Managing your iTunes Library on an External Hard Drive (2007) | iLounge Article


Managing your iTunes Library on an External Hard Drive (2007)

Editor’s Note

A new version of this article is now available.


Please see our updated article, Transferring your iTunes Library.

Like many iTunes users, you may have started out with a basic iTunes library storing all of your media content on your primary internal hard drive. However, over time, with the addition of new content and video capabilities, your iTunes library may now be threatening to overtake what little storage you have left.

This is not at all an uncommon situation, and fortunately it’s really not all that difficult to relocate your iTunes library to another hard drive once you understand the basics of how iTunes manages your media content and the options available to you.

This tutorial is intended for both the average and slightly advanced iTunes user and will provide the necessary information that you need to know about moving your iTunes library onto an external hard drive, or even a secondary internal hard drive.

How iTunes Manages Media Content

Before we delve into the steps of actually moving your media content, it’s important to explain in some detail exactly how iTunes handles the management of your media files under the hood, what your options are for relocating these files, and the various pitfalls that you might encounter in this process.

The first and most important consideration is that ideally, iTunes is intended to handle all of the details of the underlying file system for you. By design, the user manages their content through iTunes, and ideally never even looks at the underlying file system, much less worries about moving files around. In this scenario, iTunes can even handle the relocation of the library for you, making the entire process quite seamless.

This may not match every user’s style of media management, but it’s important to understand how this affects the process of moving your media files to a new location.

The most important point to keep in mind is that once a media file is listed in the iTunes library, it is referenced by iTunes by the specific location (ie, full pathname) of where this file is located. Therefore, if you move a file, iTunes will almost certainly lose track of that file, and the result will be a broken link in the iTunes library.

This means that you cannot simply move your files manually to a new location and expect iTunes to find them after you’ve moved them, as it will still look for those files where it originally expected them to be. This one point alone has caused many users a great deal of grief, since repairing this situation can often be a tedious process of either manually adjusting the paths to hundreds of files or manually putting those files back into their original locations so that iTunes can find them again.

Fortunately, if you understand this and use iTunes and its related tools the way they were designed, you can ensure a smooth migration of your iTunes library to an external hard drive or even a completely new computer with minimal problems.

iTunes: The Database versus the Content

Another important point to understand: There are really two components that we are concerned about in this process, and these are somewhat distinct from each other in terms of where and how they are stored.

The iTunes Library Database contains the actual index of your media content. This is generally a file named “iTunes Library.itl” and several other supporting files, and by default lives in your Windows “My Music” folder or your Mac “Music” folder under a sub-folder named “iTunes.”  This path is not modified by any iTunes preferences, and in fact could not be easily changed in versions of iTunes prior to v7.

The iTunes Music Folder contains your actual media content. Despite the name, this includes not only your music, but also audiobooks, TV shows, movies, podcasts and iPod games—essentially all types of content managed by iTunes. By default, this folder is named “iTunes Music” and located as a sub-folder under the iTunes Library Database folder, however this can be changed to any location you prefer via your iTunes advanced preferences.

Generally, when trying to conserve disk space, the iTunes Music Folder is the component that most users wnat to relocate. The iTunes Library Database can frequently remain in its default location for most users, and is generally only moved to an external hard drive when you want to move your iTunes library between more than one computer.

We will therefore focus primarily on the steps required to move the iTunes Music Folder to a new location, and briefly discuss moving the iTunes Library Database later in this article.

Standby to Prepare to Move: Checking your Preferences

So, armed with a basic understanding of how iTunes stores its media content, and knowing that you cannot simply move files around and expect your iTunes library to maintain references to these files, its important to look at how your library is currently setup, and understanding from there what your exact options are.

The key to this process is to review your storage settings under your iTunes advanced preferences, which can be found by selecting Preferences from the Edit (Windows) or iTunes (Mac) menu, and then selecting the Advanced tab:


The first option, “iTunes Music folder location” indicates where your iTunes media content is stored by default. Remember that this only includes the media content and not the library database itself. Whether all of your content is located in this folder is going to depend upon the next two settings found on this screen.

Keep iTunes Music folder organized determines whether tracks in your iTunes Music folder are automatically organized based on the track information found within each file. With this option enabled, iTunes will move and rename files within the iTunes Music folder as necessary into an ARTIST\ALBUM folder structure, and name each file based on its track name from within the tags itself. If this option is disabled, then files are left as-is within the iTunes Music folder.

Copy files to iTunes Music folder when adding to library determines whether files that you add to your library are automatically copied into the music folder, or left in their original location. When this option is disabled, however, iTunes will simply store the full path to an added file from wherever its original location is.

Tracks copied into the iTunes Music Folder become “Managed” files (in that iTunes will manage the location and naming of these files), whereas files that are not copied into the iTunes Music folder are “Referenced” files—iTunes stores a full path to the file, but does not actually take any further action with those files in terms of organizing, renaming, moving, or deleting those tracks.

Note that content purchased from the iTunes Store or ripped from CD is always stored in the iTunes Music folder—those files have to go somewhere after all. So, this setting only affects existing files that are added to the iTunes library (ie, MP3/AAC files that you rip via other software or download from other sources).

So why is all of this important?  How you have configured these options is going to determine how much flexibility you have when moving your iTunes media content elsewhere. In a default configuration where all of your media files live within the iTunes Music folder location (“Managed” files), and have been organized by iTunes, the process of moving your library may be considerably smoother than for a user who has a bunch of “referenced” tracks living in various locations and possibly even on different drives.

While iTunes can move your files to a new location in either scenario, the only way to move a library that consists of referenced files is to actually convert them to an entirely managed library approach in the process. Users who have built their own file-system organization for their media content and want to preserve that layout will likely find the process of moving their content to be much more challenging without creating a whole new iTunes library and reimporting it.

Moving Your Content: The Wrong Way

A very common mistake made by most users is to simply try and move their entire iTunes Music folder to a new location and update the iTunes Music folder path in iTunes’ preferences. While this will work in some cases, the reality is that you will risk iTunes losing track of some or all of your music files in the process.

The reason for this is that iTunes stores the entire full path to each music file in its library database. If you move that file somewhere else, then iTunes won’t be able to find it, and the result will be a broken link to that file, shown as an exclamation mark in iTunes immediately to the left of the track listing:


If you try to select a track with a broken link, iTunes will notify you that it cannot find the file, and give an opportunity to locate it yourself:


Selecting “Yes” will allow you to browse for the file, and iTunes will link the current entry to that specific file. This can be a viable solution for a few broken links, but you can well imagine that this could become very tedious if you had hundreds or even thousands of files in this state.

Should you find yourself in this situation, the simplest solution is generally just to move your iTunes Music folder back to its original location. iTunes still has the complete path to each file in its database, so if you put the actual files back, it should have no problem finding them again.

Note that users who have a completely “Managed” library configuration may be able to get away with using this method to move their library, however it is still not the recommended solution. The reason this method will work in this case is because iTunes will actually look for any missing tracks in their default location under the iTunes Music folder path. So, if your tracks are organized in the way that iTunes expects to see them, then it will be able to locate them in the new location. However, this solution is rarely completely reliable simply because it is not uncommon for users with large libraries to have a few referenced files due to changes to iTunes preference settings or even inconsistent behavior with older versions of iTunes.

Consolidate Library: The Right Way

So, knowing that these pitfalls exist, what’s the best way?  Remember that iTunes’ philosophy of managing your media is actually to insulate you from having to worry about the underlying file system. On the basis of this approach, it makes sense that it should provide the necessary tools itself to facilitate moving your library to a new location.

So in other words, rather than messing around copying/moving files through Finder or Windows Explorer, why not let iTunes deal with this for you?  This is handled in iTunes through the Consolidate Library option, found under the Advanced menu in iTunes.

