How Home Sharing Works in macOS Catalina

For years, iTunes has had a Home Sharing feature, that allowed you to share your library across a network. Users in your home, dorm, or office could listen to your music, and even copy it to their computers. They could stream videos from your library, and this was a good way to maintain a movie and TV show library on a Mac and stream content locally to an Apple TV.

Perusing macOS Catalina I was initially worried that Home Sharing had been removed, because there was nothing about it in the Music app, but I found that they feature had been shunted to a new location: the Sharing pane of System Preferences.

Media sharing2

This makes a lot of sense. With iTunes split into four apps, you wouldn’t want to have to turn it on for each app. But this centralized media sharing has a great advantage: you don’t need to launch any of the apps to be able to share their content. As long as the computer hosting the media is running, you can load its content on another computer, an Apple TV, or on iOS (in the Music or TV apps). And if you have Wake for Network Access checked in the Energy Saver preferences, your library is accessible even if the host Mac is asleep. (On a laptop, this only works if it’s connected to power.)

Note that since this is a per-user setting, and multiple users could have libraries on a Mac, sharing only works when a user is logged in.

This is a great change to the Home Sharing feature, and it will make it a lot easier to set up a master library to use on multiple devices.

Learn more about the new media apps that replace iTunes in macOS Catalina in my new book, Take Control of macOS Media Apps.

14 thoughts on “How Home Sharing Works in macOS Catalina

  1. Thanks for posting this! Having to leave iTunes open meant I seldom used the feature – I’d go to use it and realize iTunes wasn’t open. Now I can set this and it will always be available!

  2. Kirk — Your point about being able to access media on an Apple laptop as long as it’s connected to power is not completely correct. The lid of the laptop must also be open. The only way to maintain access with the lid closed is to: 1) connect it to power; 2) connect an external display; 3) connect a keyboard; and 4) connect a mouse. Even 3rd party apps that keep your Mac awake can not override the lid being closed. Please see the discussion of this issue from the developer of the leading such app

  3. I use that feature all the time and it sucked that I had to make sure that no one in the house was listening to music or watching something before I hit iTunes. This is a great improvement and feature!

  4. Has any HomeSharing become obsolete?

    Will HomeSharing on MacOS 10.11.6 & iTunes 12.8.2 be able to stream video from Catalina?

    2011 MacBook Pro

  5. Like you, Kirk, I have a big music library (over 300,000 tracks!). It’s on an external drive connected to my Mac Mini, which serves as a media server. iTunes is always open and I usually stream via the Remote app on my iPhone, to an Apple TV, Airport Express or my Sonos One. Works like a charm in Mojave.
    After making a backup (!) I upgraded my Mac Mini to Catalina. I turned on Media Sharing in System Preferences and tried to stream my music. Alas, the Remote app still ‘saw’ my music, but it didn’t do anything when I clicked on a track or an album. But hey, you can now use the Music app for that. And indeed, the Music app now displayed an option “home sharing”. I ticked it and it showed my Mac Mini and a spinning wheel. After several minutes however it told me it couldn’t connect. I tried everything, rebooted Mac Mini and iPhone several times, to no avail. Then I tried it the other way around. From my Mac Mini I played a track in the Music app and then tried to play it on one of my Airplay devices. The Music app said it was trying to connect, then froze for a couple of minutes and then told me it could not connect to the Airplay device. It tried them all, but also to no avail.
    Luckily I had made a backup. I reinstalled Mojave and am now back in business. I can again stream my music to all my devices.
    Does anyone have had similar experiences? Can it be the size of my library, or the fact that it is stored on an external drive (WD MyBook Duo)? BTW al my files are in Apple Lossless.

    • The Remote app currently is not compatible with Catalina, but a source at Apple told me it will be updated soon. As for AirPlay, that has worked fine for me.

  6. Can you clarify for me whether the user sharing their library has to be logged in on the computer? I have my movie library stored on a Mac Mini. I turned on Home Sharing. On my laptop I can access that library in the TV app. But if I go back to the Mac Mini and log out (but keep the computer running) I no longer have access to the library on my laptop. From the wording in this article and on other sites I was under the impression that the Mac Mini just had to be on. Is that impression incorrect?

    • No, since it is a per-user setting, a user has to be logged in. The difference is that the apps don’t have to be running, which was the case before. I’m updating the article to make that clear.

  7. I use iTunes to store my music, home videos, and ripped DVD movies. I currently Home Share all of them and Photos from an iMac running Sierra to multiple AppleTV 4 around the house. Where will home movies and local movies go when I update to Catalina? Will I be able to watch them on the AppleTVs?

What do you think?

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.