Apple has always limited users to a certain number of devices for authorization with a specific Apple ID. The rules and terms of multiple device syncing with an Apple ID have always been a little confusing, with the introduction of iCloud posing an even bigger problem for how purchased content can be distributed and synced across multiple devices.

Apparently, the system of Apple ID authorization isn’t as smooth as we all thought it was. You’re actually limited to 10 total devices for one Apple ID

In addition to that, a device cannot have a reassigned Apple ID take effect for 90 days. Some light has been shed on how Apple manages Apple ID limits, and a post from AppleNApps shares some real-world insight.

“While testing the new TV re-download feature with iCloud, I stumbled upon a new iTunes policy change. Previously, you could associate five computers with a single iTunes store account, and there was no limit on the number of iOS devices. Apple has now changed the policy so that you can only have five devices associated with your iTunes account. I’m not exactly sure when this policy went into place, though just a week or two back I agreed to a new 53 page iTunes store policy that seems to pop-up every now and then.”

Previously, you could add your Apple ID to as many iDevices as you wanted. Now, you’re limited to a total of 10 devices — and that includes desktop machines and the Apple TV.

TUAW points out an Apple Knowledge Base support article that details how you can deauthorize iDevices from a certain Apple ID, but the process is a lengthy one that is still subject to Apple’s 90 day timer.

It’s obvious that Apple needs to reconsider its method for authenticating multiple devices, and with iCloud entering the foray, it’s only bound to get more confusing.

Apple’s limit on devices tied to one Apple ID can pose a problem for family members that share devices, or to whoever needs to share an Apple ID in a group setting.

There’s no doubt that Apple’s current system of handling purchased content is severely affected by rights management and content providers. The legal system will have to play catch-up as well if Apple wants to have a totally seamless cloud experience for its users.

My proposal: An Apple ID can be registered on as many devices as you want, and purchased content can be synced/played on all registered devices once the device has been authenticated. iCloud also syncs all authenticated devices with the same Apple ID.

That doesn’t sound too difficult, does it Apple?

  • Night

    For me 10 Devices is more than enough, as I have one for my PC, one for my laptop, one for my ipad, one for my iphone and one for my Apple TV) which leaves me 5 more devices if I wish.

    I think unlimited will be pron to abuse, as I could have 1 Apple id, and share it with 20 friends. So only one needs to buy an app an all the other get it free.

    I for one do not see a problem with this new policy, maybe other people can see the negative effects.

    • AppleBits

      I see your point, but offer this to consider: if I chose to associate 20 friends with MY Apple ID so that they could download all my apps for free, then I would also have to make sure they have my Apple ID password. This would then allow all 20 of them to go in and buy (on my credit card associated with my Apple ID) as many apps, movies, etc., that they wanted to. Can you imagine 20 people using your cc for their entertainment purposes on iTunes?? YIKES!
      While I used to think 5 devices was a good number, I’m learning it’s really not. I have a laptop, a desktop, a macbook, an iPhone, an iPad and 2 Apple TV units. They are only used by me. I’m guessing the desktop and laptop don’t count (??) because they are not iGadgets, but only have iTunes on them for generic purposes. Not sure there. I just barely got the 2nd Apple TV yesterday and set it up. It works fine in the home sharing…I’m not sure why, tho, would the Apple TV be an issue, considering it’s just streaming..not really downloading for permanent storage such as a macbook or iphone.
      Ahhhh – confusing. lol

  • Jason

    still kinda confused about the 90 day timer.. y does one have to wait 90 days to deauthorize a device..?

  • MILE

    I really don’t see the problem here, 10 devices is more than enough for the majority of users anyway…! People needing/using more than that are the exception, not the rule — which is why Apple doesn’t care and I don’t really blame them for that…

    • wanazou

      Yes, but isn’t it ridicolous?!

      You buy an app, and apple just say, oh no, you don’t own it.

      you can not do whatever you want with that app etc.

      we don’t care if u payed it and bought it.
      We are the dictators of the world and we say what you can do with your paid apps, and on how many of your devices you can synch.

