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What to do when breaking up a shared Apple ID account

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Apple’s cloud services (iTunes, iCloud, etc.) require you to create an Apple ID, which is essentially your key to access. Each person using Apple’s services should have a unique Apple ID, but sometimes people share IDs for convenience. That could led to some issues, however.

For example, if an Apple ID is being shared by a couple, it can create a problem if the couple breaks up. A reader writes in with such a story:

My partner and I broke up. We’ve been sharing the same iTunes account for years. Everything downloaded on one phone appears on the other. How do I stop this?

While the question is about iTunes, an iTunes account is a form of Apple ID: you can use it just for purchasing, or with iCloud for calendar, contacts, email, photos, and music, as well as macOS access and elements associated with Continuity (iOS/macOS interactions).

Before I offer the rest of my advice, can you negotiate with this former partner over custody? If so, you might be faced with different choices. If you’ve purchased apps, music, videos, audiobooks, and other items using this Apple ID, you might have to figure out how one party reimburses the other for stuff they want to keep and still use.

If that’s the case, one person could be left with the account and simply change the password. (This is a good time to also enable two-factor authentication and review the phone numbers and email addresses associated with the Apple ID, to make sure they’re all yours; or encourage your ex to do the same.)

Let’s assume you are willing to abandon the account or have granted custody to your partner.

First, you’ll want to copy all media and other items that aren’t purchases that are tied to the account. If you’re using the Apple ID just for iTunes, that’s everything. With apps and videos, usage is tied to an Apple ID login, and you can use them without logging in. (The music files have no protection on them, but if both you and your partner retain copies, that’s a copyright violation.)

If you’re also using iCloud sync for contacts, calendars, email, photos, or music, you’ll want to make sure you have the copies you want of all your stuff stored locally before deleting it. The last stage of what you’ll after the below bullet points is log out of the iTunes or iCloud account you’re using.

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