How I Would Fix iTunes, Part 12: Fix Home Sharing

Home sharing icon(This is one of a series of articles looking at elements of iTunes that I think need fixing. I’ll choose one element for each article, and offer a solution. See all articles in this series. If you have any particular gripes about what needs to be fixed in iTunes, drop me a line.)

Home Sharing is a very useful feature in iTunes which allows you to share your media library to other computers and devices on your network. You use Home Sharing to access content on an Apple TV, but you can also use it, for example, to play music from a central iTunes library on another computer.

Home Sharing is notoriously unreliable from computer to computer, and from a computer’s iTunes library to an Apple TV. For some people, it works all the time, on certain devices; others have to constantly restart their devices, such as their Apple TVs, to be able to access their content.

You can also – theoretically – use Home Sharing to load an iTunes library on an iOS device. You can do this in the Music app, or in the Videos app. However, this feature is broken. While it works with small libraries, once you’ve got a fair amount of media in your iTunes library, it fails. I’ve not been able to find anyone who’s gotten it to work with a large library.

If you have a large library, and try to load it on an iOS device, it simply never completes. I’ve tried many times to do this on my iPad, to watch a video, and it always fails. When I have tried to load my Music library on my iPhone, to listen to something that’s not on the iPhone, that never completes either, as you can see below. (Dark Star is my iMac, with a music library of around 70,000 tracks.)


Home sharing ios

Home Sharing is yet another great feature that is broken. Apple should fix this, especially if they’re planning on expanding the capabilities of the Apple TV.

38 thoughts on “How I Would Fix iTunes, Part 12: Fix Home Sharing

  1. I’d be really happy if Apple would just fix the issue of what looks like expiring tokens. Every so often, to get home sharing to work, I have to turn off home sharing then turn it on again on various devices that provide media – in my case a couple of Macs. It’s rare that I have to do the same on an AppleTV.

    • I also have many iOS devices using home share to access my music library on my Mac. Apple TV and older iPads had no problem linking to my library, all new devices (5s,6,6+)had problems. I noticed the older divices reloaded the entire library each time they connected, but the newer ones did only at first, but then linked quickly each additional time and then would have the scrolling issue. I simply disconnected from the wireless network and made sure the library wasn’t an option in iTunes and then reconnected. This solved the problem. There is something wrong in the code when iTunes reconnects to a familiar library and I agree apple should get to fixing it. Hope this helps.

  2. I’d be really happy if Apple would just fix the issue of what looks like expiring tokens. Every so often, to get home sharing to work, I have to turn off home sharing then turn it on again on various devices that provide media – in my case a couple of Macs. It’s rare that I have to do the same on an AppleTV.

    • I also have many iOS devices using home share to access my music library on my Mac. Apple TV and older iPads had no problem linking to my library, all new devices (5s,6,6+)had problems. I noticed the older divices reloaded the entire library each time they connected, but the newer ones did only at first, but then linked quickly each additional time and then would have the scrolling issue. I simply disconnected from the wireless network and made sure the library wasn’t an option in iTunes and then reconnected. This solved the problem. There is something wrong in the code when iTunes reconnects to a familiar library and I agree apple should get to fixing it. Hope this helps.

  3. Agree with the need to fix Home Sharing. It generally has worked ok for me when streaming from my iMac (where my iTunes library is) to my Apple TV. But it has never worked for streaming from my iMac to my iOS devices. As you say, it starts to load, gets about half way around the status circle, then stops. I have a small iTunes library in terms of number of items (about 8000), but large in terms of data (about 3TB) – lots of home videos.

    In the past few years I’ve lived in three countries, so different internet providers, different routers, etc, and Home Sharing from Mac to iOS has never worked for me. So I guess it’s an Apple thing rather than a home internet set-up thing. Funny that I can stream Netflix over the internet from 100s or 1000s of miles away, and it works better than trying to use Home Sharing to stream from one room to another within the same house.

  4. Agree with the need to fix Home Sharing. It generally has worked ok for me when streaming from my iMac (where my iTunes library is) to my Apple TV. But it has never worked for streaming from my iMac to my iOS devices. As you say, it starts to load, gets about half way around the status circle, then stops. I have a small iTunes library in terms of number of items (about 8000), but large in terms of data (about 3TB) – lots of home videos.

