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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All I want to do is transfer 2 playlists from itunes to a memory stick. Is this possible?

Posted by Lynn on August 30, 2008 at 6:38 PM (CDT)


Is it possible to transfer just 2 playlists from itunes to a memory stick?

Posted by Lynn on August 30, 2008 at 6:45 PM (CDT)


Question: Once I have moved my itunes library and database to an external drive, how do I use them successfully on a second PC (just purchased) as well as the current PC?
Many thanks!

Posted by Clea on September 2, 2008 at 7:12 PM (CDT)



Your fantastic article just saved me BIG TIME when I had to reinstall WinXP, with my backup music files and library that I wanted to use from an external drive. 

Oh, and I have EIGHTY FIVE THOUSAND imported songs, with artwork etc. so this was important to keep all my library info I’ve added ;)



Posted by Geetarz on September 5, 2008 at 4:06 PM (CDT)


I followed the article on how to move my itunes library, but when it almost finished consolidating I got a message that says ” Copying music failed. You do not have the privilege to make changes” I am not the best with computers and have no idea what to do now and I need to get my itunes library moved to my external hard drive because the one on my computer is full. Please help!!

Posted by Lucy on September 8, 2008 at 3:11 PM (CDT)


Well, the files were moved to the external HD, and I made sure they were there. However the database wasn’t touched. When the external HD is NOT attached, the Library is empty. When the external HD IS attached, and the correct path to the external folder is showing in Preferences, the Library is STILL empty. Should this be? Should I be seeing the songs that actually are on the external HD and were originally moved over using the “Correct Way” and “Consolidate”?

I want to check to be sure my procedure to add new material is correct. I collect new material in a separate folder on the external HD. Then I open iTunes on the iBook, make sure the external HD path is the one listed, then take the songs and drop them onto iTunes music window. They process, and I check my “iTunes Offworld library to make sure they were added and they are there. At this point, since they were not added to the local HD if the external path was listed, then I don’t need to “Consolidate”. Is this correct?

Posted by Tight on September 13, 2008 at 12:56 PM (CDT)


can anyone help?? I want to store my itunes music on an external hard drive. But I am using itunes8 on windows vista and the set up is completely different to the previous itunes as described above.
I am fairly new to itunes, but understand the basics of how it works.

Posted by ashabell on September 18, 2008 at 5:05 AM (CDT)



Don’t you have computer engineers that can make the process simpler - this is rediculous with so much room for error.

Posted by Marie on September 25, 2008 at 5:53 AM (CDT)


Does the shift start sequence to select a library work with ver 8. I can’t seem to get iTunes to give me that option ..

Posted by GeorgeS on October 5, 2008 at 11:54 AM (CDT)


When I go to the ITunes/EDIT/Preferences/Advanced I do not get a Consolidate Library Option.  The top half of the Dialogue Box that comes up is the same but the bottom half is quite different.  Any thoughts?

Posted by Adrian Miles on October 6, 2008 at 12:50 PM (CDT)


Adrian, I take it you’re using iTunes 8. The Consolidate option can now be found in File -> Library -> Consolidate. Ensure you’ve changed your iTunes Music Folder to your desired location first though. This can be done in the directory you specified. Hope this helps.

Posted by James on October 7, 2008 at 7:22 PM (CDT)


I’ve just tried moving my iTunes library to an EHD to free up much needed space on my laptop. Followed the Apple support instructions to the letter (so I thought) yet now when I open iTunes it’s completely empty. I’ve lost thousands of files and all my daughter’s smart playlists etc created for her iPod. I’m a bit concerned as to how I get everything back. I did actually make a copy of iTunes and all my other music storage files only last week, am I going to be able to retrieve everything and how do I go about it? (I’m not particularly pc-savvy!). My laptop is running a Vista 32-bit operating system and I’m using Ver. 7 of iTunes as there was not even space on my system to install the update to Ver. 8, hence the desire to relocate all music files to my EHD.

Posted by Niki Brown on October 10, 2008 at 12:07 PM (CDT)


I personally think that this way of moving files is bad—I DON"T WANT ITUNES TO MANAGE MY MP3 FILES—I just want iTunes to sync with my iPod.  Plus, I want to be able to keep some of my music on my Laptop.  I should be able to mass move files via the OS and then be able to tell iTunes where the missing files are in a mass way instead of the one by one way that I am do it now.  Both ways are very bad IMHO.


Posted by George Worley on October 18, 2008 at 2:59 AM (CDT)


I so wish i read this great article before i started to MOVE files. 