What the Consolidate Library option actually does it to essentially consolidate all of the files listed in your iTunes library into the iTunes Music folder. It does this by copying any referenced files into the iTunes Music folder, renaming them with the proper track name, and organizing them into its standard file and folder structure (ARTIST\ALBUM, essentially). This option is at least partly intended to allow you to bring “referenced” files into the iTunes Music folder from various other locations in the event that you may have added them to your library with the “Copy Files” option disabled.

However, the only real distinction between a file that is “managed” and a file that is “referenced” is the actual iTunes Music folder path. Files in this folder are considered managed by iTunes, and anything outside is a “referenced” file. So, if you change the location of the iTunes Music folder to a new path and then use the “Consolidate Library” option, iTunes will happily copy all of these files into your new location, updating all of the file location information in the iTunes database in the process.

Performing the Move

So, the actual process of moving your iTunes media content is quite straightforward:

First, go into your iTunes advanced preferences, and change the iTunes Music folder path to whatever new location you want your iTunes media files to be stored in. This will usually be an external hard drive, but it can be any valid path, including a secondary hard drive or even a network share:


Once you have updated the iTunes Music folder location, simply select Advanced, Consolidate Library:


iTunes will advise you that it is about to copy all of your content into the iTunes Music folder, and warn you that this cannot be undone.


Simply click “Continue” and iTunes will begin the process of copying the files into their proper locations and updating these locations in the iTunes library database.

Note that this process copies the tracks to the new location rather than moving them. Although the original tracks still exist, the iTunes library database is updated with the new location, which makes the process difficult to undo unless you have kept a backup of your iTunes library database from before the consolidation. Making such a backup is certainly an option, although not normally required.

The other important note is that this will reorganize your entire library file system into iTunes’ own way of laying it out (ARTIST\ALBUM\TRACK.MP3). This may not be a desirable option for those who have their media file system laid out in their own organizational structure, or who use other third-party applications that expect media files to be organized a certain way. Unfortunately, if you’re in this situation, there really is no easy way to move your iTunes media content without creating a whole new iTunes library and reimporting all of your tracks into the new library from their new locations.

Confirming and Cleaning Up

Once this process has completed, you should be able to confirm that the files have been copied to the new location and that iTunes is referencing them properly from there simply by selecting a track at random and choosing File, Get Info. The “Summary” tab for the file properties will indicate the physical location of that track, which should reflect the new iTunes Music folder path.

Since iTunes copies the media content rather than moving it, you will also likely want to delete the your iTunes media files from their original locations.

Remember that this process only moves the iTunes content however. Your iTunes library database will still be located in its original location, likely on your primary hard drive in your “Music” or “My Music” folder, as described above.

Moving the Library Database

If you’re simply interested in moving your files to a larger disk, there’s seldom any reason to worry about moving the library database, as it doesn’t normally take up a lot of storage space, and there are advantages to leaving this file on your local hard drive and simply storing the content on an external drive.

That having been said, if you do want to move the library database to another location, this is certainly possible as well as long as you’re using iTunes 7 or later. This must be done separately from the process of moving the content described above, and you’re best to run the “Consolidate” operation and move the content first, and then relocate the library database.

To do this, shut down iTunes, and copy your “iTunes” folder (under your “Music”/“My Music” folder) to the new location. Keep in mind that by default, you may still have media content located in an “iTunes Music” sub-folder, and you probably don’t want to waste time copying this content over if you’ve already Consolidated it to another location, so you may want to exclude that one sub-folder.

Once you have copied the “iTunes” folder, including the “iTunes Library.itl” and any related support files and folders, simply restart iTunes while holding down the SHIFT key (Windows) or OPT key (Mac) and it will prompt you to either create a new library or choose a location for an existing library:


Simply click “Choose Library” and browse for the location that you copied the iTunes folder to. iTunes should start, and will be using that particular library database instead of the one from the original location. Once you have set this location, iTunes will continue to use it unless you change it again via the same method.

Moving the iTunes library database onto an external hard drive can be useful if you plan to move the external hard drive between multiple computers. It can also be useful to store it in a common area on a local computer for access by multiple user profiles, or even on a network share.

One word of caution, however:  The iTunes database is not designed for multi-user access. If you decide to place it on a network share or in a common directory on a standalone workstation, always make sure that you do not have more than one copy of iTunes running against it at a time, otherwise you will risk corrupting the iTunes database.

Using an External Hard Drive and a Portable Computer

Once you have consolidated your library content onto an external hard drive, iTunes will continue to use that location for any newly imported or downloaded content, subject to your iTunes preference settings.

However, this creates an additional consideration for users of portable computers, since the external hard drive may not always be available. Fortunately, iTunes actually works around this quite well, so there’s no need to pack up the external hard drive when going out with your laptop.

Basically, when you start iTunes with your external drive disconnected, the iTunes Music folder path will temporarily revert to its default location on your local hard drive. This allows iTunes to run properly, although obviously you will not have access to any of the content that’s not already in that location. You will get broken links to any files that you try to access, since the external hard drive is not present. No need to worry, however, as this will correct itself once the drive is available again.

However, this does allow you to download new content (ie, import CDs, add files to your library, download podcast episodes, purchase content from the iTunes Store, etc). This new content will be saved in your local iTunes Music folder, and will be playable from there.

You can even sync your iPod (or iPhone) to your library in this state. “Missing” tracks (those with the exclamation marks beside them) will remain on the iPod, since they are still listed in the library. You obviously won’t be able to add content to your iPod that isn’t already there, but you could certainly sync any new content you’ve added while disconnected, since those files do exist on your laptop computer. Further, even ratings and playcounts will be updated in the iTunes library during an automatic sync.

This can be a useful way to rip a few tracks off a new CD when you’re away from home and get them loaded onto your iPod without having to wait until you get home or having to resort to switching your iPod to manual mode.

Once you do return back home and plug the external hard drive back in, you simply need to restart iTunes and it will detect that its proper iTunes Music folder has returned, and go back to using that as its iTunes Music folder path. Any content you’ve downloaded or imported while you were away from the main library storage area can be transferred over simply by running the “Consolidate Library” option to copy those files over.

The way that iTunes handles this provides a very effective way to maintain a large iTunes library that is somewhat usable on the go without having to keep it all on your laptop’s internal hard drive.




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Hmmm… I move folders and files around alot with my iTunes directory tree and iTunes keeps track of those moves and does not lose track of those files.  This is on a Mac and iTunes is open at the time, but all the files moves are with Finder. 

You see, I usually rip CDs on a different Mac, copy the files to my main iTunes machine, and then “Add to Library” in Itunes and then move them around to the appropriate folders.  I have close to 1.8 Terrabytes of music in iTunes.

Posted by demenas on November 12, 2007 at 11:44 PM (CST)


very nice instructions, and im doing that for quite some time now. on thing though: i am on a laptop, and i have my database files on the external drive, too. (im using xp, and i dont wanna forget backing them up every 3 months when i do a clean install :( )
so when i run itunes without the harddrive connected, it will make a new database in the default directory. and when i import stuff then, the syncing (with an ipod or my main library) wont be that easy, right? am im missing an easy solution here? any tipps on that? thanks…

Posted by fischziege on November 13, 2007 at 4:28 AM (CST)


d’oh… you know, a tipp is a hint in german ;) my english sucks…

Posted by fischziege on November 13, 2007 at 4:29 AM (CST)


A great tutorial and it worked perfectly for me! But what about your iPhoto library? I sync various albums to my iPod video so I can sort of have a digital photo album with me. I moved my iPhoto library to an external drive, re-synced with iPhoto (which worked great) and then connected my iPod to the laptop. That’s when the problem started - iTunes couldn’t sync my iPod for one reason: it couldn’t locate the iPhoto library. When I moved it back to the original location, no problems at all. Any ideas, iLounge gurus?

