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Archive for June, 2006

Up the Junction – Multi-user Windows iTunes

June 11th, 2006 2 comments

By default Windows iTunes stores the music metadata, although not necessarily the music itself, in the current user’s My Music folder. For user Alice, this will be located in,

C:\Documents and Settings\alice\My Music\iTunes\

and for Bob in

C:\Documents and Settings\bob\My Music\iTunes\

which means that the two users can’t share settings, playlists and the like easily.

On a Unix-a-like system we could solve this with symbolic links by linking the two iTunes directories to a common location. Of course, everybodys know that symbolic links do not feature in Windows filing systems.

Or do they?

In fact NTFS supports a feature various known as Junction Points or Reparse Points which can be used to ‘mount’ other directories or even volumes onto the location of existing directories. The facility to create junction points is not exposed through the standard Windows user interface, presumably because of the havoc you can wreak if you don’t know what you’re doing. However, for those of us who know exactly what we’re doing, they’re just what the doctor ordered.

In order to create junction points you can use the free tool Junction Link Magic from Rekenwonder Software. We’ll use it to make iTunes multi-user!

The following procedure is documented prior to installation of iTunes. It is possible to retrofit this to an existing iTunes installation, but you need to take care to not lose your existing iTunes settings, and its not clear how to merge the settings of existing iTunes users.

First we need to create the common location that different Windows iTunes users will share. So whilst logged in as an Administrator, create the directory

C:\Documents and Settings\All Users\Documents\My Music\iTunes\

Before we can create the junction points themselves, we need to create ‘host’ folders in the correct locations, so create the following two directories:

C:\Documents and Settings\alice\My Music\iTunes\
C:\Documents and Settings\bob\My Music\iTunes\

Now, having installed Junction Link Magic, use it to create a Junction Points from each users iTunes directory to the common location. When you first launch Junction Link Magic it will spend a few minutes searching your file system for existing junction points. When this process is complete you will most likely see an empty list of junction points,

Junction Link Magic

First we will create the junction point for Alice. Click the ‘Create’ button and select both Alice’s host iTunes folder, and the All Users iTunes< folder. Note under Windows XP the browser may show different directory 'user friendly' names such as All Users\Shared Documents\Shared Music\ instead of the true directory name All Users\Documents\My Music\ show in the label below the browser.

Junction Link Magic Create

Junction Link Magic will confirm that the operation has been successful, and show you the created junction point in the table in the main window.

Do the equivalent operation as required for other users on your system. Depending on how permissions are configured on your system, you may be required to switch to their user in order to create the junction points from their host iTunes folder.

You can test that the junction points are working correctly by creating an empty text file in the user’s iTunes directories and seeing if it ‘appears’ in the All Users iTunes directory. Once you’re sure everything is working, proceed to install iTunes where all your settings will be shared.

Once iTunes is installed, for good measure I then modify the `iTunes Music folder location` under Edit->Preferences…->Advanced to be in the,

C:\Documents and Settings\All Users\Documents\My Music\iTunes\iTunes Music

directory.

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