Long time PC user, newbie to the Mac.

Here is my problem:
1. I have duplicate songs in my iTunes Library
2. My original playlists can’t find the original song.

Here is how i think i got there:
1. When things worked, i pointed my iTunes to an external hard drive - Let’s call this hard drive (A). This hard drive was PC formated, so i couldn’t write to it…. only read.
2. Recently bought a new hard (B). Copied iTunes folder to NEW hard drive (B) - reformatted hard drive (A), and then moved the iTunes folder back to hard drive (A).
3. From iTunes, sometime during the above step, i changed the destination of iTunes songs to the MacBook iTunes folder. Then i changed it back to the hard drive (A).
4. Once iTunes scanned through the songs and completed this step, every song still had a ‘!’ next to it. None of them could be played because the original song could not be found.
5. I then went to File > Add to Library….. i can see now this step created ‘duplicates’ in my iTunes Music library. So now, each song is listed twice, one can be played, and the other has the ‘!’ All my playlists still have the ‘!’ and i can no longer sync these playlists to my other devices (iPhone/iPods).

Can someone help me solve my problem?

Priority 1:  Want to salvage my playlists, and remove duplicate songs in Library.

Posted by Kevin on October 23, 2008 at 8:59 PM (CDT)


I too am curious if under iTunes 8, when I Consolidate the library in the future (say cause I bought music on my laptop without my external available), is it going to recopy the entire 100GB Library everytime? Or will it smartly go “hey, these 30 files aren’t where they should be, better move those to the proper place.” and be done with it?

Posted by DJFriar on October 26, 2008 at 12:40 AM (CDT)


Well done - but WAY too complicated!

The correct first step would be to plan ahead and install directly to the external drive, saving yourself this hassle.

But, we humans don’t plan that far in advance.  So -

1. COPY the I-Tunes folder in it’s entirety to the external drive.

2. Open I-Tunes (as above), and point it to the external drive path.

3.  Close I-tunes, and rename the C:\- based folder to “NOT I-Tunes” (You may need to grab some files - so do not delete it as yet.)

4. Meanwhile, back on the external dive - create two folders - name one M4P and the other MP3 - move all of your purchased files into the M4P folder and all of your vinyl copied music to the MP3 folder. (I had 43.4 Gig of files to work with total)

5. Open I-Tunes, from the text toolbar, click on “File”, from the tear down menu, select “Add Folder to Library” - select teh external drive’s I-Tunes folder, and click on the [OK] button.

It will take a while.

6. Once done, repeat the “File” - but point it to the XML library file.

7.  Be sure that the device is set to auto sync.  Plug in your i-pod - it will delete everything on the i-pod from the C:\ drive, then reload from the external drive.  32.4 Gig took about four hours.

It worked like a charm.

Verify everything came over, if it didn’t - make corrections and re-sync.  Once it’s all there - eject and delete the C:\ based “Not I-Tunes” folder - that’s it!

Posted by Shihan on October 26, 2008 at 1:19 PM (CDT)


one tip:
if your moving all the files from one hard drive to a larger one, all you have to do it name the new, larger hard drive the same thing as the old one…then itunes knows where to go :)

Posted by michael on October 28, 2008 at 4:26 PM (CDT)


I have read through this topic with interest as I am currently in the process of upgrading my hard drives in my computer and hence moving my itunes library over - I manage all my music myself, not through itunes folder so consolidating it, is not an option for me….

I was wondering if what Michael said (#117) can be simply done - surely if I make sure my new"C: Drive” has the msuci in the same place, itunes will think it has not moved at all when I make the transfer?

Posted by Gregg on October 28, 2008 at 4:42 PM (CDT)


I made the mistake of trying to transfer my iTunes library the typical way and deleted my library, to find the ! next to most (but for some reason not all) of my songs. I tried to undelete the library, and then tried to move the library back from the external hd to the original location at Edit-Preferences-Advanced-Change by click-dragging it back to My Music. The ! ‘s didn’t disappear, so I consolidated library, and the ! ‘s remain. Please help.

Posted by Robert Hach on November 1, 2008 at 11:08 PM (CDT)


fyi this is a little out of date.  They moved the consolidate to File>Library>Consolidate Library

Posted by Jason on November 2, 2008 at 4:40 PM (CST)


OK, I followed the instructions to the letter.  I have an external drive that was working perfectly, then yesterday I started getting the “original file could not be found”  message.  I went into “Edit”,  “Preferences”,  “Advanced” and using the Browse feature, selected the E:/ItunesMusic folder.  Then I did the Library Advance Consolidate routine and still I am getting the same message whenever I try to access my songs.  HELP!!  Thank you.