Posted by jlanderson on November 13, 2007 at 6:09 PM (CST)


My content files are on an external HDD already whilst the database resides on my iBook. I wish to transfer the database to a new Mac I’m buying to replace the iBook. I presume I can just copy the database over and in Preferences then change the Folder location reference path on my new Mac? The other question is what if I now also wish to transfer the contents to the new Mac. I presume that the first part of your article then applies? Thanks

Posted by bornagain in Singapore on November 13, 2007 at 7:21 PM (CST)


Curious if moving over the files to the new hard drive (external hard drive) will delete or erase the song ratings or playlists? I have a PC and am worried that I’ll lose all my song ratings and playlists I’ve spent a lot of time building?

Posted by Betty Rocker on November 14, 2007 at 12:06 AM (CST)


@betty rocker: thats the thing! playcount, playlists and ratings are stored in the library files. as long as these are ok, you are fine.

Posted by fischziege on November 14, 2007 at 4:36 AM (CST)


Hi guys.
I wonder if someone out there can help. I have my itunes library on my laptop and have never moved it before. After reading the article I THINK it’s possible to do what I plan, but just want to double check… basically, I’m going travelling in Jan and would like to move my whole itunes from the laptop and instead keep it on my memory-stick so I can buy new songs and access my itunes library from internet cafes while travelling. Is this an okay way to do it? Also, my boyfriend has his itunes library on a different computer which we are selling before we go… when we get back, we’ll only have the one laptop but two seperate itunes libraries (both stored on our separate memory sticks, I’m hoping)... any suggestions on how we can both access our seperate libraries without buying a second laptop? I figure we can’t run the two seperate libraries from the same laptop, but could he say have his rooted to the harddrive and mine stays on my memory stick, yet accessed via the same laptop???
Thanks in advance for any help.
Becky. :0)

Posted by Box_of_Monkeys on November 14, 2007 at 10:30 AM (CST)


so I have movies and music in my iTunes library. . . if I only want the video files on the exterdanl HDD, will iTunes be able to do files from both hdd’s, or does everything have to be in one place. Will an iPod recoginze both? Thanks

Posted by Andrew Horn on November 15, 2007 at 12:43 AM (CST)


Great article!  Now I understand the underlying logic of iTunes.  Unfortunately I didn’t understand this when I moved all my music from my laptop to an external hard drive, then ran Consolidate Library.  I then discovered that I had two copies of every song in my iTunes Music folder.  So I spent 2-3 hours deleting all the duplicates, only to find out that most of the songs that are left are not indexed in the libary file.

Question: is there a way to rebuild the library file and therefore reindex all of the music to a new database?  I have several hundred “lost” songs in my iTunes Music folder and it is way too tedious to go back and recreate each link to each song again.

Any ideas?


Posted by AndrewRowe on November 18, 2007 at 7:25 PM (CST)


How about moving your itunes library from a pc to a mac?

Can the mac read the pc version of the library file?

Posted by alebastardo on November 19, 2007 at 7:25 PM (CST)


I transferred about 100 GB of music from a PC to a mac about a year ago.  I self manage my directory structure and wanted to retain the structure.

I found that if the database file is deleted or nonexistent, iTunes seems to read the XML file to recreate the database.  This can take 20-30 minutes.

Since I wanted to maintain my own directory structure, I copied my music director to the mac, figured out the “old” path (on the PC), figured out the new “path” to music folder (on the mac) and used text edit to do a blanket cut and paste in the original “itunes music library.xml” file. 

I then quit iTunes on the Mac moved the XML file onto the default location on the Mac, deleted the “iTunes Library.itl” file and opened iTunes.  After about 20-30 minutes of processing (it provided a status bar to show progress), my Mac iTunes was correctly linked, including playlists, etc.

Posted by mga3 on November 20, 2007 at 2:56 PM (CST)



What do you mean by “figured out the “old” path (on the PC), figured out the new “path” to music folder (on the mac) and used text edit to do a blanket cut and paste in the original “itunes music library.xml” file. “

Can you expand on that?

Posted by tontorollo on November 21, 2007 at 11:00 AM (CST)


Yes.  I viewed used TextEdit/Wordpad to view the content of the iTunes Music Library.xml file. 

For example, on Windows, each mp3 has the folllowing tag:

<key>Location</key><string>file://localhost/C:/Documents and Settings/mga3/My Documents/My Music/iTunes/iTunes Music/TLC/Crazysexycool/08 Waterfalls.mp3</string>

In my original move, I had all my music on an external drive, so the string was a little different. 

I then manually moved the entire music folder onto my iMac and put it in the location I wanted it to be permanently located. 

I imported just ONE mp3 into my iMac iTunes and used TextEdit to view the XML file.  While the string was very different, the “iTunes/iTunes Music/...” parts were identical.

I copied the original Windows XML file to the iMac and did a global replace on the portion of the string that needed to change.  After about 25,000 changes, I was able to save and use this XML file as my basis for iMac iTunes.

Does that help?

Posted by mga3 on November 21, 2007 at 1:52 PM (CST)


It does help.  Very clear, thanks.

Posted by tontorollo on November 21, 2007 at 11:10 PM (CST)


Very useful thanks but I have a question. When I’ve added content without my external hard drive connected and then hit consolidate library, itunes attempts to copy all of my music onto the hard drive. I don’t everything copied again…all I want is to update the hard drive with any new music added, in the same way that syncing an ipod does. Any ideas?

Posted by Jameso on November 22, 2007 at 10:10 AM (CST)


Sorry, i wasn’t very clear on 2nd read! Basically, I want to sync my external hard drive with anything I add when I’m putting music onto my macbook when its away from the external hard drive. I understand ‘consolidate library’ is the way to do this but when i attempt this it trys to copy all my songs again when i only want to update the external hard drive with the new music. Cheers!

Posted by Jameso on November 22, 2007 at 11:59 AM (CST)


Back again.  I just tried my approach from PC to Mac iTunes migration on version 7.5 for a friend and it appeared to ignore the .xml file and overwrite it after deleting the itl file. 

I’ll work on this more and see if it’s version specific or something else that’s going on.

Posted by mga3 on November 22, 2007 at 1:53 PM (CST)


Hi, I have at this point have 158 GB of music (ALE) in my itunes library right now, with at least 3 times more than that awaiting. I have only 53 GB left on my iMac HD! Obviously I am needing more capacity, and very importantly ext.hard drive back-up. I was reading J. Hollington’s great article on managing itunes and want to consolidate my library, but obviously if it copies all the songs,I take it at least 158 more GB’s of space is needed to do so?? I was having so much fun importing and enjoying this digital access to feeding nice dac and 2-channel system, that I neglected to really get a handle on my long term needs that I knew was coming. Any thoughts to a macdummie on where I should go from here?? Any help will be greatly appreciated! Thanks, rob755

Posted by rob755 on November 22, 2007 at 3:49 PM (CST)


did you find a solution to your duplicate files problem?
Another thing: Since iTines is NOT designed for multi user access, how do we update our libraries so that all files stored on a shared drive are accessible through the libraries?

I really appreciate your help on this.

Posted by chrisjan on November 23, 2007 at 6:51 PM (CST)


I have a question. I have transfered my i-Tunes library to an external hard drive, but there are some files which have not been transfered. Interestingly, none of them is mp3. Does this process only transfer mp3 files? If so, how can I convert those files to terminate the transfer and be able to delete them from my laptop? Thanks a lot.

