How to Set Up an iTunes Home Server

by Cory Bohon

homesharing_teaser.pngOnline music storage is an area that has exploded in recent months, with Amazon, Google and Apple all becoming major players in the game. But what if you’d rather not deal with a third-party and instead host your own music? What if you could have all the freedom in the world to listen to music when you please, and whereever? We’ll show you how to set up your own dedicated iTunes Server that will let you stream your music around your home network, to your iOS devices, and even when you’re halfway across the globe, far away from home.

What You Need:

>> A Mac capable of running latest version of iTunes
>> Always-on internet connection
>> Wired or wireless network
>> Existing iTunes Library

1. Set Up a Dedicated Mac and iTunes

The first step to setting up your dedicated Mac is to transfer your iTunes library to the machine. There are various ways of doing this, but we have a really easy way outlined in this article.

Once you have your iTunes library set up, and iTunes running, we need to start making some changes to the way the computer operates. You’ll want to make these changes if you plan on keeping this iTunes server running 24/7.


The first changes you’ll want to make is with regards to the power. Head to System Preferences > Energy Saver, and ensure that the Computer Sleep option is set to “Never”, and that the Display Sleep selector is set to 1-minute. This will ensure that while the computer stays on, the display won’t. Next, check the boxes labeled, “Put the hard disk(s) to keep when possible” and “Wake for network access”. You can also check the box labeled “Restart automatically if the computer freezes".


Next, to ensure that iTunes is always running, even if the computer restarts, right-click on its icon in the Dock and click Options > Open at Login.


Now let’s configure the iTunes preferences. Open iTunes > Preferences > Store. In this area, check Music, Apps, and Books under the Automatic Downloads heading. This will ensure that the dedicated iTunes library stays up-to-date with the latest purchases that you may make on other devices. You can also check the boxes labeled, “Always check for available downloads”, and “Automatically download pre-orders when available”.


After configuring the Store settings, click on the General tab and select, “Import CD and Eject” from the “When you insert a CD” drop-down menu. This means that when you insert a CD in your dedicated iTunes Server, iTunes will automatically go to Gracenote to get the track information, import the CD, and then Eject it once it’s done. Pretty nifty, huh?

2. Set Up Home Sharing

The best way to enjoy your music, movies, and TV shows on your local network on multiple devices is with Home Sharing. Not only is Home Sharing easy to activate, but it works great over your home network on all of your devices, including your iPhone or iPad.


To enable Home Sharing, click Advanced > Turn on Home Sharing in iTunes. In the resulting window, type in your iTunes account username and password, and then click the “Create Home Share” button.

3. Enable SSH/SFTP Access

If you wish to access your non-DRM music over the internet with your Mac or iOS device, you will need to turn on SSH/SFTP access in order to get access to the music files on your system remotely. We have covered this topic before, and you get get the instructions for enabling SSH by clicking here.

4. Connecting to Your iTunes Server via Home Sharing

While on your local network, you can access your iTunes Home Server through Apple’s Home Sharing features. To begin, you must enable Home Sharing on all of the Macs or PCs that you will be using Home Sharing on by going to Advanced > Turn on Home Sharing.


After doing this, your library will appear in the Shared section of the iTunes sidebar. Clicking on this section will give you access to all stored media on the iTunes Home Server.


You can also access your shared library on your iOS device. Turn on Home Sharing in iOS by navigating to Settings > iPod, and typing in your iTunes username and password under the Home Sharing heading. While connected to your local wireless network, whenever you open your iPod app, you can access your iTunes library by tapping on More > Shared, and selecting the shared library you wish to connect with.


If you have an Apple TV, you can also enable Home Sharing in order to enjoy the same local network streaming right to your TV. To enable Home Sharing on the 2nd gen Apple TV, you can follow the instructions in this Apple tech note.

5. Connecting to Your iTunes Server via SFTP

If you so want to stream your music to your iOS device over the internet, you can do so by accessing your Mac over SFTP. Because we enabled this in step 3, we will be able to connect to the Mac remotely to access these audio files. We have already covered how to do this in a previous article, so if you are interested in streaming files over the internet, you can check out The Ultimate Streaming Setup.

Follow this article’s author, Cory Bohon on Twitter.



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