    In the past few years I’ve lived in three countries, so different internet providers, different routers, etc, and Home Sharing from Mac to iOS has never worked for me. So I guess it’s an Apple thing rather than a home internet set-up thing. Funny that I can stream Netflix over the internet from 100s or 1000s of miles away, and it works better than trying to use Home Sharing to stream from one room to another within the same house.

  5. I have found the same with home sharing. Works great for video on AppleTV. Stalls on iOS devices. I have large audio library. More than 50000 songs. Have resisted using Plex for audio but with these comments and Apple inaction on anything Kirk has posted maybe it’s time to find another solution. I keep hoping. Same with iTunes Match. The limit is too small and no definitive instructions from Apple makes it very frustrating.

  6. I have found the same with home sharing. Works great for video on AppleTV. Stalls on iOS devices. I have large audio library. More than 50000 songs. Have resisted using Plex for audio but with these comments and Apple inaction on anything Kirk has posted maybe it’s time to find another solution. I keep hoping. Same with iTunes Match. The limit is too small and no definitive instructions from Apple makes it very frustrating.

  7. Apple just needs to go back to the drawing board, completely, on this whole topic of sharing. They’ve bungled it so badly it is embarrassing. And all, seemingly, because they’re trying to stay tip-toeing in the DRM world. I get it…the studios want a family to buy three separate versions of Toy Story 3 for EACH KID, but F the studios.

    Outside of that, Apple has been promising the Mac community some groundbreaking, revolutionary “sharing solution” since ‘The Mac Office’ was announced in 1985. The networking has been there, the laser printer was there, and AppleShare…well, was AppleShare. OS X Server is like Cousin Oliver by comparison.

    Here is what Apple needs to do: they first have to realize that the Family is basically, intrinsically, like a small business workgroup. This would be a good thing, because I’m currently working with a LOT of small business workgroups who are adopting Macs in droves. Families might be 3-6 members, small business workgroups tend to be 5-15. Apple’s old limit of 10 users in File Sharing was absurd; now with OS X Server being $20, they could push that to 20 and pull some of the Server features into OS X proper. Next up, Apple needs to build a Content Management System or Media Management System into OS X. Whatever you want to call it. iTunes should merely be a front-end for “Library” database tools already in OS X. The iTunes Library and iPhoto Library should not be “things” to themselves, they should be system assets. One the Libraries have been yanked out of iTunes, turn it BACK into the best Library manager out there. Personally, I’d say yank Movies, Shows, and Home Videos out of it and make it do what it was designed to do; put those parts into iMovie. Finally, really design a Cloud-coupled, LAN-syncing sharing service that works! OS X Server has a component that supports local-caching of DRM’d content (both from the App Store and the iTunes Store), put that in OS X. Knock off the use of the goofy proprietary-yet-no-value-added protocols; use standards that FORCE Apple’s products to be competitive in the environment. (That WILL make them better, or they’ll die on the shelves.) But stop with the insane thinking that everyone has a 50Mbps internet connection at all times; look towards how Dropbox works, Google Drive. Workgroups/Families should easy be able to configure “users/members”, select who can see what objects, and have those media objects available transparently. “Sharing” should not involve making 3,4,5 copies of songs, pictures, etc; fall back and USE the /Users/Shared directory! Plus, with a content management system in OS X, things like Email and Messaging could also live in the CMS database; parents could use the feature to Parentally Control “assets”, as could business managers.

    Yes, this would somewhat mess with the “spatial filesystem”…but then that’s where the engineering talent make their pay, make it happen via beautifully designed UI. And absolutely allow for some kind of NAS device(s)/server!

    • The whole content sharing thing is something I plan to address in a future article. Not Home Sharing, but sharing content so it can be synced to multiple devices. I’ve written in the past about how I think an iTunes server could function, and I think it’s needed now more than ever.

      • Agree wholeheartedly. I just hope that Apple doesn’t go “Simple” and give us something powerless and ineffective. Would be a slap in the face at this point.

        If I had the ability to run a mirror/superset of iCloud from my Mac at home (or a Mac “server”), then I’d never need to “sync” my iDevices with a computer. They’d sync automagically when I was home, and as long as I could control what sync’d to iCloud, to the extent I wished to pay for the convenience, I’d have that data on the go. But I really think they need to focus on multimedia, not “Photos, Music, and Movies”, and they need to make it a model that shares between multiple users with multiple devices. This is why I think the CMS model, with Check Out/Check In is the most viable. And it wouldn’t hurt if they just bought AeroFS outright.