Posted by Barefoot on November 26, 2007 at 9:28 PM (CST)


I just realized that cannot be the reason, because some of the files that got transfered are not mp3 either. What is strange is that some albums got some songs transfered and not others (same type of files and same importing process). Any suggestions?

Posted by Barefoot on November 26, 2007 at 9:39 PM (CST)


ok, I drag and dropped my music folder into the external HD and it copied all. Started iTunes holding option key told iTunes where to find library and it did. But when I select an individual song a sub menu says unable to locate do you want to locate it now? Why isn’t it finding the songs? did I do something wrong?

Posted by hndsmman on November 26, 2007 at 9:51 PM (CST)


Ok, I’m not sure if this is covered. I want iTunes to simply monitor changes in my music library.

I am a former Winblows user who moved to Mac and I want to use iTunes for my music library.

I have all my MP3 neatly organized on an external HD, and I used iTunes to import the library so that all my MP3s are accessible for listening. The problem is that I add to the Library all the time from other sources, and iTunes does not automatically detect new content and add it, nor does it pick up when a file is updated with new metadata. I have to do that by hand, and I am afraid to do the entire library since it is A very big, and B. iTunes looks like it duplicates files it already knows about.

RealPlayer used to monitor music libraries and update accordingly, however, would not auto monitor external HDs veryu well (if at all). But if I wanted to update my Music Library in Real, I had to import by hand, but it ignored files it already knew about. It was a pain, but it worked.

So, how do keep iTunes updated without having to jump through hoops? Since the library is already organized, I don’t want to re-organize it through iTunes, nor do I want dupes, and I want to continue to add content to the library on my own and not have to go through lots of processes in iTunes.

Posted by Vincent Hanna on November 28, 2007 at 1:37 PM (CST)


I have been wrestling with this for a few weeks now and admit I need help. I am a PC guy working on my wife’s MAC. Here are my questions: 1) what happens to the playlists I have created in iTunes? Do I need to do anything to re-create them on the external hard drive? 2) When I do a test-delete of a song from the Music file, it also deletes it on the external hard drive. Help!

Posted by rgcjac on November 29, 2007 at 1:16 PM (CST)


I lost all my iTunes songs before i read this article. I copied all my songs to my Lacie ext HD (and deleted them from the internal HD) Then i changed the “Preference” to point to Lacie and hit Consolidate Library. When I checked my Lacie, all my songs were gone. Anyway i can get them back? Pls help

Posted by KrishnanS1 on December 1, 2007 at 3:30 PM (CST)


Sorry if I duplicated this post:

I backed up my external hard drive to a second HD. Afterward, both HDs lost album, artist, composer data but I have recovered the songs by song name and can play the .wav files. Where did the other data go, and how do I get it back?

Also, how are replies posted on this forum, sequentially?


Posted by Rick_Van on December 2, 2007 at 4:29 PM (CST)


Great article, there’s only one thing I would add though.

As you mentioned, when adding new content to iTunes while the external drive is disconnected, iTunes will temporarily revert back to using the ‘Music’ folder on the local drive.

What I’ve noticed however, is that once I’ve re-connected the external drive, iTunes does NOT ALWAYS go back to using the external drive’s ‘Music’ folder - DANGER, WILL ROBINSON!

Take it from me, if iTunes does not automatically revert back to using the external drive and you fail to catch it, your day/weekend is pretty much ruined.

Just make sure that before you hit ‘consolidate library’ (to copy any new content you added to iTunes while away from the external drive), first go to EDIT, PREFERENCES, ADVANCED to make sure that iTunes isn’t still using the ‘Music’ folder on the local drive.

One other tip I had to learn the hard way:

Sort your MP3s in iTunes by star-rating, then physically type the rating in the BPM (beats-per-minute) field. iTunes will write this number directly to the MP3 itself. So when (not if) your library database gets bricked, your song ratings can be recovered.

Posted by fondy44 on December 13, 2007 at 1:49 AM (CST)


I had a number of different music folders on my external and have now moved them all into one folder, when I hold down the option key and click on itunes, I select the folder that contains all the music on my external but only about a 3rd of it come up in itunes.

How do I fix this and why does it happen?

My only thought is that I need to move all the music onto a computer than follow the sets above to consolidate the library, is there an easier way?

HELP ME my ipod broke and I have a new one that is empty and I want my music back!



Posted by friday82 on December 21, 2007 at 6:22 PM (CST)


I have already moved all of my iTunes music files to a SimpleTech external HD.  I deleted the original files from my iBook to free up some space.  However, I am having serious difficulties accessing the files.  There are little exclamation marks next to each file.  I can access them if I “find” them each manually.  As you can imagine, this is a rather tedious process.  I’ve tried pointing my iTunes to the new location to no avail.  Also, some of the songs break up while playing them from the hard drive.  Why is this?  I can’t find some songs that were part of compilations as well. 
Can anyone help?  I’ve read countless tutorials that explain how to transfer music to an external HD, but none on how to fix this problem.

Posted by alimogator on December 24, 2007 at 2:37 PM (CST)


I store my music in itunes but my friend uses a different media player.
I’m looking to buy a media drive so we can share files.
Is it possible to store music in 2 different locations on the same drive for example in itunes and realmedia player.
I would like to import files from his media drive and then transfer them to my itunes library
can this be done?.

Posted by kenzo on January 3, 2008 at 12:13 PM (CST)


I successfully moved everything according to the tutorial above, and it was working fine, except that iTunes was still looking for a database file when my portable hard drive wasn’t connected. So, I made a copy of my database and put it in the My Music folder on my laptop’s hard drive, and changed this database file into my default for iTunes. However, now none of the files are being “found” even when my portable HD is connected. All the music is there, but somehow, the database file is no longer linked with the iTunes music folder. I’ve tried playing around with it a bit, but nothing seems to work. Is there any way to fix this other than manually going through the library and my iTunes music folder and re-linking all of them?

Posted by muthiah on January 3, 2008 at 1:44 PM (CST)


Hey, interesting read. Switched to mac and iTunes almost a year ago and I’m still all confused about the file structures and automations throughout OSX…

Anyhow, my twist here is that I want to split my library between the local and an external HD. I keep the newest music on the laptop to carry around and store all older music elsewhere to save space. My ideal would be if, like with an iPod, the external HD popped up in the left column when connected, with it’s own library. As for now 2/3 of my library is filled with broken links when the external is not connected, very irritating! Is this possible, or how would you do?

Posted by don simon on January 5, 2008 at 7:26 AM (CST)


I’ve been trying to transfer my music to a new larger external drive from another external and when I try and consolidate the library I get a message saying “copying music failed. The Disc could not be read from or written to” .
Can anyone please help with ths?

Posted by jeffro on January 7, 2008 at 11:04 PM (CST)


This article is great. Very well written compared to other articles I’ve seen on the net. It takes what apple says to do to another level.
I’m having a small issue though and was wondering if anybody else had this happen.
Following the directions I moved my library to another drive and also did the shift key thing. But I’m having a problem with album art in itunes when the ipod is connected. I’m not having art issues with the music that is in my library nor in the ipod itself physically, but only when I look at songs that are stored in the ipod via itunes. I use my itunes in manual mode.
If I import an album, it will import it just fine into my itunes along with art, then when I drag the album over to the ipod it sync’s just fine but the artwork does not appear (but it will in the ipod itself).

Anybody have any ideas?

Posted by Sharky on January 11, 2008 at 11:33 AM (CST)


Here is another option to consider. Which I have used and has been working (oh so nicely since Christmas 2007), and is totally super easy. All I wanted to do is move my current music selection from my existing external drive to a new (so much larger) external drive.