      Isn’t their a law of private copy in america like in the other country’s all over the world?!
      Normally u can make as many copies from your bought things as you like, because u bought it…
      (as long as you don’t public or sell the copies- which isn’t the case if u just synch it to your own devices…)

      • Juan

        Actually, you bought ONE license, not an unlimited number of licenses and you most certainly did not “buy the app”. Don’t be a greedy twat. Apple is being nice and extending license to 10 devices.

      • brandon

        This is the first part of the EULA (which you agreed to):


        The Products transacted through the Service are licensed, not sold, to You for use only under the terms of this license….

  • Rick

    Well i can offer problems for business and education. We use around 15 iPad for education purposes. Apple should offer an solution if they want educational institutions to use them.

    • brandon

      Apple has a solution for that – it’s called the Volume Purchase Program. The catch is that you would need to buy 15 licenses for those 15 iPads… which is what you’re supposed to be doing per the EULA.

      • Sameewes

        Hi, I am also an educator, the VPP works just fine.

        I have 30 “licenses” for various paid apps in addition to the free ones. But, with 30 iPads, and these apps, there is a LOT of updating that takes place when apps blink they’re lovely “red bubbles” at me.

        I have a charging cart which charges all 30 at the same time, but doesn’t sync. (I know there are newer models out there which do…bottom line, mine doesn’t). So, I was thrilled with the iOS 5 since there is a wireless syncing feature, but I see it’s capped with music/books to 10 devices.

        From what I’ve read, it looks like apps are ok and “aren’t capped”. Can this be true?! All I’m asking is that app “updates” will come through without issue as I’ve paid for it, and it would be a huuuuge timesaver. Yet, I see how it could be abused by those sharing with friends for free.

        Any confirmation that apps can wirelessly be updated without a max number of devices (ie 30)?! Thanks! 🙂

    • ihu

      Actually, a while back, Apple introduced buisness licensing for App Store

  • Juan

    I’m pretty sure AppleTVs aren’t included. It’s job is to stream, not store content. I have an Apple TV2 and I don’t see it associated with my account like I do my other 3 devices. I bought it brand spanking new so I don’t have that 90 day wait period.

  • Michael hernandy

    10 is too much for me too, i only have a laptop (that ive been meaning to take off) a desktop and a iPhone…

  • Michael hernandy

    10 is too much for me to, i only have a laptop (that ive been meaning to take off) a desktop and a iPhone connected to it…

  • Aaron

    Wow, these comments are littered by Apple fanboys. This is not a good move on Apple’s part for any consumer, and anyone who disagrees with that is just being a tool.

  • Nicole

    You guys seem to forget about in years to come new models etc and what if u break ur phone and get a new one.. It all adds up!

    • Stormy Nguyen

      You can only do that once a year. I just found out recently. I have 2 iMac and a laptop. Because I installed Bootcamp Windows on all these devices, they think I have 6 computers! I wish!

  • Mripod64

    Sigh…..I need more then 10…apple are you really doing this???

  • Dave

    Right now school sync dozens if not hundreds of devices to on iTunes library. Legally through the volume purchase program one code is entered and apps are able to run on all synced devices.
    WIll this change a schools ability to sync more than 10 devices to one iTunes Library?

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  • Snornado

    this blows…there are 4 in my family and each has a computer, at least one ipod, and 2 have ipads. we’ve happily used the same ID and kept separate libraries….until now.

  • snornado

    after about 10 minutes of evaluation about the real impact, i can say — if you have a lot of devices, don’t upgrade to iOS5. i really feel screwed here. i have so many apple devices and loved that fact that even the first one i bought (the old stick type ipod) was useful. that all ended with the limits imposed by iOS5.

  • Anonymous

    For a single user using more than 10 devices at a time, replacing units more frequently than every third month, this will certainly be an issue. For the other 99.9% of the world’s population, 10 devices is plenty.

    Keep in mind that Apple-ID’s (and iCloud-acounts) are not designed to be shared within – for example – a family.
    One person, one Apple-ID, one iCloud account, 10 units (or user accounts on a Mac) per person.

    This has in fact never been a real issue, as time as proved since this article was written.