        The sheer fact that my 70-year-old father and his wife—100% invested in the Apple ecosystem, with multiple MacBooks, iMacs, iPhones, iPads, Canon EOS 5D, and point and shoots—can’t “share” the the photos they take as easily as a “shoebox” or “Photo Album” is absurd. The artificial “walls” that Apple has created with Home Sharing and Family Share are simply stupefying. No one at Apple can seriously be eating their own dogfood. No way, no how.

  8. Apple just needs to go back to the drawing board, completely, on this whole topic of sharing. They’ve bungled it so badly it is embarrassing. And all, seemingly, because they’re trying to stay tip-toeing in the DRM world. I get it…the studios want a family to buy three separate versions of Toy Story 3 for EACH KID, but F the studios.

    Outside of that, Apple has been promising the Mac community some groundbreaking, revolutionary “sharing solution” since ‘The Mac Office’ was announced in 1985. The networking has been there, the laser printer was there, and AppleShare…well, was AppleShare. OS X Server is like Cousin Oliver by comparison.

    Here is what Apple needs to do: they first have to realize that the Family is basically, intrinsically, like a small business workgroup. This would be a good thing, because I’m currently working with a LOT of small business workgroups who are adopting Macs in droves. Families might be 3-6 members, small business workgroups tend to be 5-15. Apple’s old limit of 10 users in File Sharing was absurd; now with OS X Server being $20, they could push that to 20 and pull some of the Server features into OS X proper. Next up, Apple needs to build a Content Management System or Media Management System into OS X. Whatever you want to call it. iTunes should merely be a front-end for “Library” database tools already in OS X. The iTunes Library and iPhoto Library should not be “things” to themselves, they should be system assets. One the Libraries have been yanked out of iTunes, turn it BACK into the best Library manager out there. Personally, I’d say yank Movies, Shows, and Home Videos out of it and make it do what it was designed to do; put those parts into iMovie. Finally, really design a Cloud-coupled, LAN-syncing sharing service that works! OS X Server has a component that supports local-caching of DRM’d content (both from the App Store and the iTunes Store), put that in OS X. Knock off the use of the goofy proprietary-yet-no-value-added protocols; use standards that FORCE Apple’s products to be competitive in the environment. (That WILL make them better, or they’ll die on the shelves.) But stop with the insane thinking that everyone has a 50Mbps internet connection at all times; look towards how Dropbox works, Google Drive. Workgroups/Families should easy be able to configure “users/members”, select who can see what objects, and have those media objects available transparently. “Sharing” should not involve making 3,4,5 copies of songs, pictures, etc; fall back and USE the /Users/Shared directory! Plus, with a content management system in OS X, things like Email and Messaging could also live in the CMS database; parents could use the feature to Parentally Control “assets”, as could business managers.

    Yes, this would somewhat mess with the “spatial filesystem”…but then that’s where the engineering talent make their pay, make it happen via beautifully designed UI. And absolutely allow for some kind of NAS device(s)/server!

    • The whole content sharing thing is something I plan to address in a future article. Not Home Sharing, but sharing content so it can be synced to multiple devices. I’ve written in the past about how I think an iTunes server could function, and I think it’s needed now more than ever.

      • Agree wholeheartedly. I just hope that Apple doesn’t go “Simple” and give us something powerless and ineffective. Would be a slap in the face at this point.

        If I had the ability to run a mirror/superset of iCloud from my Mac at home (or a Mac “server”), then I’d never need to “sync” my iDevices with a computer. They’d sync automagically when I was home, and as long as I could control what sync’d to iCloud, to the extent I wished to pay for the convenience, I’d have that data on the go. But I really think they need to focus on multimedia, not “Photos, Music, and Movies”, and they need to make it a model that shares between multiple users with multiple devices. This is why I think the CMS model, with Check Out/Check In is the most viable. And it wouldn’t hurt if they just bought AeroFS outright.

        The sheer fact that my 70-year-old father and his wife—100% invested in the Apple ecosystem, with multiple MacBooks, iMacs, iPhones, iPads, Canon EOS 5D, and point and shoots—can’t “share” the the photos they take as easily as a “shoebox” or “Photo Album” is absurd. The artificial “walls” that Apple has created with Home Sharing and Family Share are simply stupefying. No one at Apple can seriously be eating their own dogfood. No way, no how.

  9. I have Home Sharing working for iOS devices, even with a very large library of movies, photos, and music. I figured it out after months of trying.