Step 1. Make sure itunes is Not Running.
Step 2. Copy all your stuff from one drive to another. (Do Not make any folder changes)
Step 3. Rename your original old drive to something else (make sure itunes is not running)
Step 4. Rename your NEW (and oh so much bigger drive) to the very same (Exact) name as your original drive.
Step 5. Unmount your original Drive (just as a precaution)
Step 6. Launch itunes

Boys and girls, ladies and gentlemen, you have just increase your external capacity and itunes is humming along as normal. Happy Days are back again !... The answer for this method working is in the very nicely written tutorial above, the file paths locations are fully named/qualified. So as long as nothing is changed in names/paths itunes is happy…

(I did this on my Powerbook Pro 10.5, itunes 7.5, and all is working fine, I have my itunes playing everyday, I am constantly now added artwork, I could not be happier)

Posted by r_a_f_a on January 11, 2008 at 1:02 PM (CST)


This tutorial is great. Just got an almost 80GB iTunes library moved onto my USB drive—after having done it the wrong way first. Thanks!

Posted by michael.conner on January 20, 2008 at 10:11 AM (CST)


I have a query that I think may be classified as an extension to this tutorial… although maybe it’s been covered already and I’m not picking up on it…

I have been managing iTunes on my (older) Mac laptop by storing the music files on an external hard drive for some time.  I have now happily upgraded to a beefed-up iMac - but how can I transfer my iTunes library when there isn’t enough ‘space’ to copy the iTunes Music folder to the home laptop, where the iTunes Music Library file rests?

I assume I will be breaking paths if I move each of these elements separately to the Music folder of the new computer?

Hope that makes sense - thanks!!

Posted by Sailor on January 25, 2008 at 8:27 AM (CST)


Good instruction, but how can I combine the 4 itune libraries I have?

Posted by brucebbi on January 28, 2008 at 12:52 AM (CST)


I tried doing this to put my iTunes music onto an external hard drive, but when I went to the step, “Consolidate Library”, it started going through songs and then I got an error message that says “Copying music failed. The file name was invalid or too long.” I looked through my music and some of it had changed path names and some hadn’t.

Anyone have any suggestions for how to fix this?

Posted by mzwing on February 22, 2008 at 2:09 PM (CST)


Great article. I did all the steps on my PC to move the database and Library to an external hard drive. Now that’s hooked up to my Laptop. I changed the folder location and selected the Library; indicating the external database on both.

My songs are not showing up in ITunes on the Laptop. Can anyone help?


Posted by shufflemomof3 on February 25, 2008 at 11:00 AM (CST)


I have performed the above procedure but fear not perfectly.  In deleting my songs in itunes aferwards, I move them to the trash and emptied the trash.  I can access all my music on the external HD, but not by sorting through itunes the way it used to work.  My music library is empty!  Is this correct?  I can’t imagine an ipod syncing too well in this situatuon…

Posted by davidbs on February 25, 2008 at 7:20 PM (CST)


Posting another solution here for those that don’t want iTunes to re-organise their folder structures and namings.

Like mga3, I manage my own music folders to the way I like, but wanted to move my music folder to a permanent internal hard drive instead of using my external disk - consolidation wasn’t an option for me as I do not want iTunes to mess about with the folder structure. His solution to remove the .itl file and do a text search and replace on iTunes Music Library.xml didn’t work for me - must be a version issue.

What did work for me was just a miinor change to the process however and is quite straightforward:

1. Ensure iTunes is not running.

2. Move the “iTunes Music Library.xml” and “iTunes Library.itl” files to a different location (for windows these are located in Documents and Settings\<Your Name>\My Documents\My Music\iTunes).

3. Open “iTunes Music Library.xml” in a text editor (in my case Textpad) and do a global search and replace on the Location value so that it matches the new path to where you have moved your music to. Save the file.

4. Open iTunes - there shouldn’t be any music at this point in iTunes.

5. Go to File->Import and select the edited version of “iTunes Music Library.xml”. This step can take some time.

Job done!

Posted by henners66 on March 6, 2008 at 8:09 AM (CST)


I need help!  When trying to change the path, it kept reverting to the original each time I closed edit/preferences/advanced to proceed to the next step and consolidate. Any ideas to help?  My old drive is failing and I need to move these files ASAP


Posted by wandotraveler on March 9, 2008 at 4:15 PM (CDT)


Wandotraveler ... why not follow the instructions I posted - this will enable you to move your music to a different drive.

Posted by henners66 on March 10, 2008 at 1:51 PM (CDT)


I need help.  The instructions for moving the music folder to an external hard drive seemed clear.  Except that I ran into a problem at the first step. I opened advanced preferences and clicked change to change my musi folder location.  However, the only option I was given was to browse folders on my internal hard drive to designate one.  My external drive was not listed.  And, I could not simply type in the path to the folder on my external drive.
Any suggestions of how to make this change??

Posted by srburner on March 18, 2008 at 3:58 PM (CDT)


Ok, so Im about to buy an iPOD. I have all my music stored on an external hard drive and have not downloaded iTUNES yet. The music I have stored takes up more space than what my PCs hard drive can hold, so is it best to download iTUNES and save it on the external hard drive? Hope someone can help, I’m new to all this!!

Posted by dannyK567 on March 20, 2008 at 1:27 AM (CDT)


Ok I transfered my music to my external hard drive and expected itunes to seamlessly change btw library that is on hard internal drive and external according to which one is detected by system. Did not work as you described here. Messed up my nine months of work with rating and play counts completely.
Thank you…... :( :( :(

Posted by japisatel on March 25, 2008 at 10:35 PM (CDT)


Why wouldn’t you want to keep your Library Database in your new storage place as well? Isn’t backing up your entire iTunes setup the whole purpose?

You don’t want to risk losing your playcounts/ratings/playlists.

Anyway, I manually took all my p2p songs (like 300) that were referenced, and put them in my managed folder.

will do the whole transfer tomorrow…

Posted by capostar on March 30, 2008 at 10:53 PM (CDT)



I have not done the switch yet, but I am planning to do it the way that Jesse suggested.
Then TimeMachine can back up the Library database to the same external drive that the music is on.  All I have to do is periodically back up new/changed music files to DVD.  If I lose the Mac AND the drive, then I am out the library file, but that’s a risk I am willing to take.
(No, I don’t use iTunes incremental backup feature.  It does not seem to like my DVD burner)

Posted by otaku on April 4, 2008 at 10:42 AM (CDT)


Does anyone know if the following will work? From a MacBook Air, I would like to setup my iTunes content and database on a network drive (LaCie Ethernet Big Disk to be exact). I then would like to setup an Apple TV so that I can access this iTunes library on my TV and play it through my stereo system. The main questions I have are this:

Does the MacBook Air have to be turned on for the Apple TV to see / access the iTunes library? (not ideal situation)

Or will the Apple TV be able to see / access the library even with the laptop turned off, since the database file is stored on the network drive? (exactly what I want to happen)

I heard the LaCie big disk allows you to setup a media server that shows up as a library in iTunes, but this is not what I want since (as far I know) this library can’t be actively managed in iTunes.

Posted by JackJ on April 5, 2008 at 8:29 AM (CDT)


Unfortunately, the Apple TV needs the iTunes application to actually be running—it won’t read a library database directly, so you would definitely need the MacBook Air to be on and running iTunes, regardless of where the actual media files are stored.

There are a few NAS devices out there that will emulate a shared iTunes library directly, but I have not personally tried any of these, so I can’t comment on how well they would work with the Apple TV. They may not even stream video content at all, and they almost certainly wouldn’t allow you to sync content to the Apple TV—more likely they’d just show up as a shared library, if at all (bear in mind that there’s no interface to “associate” the Apple TV to these devices, like you would normally have to do with an actual iTunes library). 

