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How to manually merge two Apple IDs to one

Since 2020 is made for pain, I decided to make some big moves that I have been putting off for a while.

The email migration took a while, but the new setup is so much better. My reliance on Google as a company is very minimal now. I am very happy with how this move turned out.

The finance transition wasn’t too bad. It just feels archaic and takes a long time as you sign papers, send them in the mail, and wait for weeks to get a confirmation. In the mean time, the money isn’t working for you which is no fun. 

My most recent pain procedure is now complete – Merging Apple IDs. It’s time to merge all the cloud services into one.

How did this happen?

Like many long time Mac users, I had one Apple ID for iCloud and another one for iTunes. I can’t remember exactly how this happened but I know I’m not alone.

Early on, the .Mac account was mostly used for mail and small bits of online storage. 

Later, the iTunes account was born so you could buy music, then videos, then apps.

This process was such a slow boil that over time I had one Apple ID for iCloud things (backups, address book syncing, etc) and then the other Apple ID was using for buying apps, subscribing to services, etc. 

Many people have used Family Sharing as a workaround. They put both of their Apple IDs into a family so that everything is shared. That’s still messy but it’s a convenient band-aid. In my case, with four kids and a lovely wife, we hit the family limit of six so there was no room for my alternate identity. 

Now that I have an email address that I love and will use forever, it was time to make the move to merge IDs. Apple doesn’t have a way to do this easily so it’s a manual process.

First, I changed my iTunes focused ID to my new email address. Apple makes that part easy

The second step was to migrate all the services and data from my iCloud focused ID to the iTunes with the new blessed email address. 

Since there are many others out there who are in this position, I thought I’d writeup a few things I learned along the way. I won’t go through the whole process. I’m not sure that’s even possible. If you’re brave enough to try this migration, then you’re probably smart enough to figure it out as well. I mentioned to my wife that, “I feel like I have spent decades in tech just for this very procedure.”

The power of lists

I ended up making two lists to reference through the process. 

First, I listed all the hardware that would need to be moved over. This includes iPhones, iPads, Homepods, Home.app devices, Apple TVs, Apple Watches, and of course Macs. This list was easy enough to work through. As I felt the process was moving far enough along, I’d move over the hardware by signing out and back in.

The second list was more thorough. It was the list of services and data that would need to make the migration. I’m going to list those below so you can know what you’re getting into and I’ll provide tips the best I can. 

One note before we start: Find an old iPhone, add it to your pre-merged iCloud account, and keep it nearby. It’s critical to have a device that can still give two-factor alerts when logging out and approving exports. I commandeered borrowed my son’s old iPhone SE.  

I also setup a temporary Mac mini server at MacStadium so I could cheat and use their 10 gigabit connection to download and upload hundreds of gigabytes of photos, folders and backups. 

One step at a time

And now the list of things to think about and some tips. In no particular order:

Past hardware purchases: I have purchased hundreds of Macs, iPhones, and everything else Apple sells. Over the years, these purchases have fallen both Apple IDs. For some reasons was because I just couldn’t remember which ID an app was logged into. At other times, I had to get around purchasing limits. I have found no way to move a purchase history over to another Apple ID. I’m still working through this one. I’m hoping to find a friend of a friend that can move things over for me. 

Voice memos: When you log out of your old account, the voice memos disappear. There is no way to keep a local copy within the app. I ended up removing the audio files from the app and storing them away in folders. Starting fresh with an empty Voice Memos.

Apple Books: I purchased books with my iTunes ID so this was no problem. If you have added any books/PDFs manually, they also stay in place and will be available in the Books app after the merge. 

Health: Health data remained on my local device after the switch and continues to sync.  

Shortcuts: Shortcuts remained on my local device after the switch and continues to sync.

Home: This was the big one. Hardware added directly to Home had to be reset to factory settings and paired with the new Apple ID. This included HomePods and my Level door lock. Hardware that syncs from other devices just had to be re-synced and organized. This included Wemo and Hue devices. Take lots of screenshots of your old setup.

Backups: There was no transfer available here but new backups are mostly automatic. iPhones and iPads just backup overnight. 

Family sharing setup: This one was brutal in my case. Because I was using my iTunes ID to share purchases in family sharing, I was not able to setup the new family sharing group. (Conflict: This Apple ID is already being used to share purchases.) Since I have kids under 13 in the family sharing, I wasn’t able to just kill off the old group and start a new one. Children under 13 need to be in a group somewhere. To make this happen, I had to start a new family group under my wife’s account, transfer my kids there, kill the old group, start a new group, transfer the kids back, kill my wife’s group, add her to the new one. You also need to reset screen time settings for the kids. I got it all done, but my wife was concerned about my mental state that day. 

