How to Share iPhone or iPod Apps Between Multiple Users

by Michael on February 6, 2010 · 9 comments

I have an iPhone and my son has an iPod Touch. Until recently, we’ve been frustrated by our inability to share apps that one of us buys. Fortunately, we’ve since figured out how to share apps without re-buying them, and it doesn’t even violate the iTunes user agreement.

As it turns out, the Fairplay DRM that Apples uses to protect their apps allows you to authorize up to five computers. This is the same as for iTunes music or movie purchases back before they went DRM-free.

So let’s say you want to buy (and share) an awesome new game like Heads Up!, Minecraft, or even how Grand Theft Auto (yes, there’s a new one!)… How exactly do you share apps? Read on.

Authorizing multiple users

For starters, you’ll need to authorize each user’s computer. For simplicity, let’s call them User1 and User2. To do this, simply open iTunes on both computers, click on the “Store” menu, and select “Authorize Computer.”

One User1’s computer, you’ll want to enter User2’s username and password, and vice versa. Obviously, this means that you’ll only want to set this up with trusted individuals, such as family members or close friends.

Moving app files between users

Next, you need to get the apps onto each other’s computers. You have two choices here. One is to simply copy the files between computers using a thumb drive. To do this, you’ll need to know where the apps are stored.

See: Where Does Windows Store iPod or iPhone Apps?
See: Where Does Mac OS X Store iPod or iPhone Apps?

Simply navigate to the right folder, locate the app file (.ipa) of interest, drag it on your thumb drive, then drag it from the thumb drive to the library on the other computer. As long as you’ve authorized both users, it should get transferred on the next sync.

If this sounds like too much trouble, then keep reading…

Re-downloading your apps

Alternatively, if you wish to transfer an app from User1 to User2, you can simply log out of iTunes on User2’s computer, log back in as User1, navigate to the app in App Store, and re-download it. When you click to “Buy” the app, you might get the following warning:

Are you sure you want to buy and download “Whatever App”?

Your account will be debited for this purchase and your application will begin to download immediately.

(You can banish this message, so don’t worry if it doesn’t appear.)

As scary (and costly) as that sounds, go ahead and click “Buy.” You’ll next be greeted with a message saying you’ve already paid, so you won’t be charged again:

You have already purchased this item.

You have already purchased this item. To download it again for free, select OK.

Click OK and the app will download for free. Now log out of iTunes and log back in as User2. Sync User2’s iPhone or iPod, and you’re done.

The steps to transfer from User2 to User1 are the same – just go to User1’s computer, log out, log in as User2, and so on.

There, wasn’t that easy?

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