How to set up Family Sharing on your iPhone, iPad, or Mac

Share purchases and subscriptions with up to five other family members.
Apple has introduced the Family Sharing feature in iOS 8, but we wouldn’t be surprised if you ignore it so far. It allows you to share iCloud storage and purchases, but that comes with some notes that make many people undesirable. The biggest problem is that, if you share purchases on iTunes and the App Store, any purchases from every family member are always counted in the “organizer” account — real family members have no way to make any purchases themselves.

How to set up Family Sharing on your iPhone, iPad, or Mac

While Apple should definitely address that shortcoming, there are now more reasons to turn on Family Sharing than a year ago. Apple’s new subscription services — Apple TV+, Apple News+, and Apple Arcade — all support free Family Sharing. Apple Music can be shared for an additional $5 per month, and new features like Screen Time and Apple TV Channels can also be shared.

Even if you don’t want to share purchases and force any Purchases of Apps and iTunes through one Organizer account, you can share these subscriptions and other features. And the benefit that makes the value of these subscriptions an absolute steal.

Here’s how to set up Family Sharing on your iPhone, iPad, or Mac.

Set up Family Sharing on an iPhone or iPad
You set up Family Sharing in a similar way on your iPhone or iPad.

  1. Go to Settings and tap your Apple ID account at the top.
  2. Tap Family Sharing Setup (if you’ve set up a family, it’ll only announce Family Sharing and list members).
  3. Tap Start and follow the instructions on the screen. You will send a special iMessage to the people you invite. They will need to click on it to accept.

Set up Mac Family Sharing
Setting up Family Sharing on Mac is as simple as that, but the interface is a little different.

  1. Open System Options (if it’s not in your Dock, look in the Apple menu on the menu bar).
  2. Click Family Sharing at the top right of the System Options window.
  3. You will be asked to confirm your Apple ID and then be prompted to invite family members.

Add a family member
You don’t need to add all your family members as soon as you set up Family Sharing for the first time. You can add or remove members at any time, up to five members (plus Organizers).

On your iPhone or iPad, open Settings and tap your Apple ID, and then choose Family Sharing. Tap Add a family member and then type their name or email address.

On your Mac, open System options, and then click Family Sharing. Make sure Family is selected on the left side and select Add family members.

The family members you add will receive iMessage inviting them to join the Family. They have to tap it and opt-in before Family Sharing works well with them —many miss this step!

Select features to share
Once you’ve added a family member, you should choose the features you want to share. The current options are as follows:

Share purchases: The means you buy on iTunes, Books, and most App Store purchases (but no in-app purchases!)

iCloud storage: If you have a 200GB or 2TB plan, you can share it with your family.

Share location: Family members share their location or device location. You can always share a location for an individual in my Find app.

Duration of use: If you have a Child account in your family, you can set a screen limit and view reports for that account.

Apple Music: You need a family plan on Apple Music to share with your family (it costs $15 per month, instead of $10 for a personal account).

TV channel: If you subscribe to a premium streaming service through the TV app, you can share it for free with your whole family. This includes Apple TV+, which is technically a Channel.

Apple Arcade: Apple’s game subscription service includes Free Family Sharing.

Apple News+: If you have a premium magazine and newspaper subscription in the News app, you can share it for free with your family.

There are three important things to mention about these sharing options.

First, if you turn on Purchase Sharing, your family members will have access to all the movies and TV shows and music on iTunes that you buy, as well as books purchased in the Books app and most apps you buy in the App Store. But it won’t include in-app purchases or app subscriptions. If you turn it on, your family’s Organizer will be charged for any such purchase made by anyone in your family, even if it can’t be shared. You’re effectively turning on a single billing account, which is always active for the entire family. However, you don’t need to turn on Purchase Sharing to share any other content.

Second, when you share iCloud storage, your family members can’t see each other’s content stored in the cloud. It’s like each of you has your own iCloud storage; the data you all use is counted only on the same 200GB or 2TB limit.

Finally, sharing services like Apple Music or Apple TV Channels doesn’t mean you’ll be watching each other’s content or playlists. Each family member has access to those services as if they had their own subscription, with their own playing history, their own suggestions, etc. So don’t worry that Family Sharing will tamper with your Next choices in the TV app or your music suggestions in Apple Music.