Keychain: Keychain data remained on my local device after the switch and continues to sync.

Photos: Be sure to download a full resolution of all images to your local Mac. (I always kept these on my primary Mac anyway.) When you log into the new iCloud account, it will need to get these images back into the cloud. This is painful for a 400GB library. To cheat here, I used the Mac mini at MacStadium to download all the photos in full resolution and then sent them right back up. Yeah for no data caps from the data center. 

Files and Documents: I use iCloud sync for documents and desktop. It’s become so reliable. Be sure that everything is downloaded when logging out, then upload again to the new iCloud account. I’ve found that patience is key here. Don’t worry if it’s not looking right the first hour or the first day. It seems like most iCloud issues just fix given enough time. YOu’ll need to re-share any files or folders.

iMessage setup: iMessage doesn’t change over as you change iCloud accounts. You need to get into the settings of all your devices and specifically change the login to send and receive messages. Expect lots of popups everywhere. 

Apps that use iCloud storage: I think this is called “Cloudkit” where an app uses iCloud to store data, but you can’t see it in your iCloud drive. This migration was actually quite helpful because there was a lot of random apps in there that I haven’t installed for years but still had data stored there. I just went through each one, marked the ones I cared about, and checked their current syncing options. It just takes time. 

FaceTime: FaceTime doesn’t change over as you change iCloud accounts. You need to get into the settings of all your devices and specifically change the login to send and receive messages. Expect lots of popups everywhere. 

Home sharing on every device: We have a Mac mini at home with all our videos and movies. It uses home sharing to stream to all the Apple TVs at home. This has to be changed manually to whatever your main Apple ID is after this process. 

Apple Pay and Apple Cash: This one is tricky. First, I transferred all existing cash to my bank. This just takes a day. I then changed the Apple Cash login to my new Apple ID. It only partially setup. I could still do Apple Pay but I couldn’t send and receive money from people. It has something to do with just having one Apple Cash account per hardware device. The app gives you a site to visit to request a call for help. The support team at Apple knew exactly what was wrong and fixed it while I was on the phone. 

Find My: Members of the family group were moved as I finished Family Sharing. However, anyone else you have setup to follow each other’s location will need to be redone. I’m happy this wasn’t filled with Apple Tag devices yet. 

Reminders: There is no way to keep a local copy or to conveniently export your lists. (This is where I keep all my tasks.) When you switch Apple IDs, these will just disappear. Luckily, you can copy and paste full lists even if it’s hundreds at a time. I used a Mac on the old iCloud to copy in Screen Sharing, then transferred the Clipboard to my new ID Mac and pasted. I had to reshare all the lists with people who were on it before. I have patient family and friends. 

Notes: Notes data remained on my local device after the switch and continues to sync. You have to re-share folders and notes.

Calendars: Calendar data remained on my local device after the switch and continues to sync. You have to re-share calendars.

Shared photo streams: These disappear when making the change. I made smart albums to pull all the same photos from the streams. Once you change IDs, you’ll need to recreate the shared photo stream and share it again. I ended up pruning most of the shared streams off in this process. 

Trusted numbers: Each Apple ID has a trusted number. That needs to be updated. 

Text replacements: I have a long history with text replacements. These disappear when changing Apple IDs. Luckily you can select all -> Copy on the old account and then drag a backup to your desktop. Take that backup, open it on your new Mac, and the list will repopulate. Add one more entry to force some syncs around. 

Mail Signatures: These are lost when changing an Apple ID. Luckily I only have a few and I just recreated them on the new ID. 

iMessage forwarding: Once your iPhone is setup with the new Apple ID, you’ll want to be sure it’s forwarding SMS messages to your Macs again. 

Cancel old iCloud subscriptions: I still have the old iPhone SE logged into the old Apple ID. It’s the only device there now. I use it to cancel old subscriptions, iCloud storage, delete data, remove all the other devices listed on the account, etc. I am going to keep my old ID because it’s still a @mac.com address, but I won’t be using it for anything else. 

Was it worth it?

Absolutely. I can’t tell you how nice it is to log in with the same email everywhere. I no longer have to remember which service is on which ID.

And I totally understand why Apple doesn’t have a way to do all of this automatically. There would be so much data lost in conflicts.

I changed the image on my new Apple ID. As that shows up different places, I know I’m using the right one. It’s so nice to see that new image everywhere now.