Further, as you’ve mentioned, you wouldn’t really have any way of managing this data through iTunes itself, as they don’t store a “real” iTunes library database, rather they just use the embedded tags to emulate an iTunes library sharing connection.

Posted by Jesse Hollington in Toronto on April 5, 2008 at 1:02 PM (CDT)


Ok, I give up.  Please explain.  I followed the clear instructions that Jesse gave step by step.  Only half of my library was consolidated and copied to my external hard drive.  Any suggestions?

Posted by htsherrill412 on April 14, 2008 at 10:01 PM (CDT)


Afraid this didn’t work for me.

For some reason after I changed the iTunes Folder location to my external and consolidated it all there iTunes always reverts to the original Music folder on my HD.

After much frustration I deleted the original iTunes music folder on my HD, as I thought it would then be forced to use the new music I condsolidated onto my external but it didn’t and now I’ve got a all broken links in iTunes.

Not sure what I did wrong but at least when I copied consolidated folder back into the iTunes music folder on my HD iTunes relinked to it. So at least it is still working, if only not from my external.

Anyone have any idea what I might be doing wrong or why iTunes keeps defaulting back to the original HD music folder when I continually tell it to look at the new consolidated music folder on my external?



Posted by Thomas Grennan on April 26, 2008 at 5:20 AM (CDT)


iTunes was installed on my old laptop, with iTunes Music on a 40GB external HDD. New Sony notebook (Vista Business) has 250 GB HDD, so I want to keep iTunes music there, and use exteranal HDD for backup only. I’ve installed iTunes on new notebook. It found some music files (which had been copied across from non-iTunes locations on old laptop) and put them in the default Music/iTunes/iTunes Music folder on the Sony’s C drive. Now, I want to bring all music files from the external HDD into the C drive. What’s the best / right way to do this? I’m a novice at this, so help much appreciated.

Posted by Thaddeus on April 28, 2008 at 9:01 AM (CDT)


I followed the directions above and everything worked perfectly…until I tried to sink the ipod with the laptop.  I got a window that said that the laptop was not authorized to play purchased tunes, and the songs were erased from the ipod.  When I hooked the original computer to the external hard drive, and then sinked the ipod, they all went back on.  How do I get the laptop to be able to sink my ipod and be authorized with regards to past purchased songs?

Posted by Chris Gardner on April 28, 2008 at 10:21 PM (CDT)


Thanks for this, I’ve got 80 gigs transferring now. I just KNEW Apple had a simple way to manage these moves.

@Chris Gardner, have you authorized your itunes or logged into your account on the laptop? Are you able to PLAY the songs from your laptop? I think you’re allowed to authorize 5 computers for every song. You can also DE-Authorize all computers and start from scratch on authorizing your new computer.

Good Luck.

Posted by phunlee on April 30, 2008 at 4:33 PM (CDT)


Immediately upon updating the iTunes Music folder location the folder began copying to the new location BEFORE I selected Advanced, Consolidate Library.  What happened?

Posted by Dan W on May 2, 2008 at 10:39 AM (CDT)


I have the same problem that Rob asked in comment #19. I have 15GB of ITunes files, but only 5GB of free space on my hard drive.

So when I use the “Consolidate Library” option under ITune’s “Advanced” drop-down menu, I receive this message: “There is not enough room on C:\” to copy all of the requested files.

ITunes provides no options for this problem, and I can’t see that anyone has done so in any of the comments.

I’ll appreciate any help you can provide.

Posted by Phil on May 4, 2008 at 6:57 PM (CDT)


I wish I had this article before I moved my library on my external HD. Now, I have my music but the library has duplicates to each song, one of which is a broken pointer. How can I do a global delete on the broken pointers? Do I have to select them one at a time for deletion?

Posted by Patrick on May 5, 2008 at 7:13 AM (CDT)


I have a similar question to “box of monkeys” in comment 8.  I want to store my iTunes library on an external HD, and use it to update my iPod from different computers.

Is this possible,?

If so, will each computer I access my external iTunes from count towards the number of authorized computers allowed with purchased music?

Posted by Dave Breck on May 7, 2008 at 1:46 PM (CDT)


It should be mentioned that moving the Library Database file and doing the SHIFT thing as you describe it does only work if you press the SHIFT key shortley AFTER you started/doublecklicked iTunes - at least on Windows Vista. OK, maybe I’m still a Vista noob.

Posted by Jack Win+Mac user on May 12, 2008 at 9:58 PM (CDT)


So i did everything this post said and all my music is on my External hard drive. But i dont know if i missed a step. What do i do after all of that? When i plug in my external does itune automatically pic it up? what do i click for my external to link to itunes.I do not know what to do, itunes does not show any signs of my music anywhere. Please help very slowly because i just dont get it.


Posted by heatherp on May 15, 2008 at 2:15 AM (CDT)


Good article, I have a question. My ITunes library is in one spot, an external hard drive and all files are in it. I had checked “Copy files to ITunes Music folder….”.  My question is I had not checked the “Keep ITunes Music folder organized”.  If I do that know, will it change my library? Thanks.

Posted by Eugenia Anton on May 16, 2008 at 4:07 PM (CDT)


I’ve tried the instructions here, which match Apple’s official instructions, and still, no joy: the songs copied to my external drive are 100% unplayable. no errors, no nothing, just silence from iTunes.

I tried opening one of the ‘consolidated’ files with an audio editor and got an error that seemed to indicate that the copied file was corrupt.

I was able to “undo” the change by restoring my entire iTunes folder from a back-up, but, like many people here, I need to free up the 16gb that my music is taking on my laptop’s measly 80gb HD.

Posted by Stymied in San Jose on May 18, 2008 at 3:29 AM (CDT)


I’m with Stymied.  I followed this article’s directions to the letter.  I now have a music library on my hard drive, with no way to play any of it.

I’ll try undoing the change as Stymied did.

Posted by NYC Noob on May 21, 2008 at 9:38 AM (CDT)


Ok—I figured it out.  The path change (In preferences, advanced) didn’t take. I redid the path to the external drive and now it seems to function okay.  Or anyway, I was able to reload the iPod again ...

Posted by NYC Noob on May 21, 2008 at 9:44 AM (CDT)


I found this article a number of months ago and have used your method to move my library several times since then.  Each time it has gone off without a hitch.  Thanks!!

Posted by justangagain on May 24, 2008 at 1:12 PM (CDT)


The instructions worked perfectly!\
Thank you

I just bought a 2TB Cavalry eSATA external HD array (4 500GB in a RAID5 array, which yields a virtual 1.5TB “single” disk) and hooked it up much faster moving files with the eSATA connection rather than a USB2 or FireWire.

I like this system, not only for the capacity (I do 3D design and animation and the files set can get cumbersome), but the RAID5 allows you to regenerate a failed drive from the data striping on the remaining three drives.

Some of you guys have amazing collections (I have only about 18GB, so far) I would think data security would be paramount for you. I know it took me several weeks just to convert what I have.

Sorry, I think I’m rambling, my point is you might want to look into some kind of RAID5 storage solution to avoid risking the loss of your files.

Anyway, thank you, Jesse, quick , easy and simple: my favorite kind of instruction!


Posted by kieron on May 26, 2008 at 12:25 AM (CDT)


THis looks great, but my only question is will this move my artwork as well?  WHat do I have to do to ensure that I get that moved over

Posted by Brian on May 27, 2008 at 1:25 PM (CDT)


have the same sort of question as 10 moved the files to external hard drive but would like to move them back to the main hard drive ??

Posted by sam on May 31, 2008 at 5:54 PM (CDT)


Successfully completed the move from laptop to an external hd and everything seems to work fine.

Is it possible to create a smart playlist that will auto-populate on my laptop so that I have some music on my laptop at all times?


