to search and download music from iTunes to his phone, using my own iTunes account information, (screen name/password) But his iTunes account information, like’ his screen name and password request keep popping’ up in order to begin download, how can I temporarily switch iTunes accounts, (from HIS to MINE) so I can download music to his phone using my account and available balance? Is this even possible? If so, please explain to me the procedure of logging out of HIS iTunes account and signing into mine, temporarily. Thank You.

  26. Lars

    June 22, 2011 at 4:02 am

    I had an iTunes account that I opened in 2003. Later, I closed the email account tied to that iTunes account. I thought I had switched that account to my new email address, but Apple says I started a new account. I can get my old music to play on my computer, and it does sync to my iPhone, but it will not play.

    Any ideas?

  27. Vittoria

    July 1, 2011 at 4:33 pm

    My sister and I bother have old school Ipods. We both have a couple of click-wheel games that we would like to have on both of our ipods. I cannot figure out how to get her games on my itunes, although I am an authorized computer for her account, and the same with my account on her itunes. What the heck? Is this sharing ability only for people with newer Ipods? If so, that is pretty damn unfair.

  28. fie

    August 22, 2011 at 9:20 pm

    on my updates screen on the iphone, why does it appear my brother account ID instead of mine and how do I change back to my own

  29. Agostinho Paulo Manhiça

    September 16, 2012 at 2:25 am

    I see this is a 2 years old post, I just hope I get a satisfactory answer to my concern which is as follows: I used 2 different accounts to get a lot of apps form AppStore, being that prior to that I was only using one, it was syncing with iTunes with no issues, then I created a new one, thats when the problem began! iTunes will ask me to authorize both accounts in order to sync the apps downloaded with the newly created account, and that’s all it does until I cancel with no syncing success! How do I then, do away from this?

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