Q&A: Putting your libraries on a NAS

Q Our MacBook’s startup disk has filled up with our iPhoto/Photos and iTunes libraries, and I want to move them across to a networked hard disk. How can I best do this, and could I still share the libraries with my MacBook shut down?

A Although you can place libraries in a shared folder on your networked hard disk, and access them from several devices, this is messy as you will need to configure (for instance) iTunes to keep its tracks outside its normal library. If tracks are purchased, and thus protected, this will not work.

The simplest and neatest way to do this is to move the whole library to the shared folder, and place an alias to it in the Music or Pictures folder on your MacBook. Then turn music and photo sharing on in iTunes and iPhoto. However you will only be able to share when the MacBook is running and acting as server.

The most flexible system would be to put your iTunes and iPhoto content on a media server, which could be an Apple TV, and enable sharing there, but that server and library store then need to be running whenever you want to access them.

The ultimate sharing system, iCloud, would not be particularly efficient, and given the size of your libraries would be expensive. However it is the only one which will continue to work wherever you are, and is independent of whether your Mac or media server is running.

Updated from the original, which was first published in MacUser volume 29 issue 1, 2013.