Posted by RG on November 2, 2008 at 4:41 PM (CST)


Whoever designed the way iTunes stores its data ought to be taken out and shot. It’s SO much more complicated than it should be, or needs to be.

Having a file containing hardcoded file paths to each song is STUPID! Having to do a search and replace is STUPID! This might have been raised by a previous poster, but when I plug in multiple USB devices (like external HDDs), if they’re in a different order, there’s no guarantee that the drive letters will be the same!

“iTunes’ philosophy of managing your media is to insulate you from having to worry about the underlying file system.” “Let iTunes deal with this for you.” That’s fine if it provides the tools, but to use them you first need to UNDERSTAND the underlying file system. And that’s very difficult.

Very nice article. I now understand the underlying stuff much better than I did. Wish I’d read it a couple months ago, it would have saved me a lot of tedious work rebuilding my library one-by-one when I put in a new hard drive. I"m still not done.

Posted by pianoman1948 on November 5, 2008 at 3:54 PM (CST)


Really useful. Thanks a lot.

Posted by Zazu on November 6, 2008 at 9:22 PM (CST)


Here’s a way easier way. I had all my iTunes music located on one external drive (songs not copied to iTunes local disk). I then moved the external drive and every song could not be found on iTunes. OH-OH. 

Simples hack! Basically there is an iTunes Library .xml file… you’ll see that the URI for each song is in that XML file… for example the now wrong URI for a song was:
file://localhost/Volumes/PICS2/music/Ziggy Marley And The Melody Makers - So Good So Right.mp3

where PICS2 was the location/name of my old external drive on the Finder. You now have two choices… as you connect to your new music drive with all the same songs as before you can edit this XML file and replace PICS2 with your new network folder (look in /Volumes under Terminal to ensure your network drive is there and mapped/connected) ... OR… even simpler for Unix hacks… I created a symbolic link from the new networked drive name to PICS2, restarted iTunes… MAGIC… all songs are found as expected. LOL.

Posted by Joe Six Mac on November 9, 2008 at 2:30 PM (CST)


I have my iTunes music stored on an external hard drive and had iTunes on my laptop.  My laptop was stolen, and when I reinstalled iTunes on the new laptop, I was unable to get iTunes to connect to my music on the external hard drive.  Any tips on how to restore?

Posted by Cathy on November 14, 2008 at 12:56 AM (CST)


I did what Jesse originally said to do in this article, with the change in menus for consolidating in iTunes 8. I sat all the way through the lengthy consolidation process only to be told “can’t write or read to selected disk.” Which is crap—I have backups of all my doc files and my iPhotos stored there. And when I clicked on the EHD, there were folders for all of the artists in my library but there were just arranged alphabetically like files or something.

Help!!! My laptop is so full from iTunes that its starting to get glitchy errors all the time.

What did I do wrong???

Posted by Malea on November 17, 2008 at 6:05 PM (CST)


I have the ITune folder and all my “referenced” tracks in “MY MUSIC” folder and I’ve been saving them to an external hard drive.  It’s for safekeeping.  I am looking to change to a new computer.  I have XP now and will be Vista.  Can I just copy the “MY MUSIC” folder from my external hard drive to the new computer? 


Posted by oimanchan on November 18, 2008 at 3:33 PM (CST)



Since you have already deleted the duplicates, but still have lost files, this is what i did to fix it.

Set up the advanced preferences to create a copy while importing and keep files organized.  Then create a new folder to keep your NEW library in.  Change the “location” to your newly created folder.  Close Itunes.  Rename the origional folder where your library was.  Open up itunes and verify that once working files can not be found.  (you effectively deleted the files from itunes without deleting them by confusing the database where the songs actually are).  Itunes is still open; select all the music and delete it from itunes (remove from library, not the delete from computer option).  Your library in itunes should be empty right now.  Drag the old folder(and all sub folders) into itunes by dropping the filder on the library located at the top left of the browser bar).  Itunes should be importing all the files and resorting them.  Now all the media should be accessable in itunes without duplicates.  once you verify the files are there, you can delete the origional folder since all of those files have been coppied and indexed properly into the new itunes folder.

Posted by JeffreyBays on November 21, 2008 at 8:25 AM (CST)


Help!  iTunes music file transfer speed is about 3gb per hour, and we have 289gb to move.  This means 100 hours, >4 days.  Previous iTunes transfer speed is 100gb/hour. 