  • “Keep in mind that Apple-ID’s (and iCloud-acounts) are not designed to be shared within – for example – a family. One person, one Apple-ID, one iCloud account, 10 units (or user accounts on a Mac) per person.” -pushloop

    I dunno… if this is the case, it strikes me as odd to expect someone to give each family member (children?) their own appleID. I can maybe see why they would expect spouses to have unique IDs… I guess. anyway, I haven’t hit the limit yet in my fam, but good to know I need to be aware of it, and not buy too many idevices. definitely falls into the category of ‘first world problems’ if someone hits this limit so no biggie in the scheme of things.

    • I agree. I can’t give each of my kids Apple IDs because they’re not old enough to register. Yet, I can’t add my own ID to their devices because we’ve reached the limit.

  • 10 device policy is ridiculous. In my case… family of 5, where each has iphones, 3 macbooks, 2 laptops, and we have a couple ipads…the count is now at 12… now we want to buy the new ipad3…a couple of these and the count is now at 14 devices!!!… what is expected? that we just disconnect and throw out the older iPads?

    Apple ID for each member? Pay twice or three or four times for each song/movie multiple family members want to listen to or watch?

    It is ridiculous..

    Families (groups) of 4+ members are way more than the 0.1% that is implied.

    I guess if you are single and plan on remaining single for another 10 years 10 devices is OK.

    Maybe Apple needs to not have young single kids with no concept of what a family is drafting their policies.

    • In my case, I use Mac mini’s for my media centers in my house, so iTunes purchased content counts as 3 of my computer account uses (out of 5, forget the 10, that applies to non-computer devices such as iPad, iPhone, iPod, Apple TV). Adding on to that, I have a Mac Pro, a MacBook Air, and bootcamp with Windows on the Mac Pro (this is a whole separate topic, trying to play media on Windows with iTunes, it works, but takes another authorization, thank you Apple!). So, not counting my iPhone, iPad, Apple TV or my spouses devices, which she has 4 of her own, we’re now at 6 of my own devices, which as you can imagine has been a cluster of a mess whenever I want to use some devices, I have to de-authorize others.

      I understand that they claim the Apple ID is one per person, but I don’t know anyone who can afford to buy 2-4 copies of every single iTunes item they purchase (especially considering the cost of Apple devices as is), that is just excessive, licenses should be per household/family. Again, I understand the licensing issues the come up from this, but it is not realistic the way the current licensing agreements are.

  • @pushloop You are out of touch, my friend. I don’t know where you get your statistics, but it’s very common for family members to share an Apple ID among devices. We have a family of 7 and my children aren’t old enough to register their own Apple ID. As a parent, I don’t want the hassle of managing my kid’s devices on one computer with multiple Apple IDs anyway, and having to switch Apple IDs every time I want to update Apps, etc. Collectively, my family owns 5 Macs, 6 iPods, 3 iPhones, 3 iPads, and 8 Apple TVs. This new policy has completely broken our use of Apple TVs and some of our iOS devices.

    • Camden1

      @Clayton… 8 Apple TVs???

      • luis

        I have 6 apple tvs

  • @pushloop… and there’s still not a reasonable way for schools or organisations with multiple iPads/IDs to deal with the situation either. It can be done, but it’s such a fuss and bother!

  • Dkennedy

    This isn’t true.

    You can have as many devices as you like using a given ID. The only time you meet up with the 10 device limit is when using automatic downloads for music/books or iTunes match..

    Those are the only times that the device limit is relevant.

    Would prefer someone hadn’t made an article that only spreads misinformation.. though I do understand that it wasn’t deliberate.

  • lawks1956

    I wonder if this is part of the problem I’m having syncing my ipad with itunes? I’m not buying any more apple products. Apple has too many restrictions and their products are so high that the aggravation just isn’t worth it anymore. I regret buying this ipad.

  • saad

    i cant login with new apple id due to limit is over anyone can help me how to use a new apple id

  • luis

    I have 17 apple devices I can only use 5 or 10 that stupid come one apple you don’t change this we can start moving to use other services I have over 200 movies in iTunes and over 1000 songs I cant believe apple just gives me 5 devices no way im done with this.