Posted by Brian on June 1, 2008 at 1:51 AM (CDT)


Hello guys… PLEASE HELP!!! When changing the Music folder location to my external HD, IT ERASED EVERYTHING ON IT!!!
Please help me recover it!!!


Posted by Stephen LoMonaco on June 1, 2008 at 6:23 PM (CDT)


Hello, very detailed tutorial.
One question: i have a similar setup as the one you have detailed. With all my music on an external HD, and works really well. But occasionally when i open up iTunes and connect my HD, the links are not synced, resulting in no music. I can re-add all my music again as its only 90GB, but i fear if this gets into the TB range, it will become a massive hassle.
Why does this happen? Is it because i have my database files stored on the internal HD instead of the external?

Posted by George Katos on June 3, 2008 at 6:40 AM (CDT)


Thank you so much.

Posted by Richard White on June 5, 2008 at 5:17 PM (CDT)


I have an issue.  I’m using an external wireless hardrive. It’s an external drive hooked up to a timecapsule.  Very often itunes will “forget” where I told it the music was, and revert back to the default location.  Then i have to map it all over again.  Any ideas?

Posted by Rooprect on June 6, 2008 at 10:04 PM (CDT)


My iTunes folder on my laptop has about 20gb of managed songs from when I first got the machine.  Most of my music is on an external drive and referenced into the iTunes library. After restoring and updating my iPod, that drive now inexplicably comes up with a different drive letter. So all those songs have a broken linkage in iTunes. I want to move -ALL- music to another ext drive (which already has referenced music) but don’t know what to do about the library. Do I need to figure out how to get my pc to stop calling the drive H: and back to G: ? I’m nearing an annoyed place where uninstalling and using another option is looking good. Help?!

Posted by Christopher on June 12, 2008 at 11:48 AM (CDT)


The easiest solution by far is to get the drive letter assigned back to what it previously was (ie, G:).  You can do this on Windows by going into your Control Panel, selecting Administrative Tools, and then choosing Computer Management. 

The Disk Management section within the Computer Management window will show you your connected drives, and you can right-click and reassign the drive letter from there.

Once you’ve done that, restart iTunes and it should be able to find all of your music again. If you then still want to consolidate it all into a managed structure, the instructions in the article should work fine.

In response to the other queries… The most common cause of iTunes not finding your music is if the external drive or network share is disconnected or goes to sleep while iTunes is running.  Making sure it’s connected and accessible and restarting iTunes should result in it working again.  If the drive going to sleep is a problem, make sure you disable drive sleep under your energy saver or power preferences.

Posted by Jesse Hollington in Toronto on June 12, 2008 at 4:10 PM (CDT)


I have my songs on an external drive, but I still have a few on my local disk.  When I plug my external drive into the lower USB connector, and my iPod into the upper one, the PC doesnt’ recognize the iPod.  When I take out the external drive (just to see what happens), and leave the iPod in the upper one, iTunes attempts to sync the files on my PC with the iPod (which I immediately stopped).  Does it matter which USB port is used for the external drive and iPod?  and, why won’t it recognize the iPod when the external drive is also attached?

Posted by sumner on June 21, 2008 at 10:55 AM (CDT)


Hi All i just moved all my music to a hard drive but now cannot sync my ipod with music it is coming up not enough space when only a few songs are needed. It will not even allow one song how can i sync my ipod. i had to delete all my old playlists off itunes and create new ones but still does not work

Posted by john barnett on June 22, 2008 at 6:56 AM (CDT)


One major caveat that this guide doesnt mention is that if you choose to keep your library database on your external with your entire music library, then iTunes cannot open whenever your external is not connected. Although i rarely open iTunes for purposes other that doing a sync, i decided that i didnt like having that ‘unable to open the program’ restriction placed on me.

Secondly, I notice that many “backup guides” neglect the backing up of the actual playlists created, as it is not taken care of by the process of copying the iTunes library and database files.

You actually have to actively select which playlist(s) to backup.


Thank god i found this out before i ever have to do a reformat.

Posted by capostat on June 23, 2008 at 12:53 PM (CDT)


let me make an edit to my last post. I didnt at all mean to sound critical of this backup guide. It’s the best one I have found on the subject. I realize that my last post looked condescending with the use of my quotes around backup guides. wrong use of quotation marks there.

my apologies…

Posted by capostat on June 23, 2008 at 1:03 PM (CDT)


I’m trying to prepare my library for the move to an external HD (current library size 65 GB, total internal HD size 120 GB, current amount of internal free space 4 GB…eek!), and am absolutely terrified about consolidating because I don’t know if I’m understanding the process clearly. In reading through these comments, I’ve run across several people questioning their lack of HD space during consolidation. This doesn’t make sense to me and here’s why…

From what I understand, if you’ve gone to Preferences>Advanced and changed the path of your library to your external HD first, shouldn’t the library contained on your internal HD then copy over to your external HD once you hit Consolidate? I’ve read in a few places that you need the exact amount of space that your library takes up on your (I’m assuming) internal HD in order to consolidate, since consolidating is just a synonym for copying. But how would this apply and DOES it still apply when consolidating to an external HD? Because if it does, wouldn’t that defeat the whole purpose?

If I have a 65 GB library, and my internal HD capacity is 120 GB, I wouldn’t even have room for another extra 65 GB of space. I understand the consolidation issue with files that aren’t managed/organized by iTunes (since iTunes would pull those files from everywhere on your HD and copy them in the iTunes music folder, creating duplicates that would need to be deleted), but in a case where iTunes DOES manage/organize all my music files, does the internal HD space issue still matter?

Posted by Leslie on June 23, 2008 at 9:58 PM (CDT)


good article, but, there is also another very simple option:
I had many movie files that started to fill my laptop harddrive.
I went into iTunes, then my movie folder, and deleted all the movies (remember, this only removes them from the iTunes database, not the actual files ).
I shut down iTunes, then moved the movie files to a folder on my network drive.
Finally, before heading off to bed for the night, I went into iTunes, and selected File menu and ADDed my new newwork folder to the iTunes library.
In the morning it was all done. Simple, and the same procedure will work for resular music files etc etc.

Posted by mike on June 24, 2008 at 7:09 AM (CDT)


Hi guys! I recently baught an iPod classic. I have most of my music in an external hard drive. From it I managed to copy some albums in the iTunes library, but when I tried to sync it to my iPod it didn’t work. An exclamation mark appears on the left side of each song title I transfered from my external drive. What can I do to simply transfer my music from the external drive to my iPod?
Any suggestions?
Thanks a lot!!!

Posted by maria on July 4, 2008 at 6:43 AM (CDT)


I just read this article and used it as my guide for transferring 55GB worth of music to an external HD (Seagate).

Everything went smoothly except that when I play the music, every now and the, it will stop for a second. I have 1.5GB of RAM and a 1.6 Tower. I only have Safari and iTunes open when this occurs.

Is it that the Seagate uses 2.0 instead of Firewire? I don’t think that is the problem, but I have to admit to being stumped. Has anyone else had this problem and come up with a solution?

Posted by Kurt on July 10, 2008 at 8:58 PM (CDT)


I have an 80gb Ipod. I realised that I had quite a bit of music so when I was putting music on to the ipod I would delete the songs from the itunes library. To keep my internal hard drive clean.

I now have a large amount of music on my ipod. I am worried about a potential crash. It took me at least four months to put all my music on the ipod – every night for a few hours per night. So I am worried about it losing my music from the ipod. I have purchased an external hard drive (500gb).

I currently have no music in my iTunes library (I always deleted it straight away to keep my internal hard drive as clean as possible). I would like to put all the music I have on my ipod on the external hard drive (to make sure I have a copy just in case the ipod crashes permanently). I also want to be able to use the music once it is on my hard drive (in itunes library for example). What I am also anxious to avoid is the music being put on my internal hard drive (as it does not have sufficient free space).