    The key is to make sure you have all of your media on one device and within one overall directory. Turn off Home Sharing. Then you must clear out EVERYTHING from your iTunes library. Go into preferences and make sure you have “Leave media in place”. Once that is complete reload all media to iTunes and wait. iTunes will eventually finish. Turn on Home Sharing. Find it on your iOS device. Select the Library and wait. It takes a long time the first time but it will do it.

    The key to the whole thing is really rebuilding your library. And keeping all of your media in one spot. Occasionally (surprise!), iTunes will glitch again and you will need to repeat the process. It depends on how much you add and mess with the original setup/libraries.

    • Not sure what you’re saying. Most people have there media in the same location. My MacBook Pro library loads on my iOS devices, but it’s very small.

    • I’m glad that solution works for you. But I’m not sure it’s a generic solution. I have all my iTunes media on one device (my Mac) and always have. I also have all my iTunes media in one folder (the one created by iTunes when first installed) and always have. But I still cannot stream to iOS devices on the same wifi network …

  10. I have Home Sharing working for iOS devices, even with a very large library of movies, photos, and music. I figured it out after months of trying.

    The key is to make sure you have all of your media on one device and within one overall directory. Turn off Home Sharing. Then you must clear out EVERYTHING from your iTunes library. Go into preferences and make sure you have “Leave media in place”. Once that is complete reload all media to iTunes and wait. iTunes will eventually finish. Turn on Home Sharing. Find it on your iOS device. Select the Library and wait. It takes a long time the first time but it will do it.

    The key to the whole thing is really rebuilding your library. And keeping all of your media in one spot. Occasionally (surprise!), iTunes will glitch again and you will need to repeat the process. It depends on how much you add and mess with the original setup/libraries.

    • Not sure what you’re saying. Most people have there media in the same location. My MacBook Pro library loads on my iOS devices, but it’s very small.

    • I’m glad that solution works for you. But I’m not sure it’s a generic solution. I have all my iTunes media on one device (my Mac) and always have. I also have all my iTunes media in one folder (the one created by iTunes when first installed) and always have. But I still cannot stream to iOS devices on the same wifi network …

  11. and why Apple, why do we need to sign up with an appleID to watch DRM-free media files? and why do I need to copy files to the local iTunes before I can add them to an iDevice? and why cannot I use homesharing across the internet? (and cannot get access to all my files, iTunes match fix the problem at a price for music but not TV or movies).

    • The Apple ID thing is merely a nod toward record labels and movie studios who don’t want too much free copying.

  12. and why Apple, why do we need to sign up with an appleID to watch DRM-free media files? and why do I need to copy files to the local iTunes before I can add them to an iDevice? and why cannot I use homesharing across the internet? (and cannot get access to all my files, iTunes match fix the problem at a price for music but not TV or movies).

    • The Apple ID thing is merely a nod toward record labels and movie studios who don’t want too much free copying.

  13. If you have issues loading your library on your iOs device, the following always fixes the issue for me.

    iOS device -> Settings -> Videos
    1) Click your “Home Sharing” apple id and choose “Sign Out”
    2) Re-Enter your home sharing account AppleID and Password
    3) Open the videos app and the library will no load

    – my media library is around 3TB, and I have to do this once a week or there about, but it always works.

    • It’s never worked for me, and doesn’t work for most people I know. The size of the media files in your library don’t matter – you say 3 TB – it’s the number of items that slows it down.

    • This worked for me! Many thanks! iOs 8.3! Large Audio and video Library, been searching for a solution for quite some time now! Hurray! Spread!!!!!!!

  14. If you have issues loading your library on your iOs device, the following always fixes the issue for me.

    iOS device -> Settings -> Videos
    1) Click your “Home Sharing” apple id and choose “Sign Out”
    2) Re-Enter your home sharing account AppleID and Password
    3) Open the videos app and the library will no load

    – my media library is around 3TB, and I have to do this once a week or there about, but it always works.

    • It’s never worked for me, and doesn’t work for most people I know. The size of the media files in your library don’t matter – you say 3 TB – it’s the number of items that slows it down.

    • This worked for me! Many thanks! iOs 8.3! Large Audio and video Library, been searching for a solution for quite some time now! Hurray! Spread!!!!!!!

  15. I filed this as a bug in the 8.3 public beta. I did get a response back wanting more info and a diagnostic profile to see what is happening.

    I hope this helps them fix this and gives it the attention it deserves.

  16. I filed this as a bug in the 8.3 public beta. I did get a response back wanting more info and a diagnostic profile to see what is happening.

