Married with iPods, Part 2: One Library to Rule Them All

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Last week, I showed you a technique for keeping your music collections separate from one another in a communal iTunes library. This week, I'll try and help out those of you with the opposite problem--people with fractured iTunes libraries across multiple user profiles who want to pool their family's media together.

The root of the problem is that unlike Windows Media Player, Winamp, or nearly any other multimedia jukebox application, there's no way to get iTunes to actively monitor multiple folders on your computer and add new content automatically. In a perfect world, you could tell iTunes to create its library based on the music stored in all the "My Music" folders of every user on your computer. Unfortunately, iTunes doesn't work that way.

You can, however, make it so that any media added to any instance of iTunes on your PC is copied to a single, central location that all users can access. Pointing every installation of iTunes on your computer to a common library is as easy as holding down the shift button when you launch the application. The hardest part, often, is archiving and merging all the separate media collections each user has been amassing up until this point.

We've made another step-by-step guide that walks you through the back-up, redirecting, and restoring of a single iTunes library that pulls content from every user account on your computer. For extra inspiration, you can also take a look at the Insider Secrets video I shot, that outlines the steps for this iTunes tip and last week's. With any luck, you can use both these tips together to pool all your family's media and iTunes purchases together, and still maintain some sanity-saving restrictions on what content is copied to your individual iPod or iPhone.

If you have any other tips to share, please include them in the comments section.