Now I thought this would be straight forward – how wrong was I – its been a nightmare – music seemed to transfer over but then I couldn’t play it in itunes or itunes couldn’t find the location etc etc.

Any suggestions???!!!

Posted by Farrar12 on July 11, 2008 at 12:00 PM (CDT)


I’m trying to create one set of music + playlists for home use - and not managing it.
Originally I had iTunes running on a PC. I added to my home network an external drive that has an iTunes server (Thecus n299) and changed the iTunes library from the PC to that drive, following your instructions. That seems to work ok.
However I also have a Mac on the home network. Starting iTunes there I can see the n299 and can play music from it, but there are no playlists.
Also, I can’t get the Change Library option on the Mac (opt when starting) - tried every key combination (but it worked on the PC!).
Can you tell me please how to get 1 central set of playlists/music, usable from PC, Mac and other media players I hope to add?

Posted by David Walton on July 17, 2008 at 2:18 PM (CDT)


There is very simple solution for folks using Windows who don’t want to go the “Consolidation” route.

I moved my 45 gig iTunes Windows Library over to an exteranl drive (which I back up weekly to another external drive). I

chose to allow iTunes to reside on my PC, not the external drive. This allows me to use iTunes without connecting the

external drive. I have performed this on two desktops and three laptops and it takes only the time to copy the music over

to the external and seconds to update. All my iTunes folders, playlists, and art are there and work as before. I cannot

speak to counts and so on.

This library was not managed (file names and so on) by iTunes nor consolidated via iTunes, although My Music folder was

set up as my iTunes folder. Meaning ALL my music resides there and I do not store in any other music files or folders on

my pc. I have many compiltations and eclectic collections that I just prefer to name and tag differently then iTunes

would. I hate iTunes for this, but for many folks this is a beautiful thing. I am fine with that—however moving it to the

external concerned me and I did many tests. I even tried permitting Consolidation, but allowing iTunes to take each

individual artist from my CD compiltation collections and stick them into individual folders endlessly annoyed me and

concerned me. I am very anal.

Here is what I did:

1. Back up Back up Back up before doing anything.
2. Make a copy of your entire music folder and place a copy of that on your new external drive in the appropriate

location. You should consider how you want to use your external drive and how you plan to lay this drive out folder-wise

and so on.
3. Make sure you have a back up copy of your iTunes library itl file and a copy of the iTunes xml file. This should reside

in your music folder within the iTunes folder.
4. Go to Edit > Preferences > Advanced tab and click Change. Navigate to the appropriate location of your music folder on

the new external drive.
5. Click OK. iTunes will briefly display an update dialog box.
6. Close out of iTunes.
7. On your PC, navigate to your iTunes folder, delete the itl and xml files there.
8. Navigate to where you placed the backed up itl and xml file copies. Copy these files.
9. On your PC, navigate to the iTunes folder again, and then drop the copied itl and xml files into this folder.
10. Open iTunes.
That is it. Enjoy.

Posted by BJ on July 23, 2008 at 5:14 PM (CDT)


Sorry—-but between deleting the files and dropping the files back into the folder, you must start up iTunes and then close it out. This creates new blank itl and xml files. You will see nothing in the library when you do this step. Close out, and then replace the new files with the backed up files. After doing this, open up iTunes. Everything will be there as it was before your library to your new external drive.

Posted by bj on July 24, 2008 at 4:15 PM (CDT)


I’m preparing for going back to college and I’m putting all my music on my Seagate external hard drive from my crappy Laptop that seems like it’s a decade too old.

While at College I plan on rarely using my personal laptop and using mostly school computers, unfortanately I’ve had problems shifting my iTunes library from one computer to the next. All my music is on my EHD and I have placed a ITL file on my EHD in which I thought I all my iTunes library data stored, but every time I open iTunes from my EHD on a new computer it shows no music.

I’ve tried opening up the specific ITL file, but it seems that it’s a blank slate on every new computer. That leads me to believe that every computer I’ve been on creates an ITL file on the internal hard drive on a computer I’ve used before and iTunes is running with that library.

All I’m really asking is how to create a Library file that iTunes on my EHD will use every time, from my EHD.

Posted by Ben on July 25, 2008 at 6:17 PM (CDT)


The shift key thing works for me in Windows only if I keep the shift key pressed until iTunes actually starts up. That was not obvious to me at first.

Posted by ak on July 25, 2008 at 6:29 PM (CDT)


That’s what I did to create the library data on my EHD (and it is there), but it’s just not loading the data when I open iTunes.

Posted by Ben on July 25, 2008 at 6:45 PM (CDT)


iTunes should normally remember that location as long as the EHD remains connected when you start iTunes.  If you don’t have the drive mounted, or if the drive letter has changed, iTunes will either give you an error about not being able to find the library, or transparently revert back to its default location on your internal hard drive.

You will, however, need to hold down the SHIFT key (or OPT on a Mac) and select “Choose Library” on each new computer you connect your EHD to.  iTunes can’t automatically find it—you have to point it to the correct location.

If you’ve tried opening up the specific ITL from your external hard drive and it’s blank, you might still have been using the original ITL from your original computer and not realized it (and therefore, the one on the external has remained blank).  Compare file sizes and dates with your original computer, and if the one on your computer’s local hard drive is larger and/or newer, then try copying that up to the EHD.

Posted by Jesse Hollington in Toronto on July 26, 2008 at 1:22 PM (CDT)


So I bought an external hard drive to transfer my itunes library…but when I try to (I’m on a mac) the drive says it can’t copy the files because the file name is too long or has incorrect characters.  A lot of my songs have an ” ’ ” (apostrophie) or some *** where a curse word would be…how the heck can I fix this?  Is there any way to trick the hard drive into copying this info?

Posted by Jen on July 29, 2008 at 10:58 AM (CDT)


Well, I just tried this and I don’t think that it worked.  I had two iTunes libraries, one on and old PC that I moved to an external hard drive, and one on my laptop.  I followed these steps, and tried consolidating them into the external hard drive.  It moved all of the music, but when I select the library that is on the external hard drive, it only includes the songs that were originally on the hard drive and not the ones that were moved there from my laptop.  What did I do wrong?

Posted by Kelly on July 31, 2008 at 12:03 PM (CDT)


I just bought a MacBook Air. I also have an eBook external HD. I’d like to know how to play the music I have on the eBook with iTunes without importing the HD onto my MacBook Air.

Posted by Joseph Chasen on August 6, 2008 at 9:24 PM (CDT)


Hmm… I’ve done everything you told me and i still have no music in my itunes.  I just recently got a new ipod i went from a 60GB to an 80GB and with the new ipod i was forced to install the new itunes… Well now the new ipod does not read any of the old music so what do i do?  Any chance i can get someone to my house? I have 13000+ songs on my external harddrive and the only way i can get them into my itunes library is manually one by one… so what should i do?  Please email back fast!!!!

Posted by Cole Goddard on August 12, 2008 at 1:28 AM (CDT)


I keep my iTunes library on my external hard drive.  I also keep the library file on the external hard drive.  I have been using windows XP, but I just bought a MacBook Pro.  The MacBook Pro will now be my primary computer.  What do I do to open and use my iTunes Library on the new Mac? Please help me!
Thank you

Posted by Clayton on August 17, 2008 at 3:47 PM (CDT)



Man, sounds like you’re having a rough time.  Worse to worse, you can create a new library and just add the entire top-level directory the files are in, can’t you?

You shouldn’t have to be adding them one-by-one…

Posted by Geo Mealer on August 20, 2008 at 9:08 AM (CDT)

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