    I hope this helps them fix this and gives it the attention it deserves.

  17. Home sharing is a failure for me. I eventually went through an intensive, week long, set of procedures with (apparently) the highest level of, apple support.
    It was over the phone and included checking my entire setup, updating various software, examining tracks, and we thoroughly determined that HS cannot handle libraries over somewhere in the region of 30,000 items. This was just over a year ago. The inference was that my library was just ‘big’ hence the problems (60k at time, bigger now.
    At the end of the depressing (and yet another nail in the coffin of would-be apple expert support levels) week i randomly grabbed the 1st ios/desktop app combo to see if the issue manifested itself in other software. i got mediatap. it worked instantly, better, faster, zero setup waiting. When I say instantly I mean, instant, none of that waiting to analyse stuff. Mediatap does practically all I want with my music, but not everything HS (promises).
    I got back directly in touch with the high priest of apple support who simply stated ‘strange…’ in that stepford wife monotone one endures.

    Strange indeed…

    (ps. the ‘fixes’ mentioned in the other comments don’t work… for me.)

  18. Home sharing is a failure for me. I eventually went through an intensive, week long, set of procedures with (apparently) the highest level of, apple support.
    It was over the phone and included checking my entire setup, updating various software, examining tracks, and we thoroughly determined that HS cannot handle libraries over somewhere in the region of 30,000 items. This was just over a year ago. The inference was that my library was just ‘big’ hence the problems (60k at time, bigger now.
    At the end of the depressing (and yet another nail in the coffin of would-be apple expert support levels) week i randomly grabbed the 1st ios/desktop app combo to see if the issue manifested itself in other software. i got mediatap. it worked instantly, better, faster, zero setup waiting. When I say instantly I mean, instant, none of that waiting to analyse stuff. Mediatap does practically all I want with my music, but not everything HS (promises).
    I got back directly in touch with the high priest of apple support who simply stated ‘strange…’ in that stepford wife monotone one endures.

    Strange indeed…

    (ps. the ‘fixes’ mentioned in the other comments don’t work… for me.)

  19. This Home Sharing issue was not an issue about a year ago when I was running iOS 7 on an iPhone 4S (64GB), and my iTunes library contains about 15,500 items. It took about 3-5 minutes to sync, but it synced. Since one of the changes in iOS 7, I’ve been having the problem, but mostly on the iPhone. Going into the fall, I upgraded to iPhone 6, iPad Air 2 (both 128 GB) and the problem didn’t seem to go away on the phone, but I am able to fully sync on the iPad. On Tuesday when this article was posted, I was able to fully sync my library on the iPhone (whoopee!) and thought Apple had fixed something. Well, since last night, I can’t get past loading about 5%, and when the library doesn’t load, it chews up the battery (whopping 30% battery usage). Now on the iPad, It still completes loading, and battery usage is minimal. Apparently something is hanging, and is evident in the battery drain.

  20. This Home Sharing issue was not an issue about a year ago when I was running iOS 7 on an iPhone 4S (64GB), and my iTunes library contains about 15,500 items. It took about 3-5 minutes to sync, but it synced. Since one of the changes in iOS 7, I’ve been having the problem, but mostly on the iPhone. Going into the fall, I upgraded to iPhone 6, iPad Air 2 (both 128 GB) and the problem didn’t seem to go away on the phone, but I am able to fully sync on the iPad. On Tuesday when this article was posted, I was able to fully sync my library on the iPhone (whoopee!) and thought Apple had fixed something. Well, since last night, I can’t get past loading about 5%, and when the library doesn’t load, it chews up the battery (whopping 30% battery usage). Now on the iPad, It still completes loading, and battery usage is minimal. Apparently something is hanging, and is evident in the battery drain.

  21. Signing out of homesharing on iOS device worked this time for me but its not consistent enough. I’ve always been able to get the AppleTv to stream from my imac sometimes a reboot is required. I’m pleased with the apple tv but iOS homesharing is a big bag of hurt. (1200 movies 600 tv shows and 16,000 songs). Ive always wondered if some settings in the router were at fault???

  22. Signing out of homesharing on iOS device worked this time for me but its not consistent enough. I’ve always been able to get the AppleTv to stream from my imac sometimes a reboot is required. I’m pleased with the apple tv but iOS homesharing is a big bag of hurt. (1200 movies 600 tv shows and 16,000 songs). Ive always wondered if some settings in the router were at fault???

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