Multiple Apple IDs, multiple users, and Family Sharing

Many users assume that their Macs and iOS devices must be tied to a single Apple ID, which is then associated with everything that they share in the associated iCloud account. In fact, Apple’s account system is more flexible, and allows you and your family to share things in much more sophisticated ways.

Let’s assume that you and two or three others in your family each have their own Apple IDs. You can set up Family Sharing if you wish, but that often doesn’t prove flexible enough.

One solution which can provide much greater flexibility is to have one or more secondary Apple IDs which are shared between family members. This should be done with secondary Apple IDs, not your primary Apple ID, which should remain unique to each user (although obviously will be shared across each of their devices).

Some groups, typically partners, try to do this by sharing a single primary Apple ID between them. It may work well with bank accounts, but if you do this with your Apple ID, it means that neither partner can enjoy much privacy. Every document and all the data which are shared to that account are equally accessible from every device which connects to it.

That can trip you up when one of you might have an old iOS device, for instance, which can prevent all the other connected systems from altering shared data. It also means that each of you has to live with all the little details of the other’s life and work, which can quickly get irksome.

The only requirement for each Apple ID is that it is associated with a unique email address. So before you start creating secondary Apple IDs, ensure that you have set up and can access email through an account which is not already associated with an Apple ID. These can be Apple .icloud/.me/.mac addresses, Gmail, or through any mail service provider. Once you have set up an Apple ID, you will need to verify it using a message which Apple will send you, so set your mail client up to work with it and test it out.

The other information which you will need for your secondary Apple ID is the user name (use the person setting it up and managing the ID) such as Dave Jones, a suitable password of at least 8 characters with a minimum of one each of lower case, upper case, and numeric characters, and ready answers to Apple’s three memorable questions.

With secondary accounts, you will need to write the details down, so that you can give them in their entirety to others who will share that Apple ID.

When you’re ready, open the Internet Accounts pane in System Preferences, and click on the iCloud button on the right side. You will then be guided through the process of creating a new Apple ID – don’t type in your primary Apple ID here.

Once created, you can choose which shared service(s) you want the account to provide. Some features are limited to primary Apple IDs, but most of those that you will want to share are supported for secondary accounts.

Then set up access on other Macs and devices which you want to be able to access those shared features. Inevitably, each device which you add will be reported back to the account’s email address as a new device, but that stream of messages will only occur once.

There is also no reason that a secondary Apple ID cannot be added to Family Sharing, which can provide further flexibility.

Happy sharing.