Running iTunes on dedicated MacMini, where Library is stored.  External hard drive also used exclusively for music. 

Problem occurred on second attempt to move files.  We were moving the iTunes music folder from LaCie 1TB 2Big set in RAID (2x500) to LaCie 2TB 2Big.  Followed instructions above precisely, with iTunes8 library consolidation correction, and had moved 200gb in 2 hours (100gb/hour), when realized we had forgotten to set 2TB drive to RAID.  Stopped transfer.  Set 2TB drive to RAID, which reinitialized the drive and deleted content already copied there.  Followed instructions again.  This time the speed had slowed to the crawl described above. 

Any ideas why transfer speed dropped from 100gb/hour to 1gb/hour?  And, more important, any ideas how to speed things up?

Don’t think it’s the RAID change, because we moved about 60gb files to the 1TB drive in RAID configuration in about half an hour.  Could it be that we stopped the transfer mid-stream before and now iTunes is searching around for pointers or addresses?  Or ???

Any help will be greatly appreciated.

Posted by Fran on November 23, 2008 at 5:29 PM (CST)


I have a macbook and my music is stored on this, about 60 gb.

I have an external HD, and want to trf my music onto this.  I understand how do to this.

What is confusing me is the Copy Music to Itunes folder.

If the music is on my external and I dont copy to the itunes folder, I am guessing the files will stay where thy are on my external hd.

Problem is when I go away and only take my macbook, I cannot listen to music on it unless I take my hd.

I guess there is no way round this other than, to copy certain files to my macbook, like the ones on my Iphone.  When I change the music delete them from the library.

Any help would be appreciated.



Posted by Sarah on November 26, 2008 at 3:48 AM (CST)


Thanks for the help.  Just one thing:  Doesn’t consolidating the library more than once create duplicate files?  I did this and ended up with multiple files with a ‘1’ after the song title.

Posted by rbp on November 28, 2008 at 12:18 PM (CST)


I have successfully consolidated my music library to my EHD.  I have not deleted the iTunes media files from their original location on my laptop because I’m not sure I understand how to correctly do this.  I’ve looked at “edit, select all, delete” with my EHD disconnected, but get a message that anything I delete will be removed from my iPod on the next sync.  Can someone walk me through this step and reassure me that I won’t be screwing everything up?

Posted by Susan on November 29, 2008 at 7:49 PM (CST)


Hey there,
I am having difficulty following your advice with the new iTunes as I can’t find the “Consolidate Library” button….....any suggestions?
I can go to Edit, Preferences, Advanced and then change the folder iTunes looks for…...but it won’t import my files….....any suggestions.
I have hardly any space left on my laptop so I don’t want all my songs imported onto my computer hard drive…..I want to keep them on the external.

Posted by Joe on December 1, 2008 at 5:42 PM (CST)


In iTunes 8, the “Consolidate Library” option has been moved to the File, Library menu.

We actually have an updated version of this article coming soon which will address those iTunes 8 discrepancies as well as expand the scope of the article a bit to cover general techniques for transferring your iTunes library between different drives and computers.

Posted by Jesse Hollington in Toronto on December 1, 2008 at 6:57 PM (CST)


Hi, I was wondering if it is possible to just COPY my music to an external hard drive, so that it is located on the external hard drive AND the computer’s hard drive.  This is so I can bring my music to college on my laptop, but still have available at home.

Posted by Lucas Larsen on December 3, 2008 at 5:02 PM (CST)


I am buying an iPod Classic 120GB. I do not currently have iTunes installed on my system. I have an older laptop running XP, but with little HD space left. I have a 160GB External Drive coming, and I wanted to install iTunes completely on the external drive. I was hoping that I would be able to use the HD on my computer at work to boot up iTunes on that computer also. Is it possible to install iTunes on the external drive and still have it work?

Posted by Paul Semhon on February 22, 2009 at 9:04 PM (CST)


You managed to write 3,300 words on this?

Step 1 : Go to My Computer > ... > iTunes

Step 2 : Click on the iTunes Music folder and hit Ctrl + C

Step 3 : Navigate to your external HD and hit Ctrl + V

Step 4 : Open iTunes

Step 5 : Hit Ctrl + A, then Delete

Step 6 : Hit Ctrl + O and select your iTunes Music folder on the external HD

Step 7 : Click OK

Step 8 : Go to Preferences > Advanced, and change the iTunes Music folder location to your new one on the external HD

Posted by witness on February 25, 2009 at 3:37 PM (CST)


wow, great great article! this seems very doable.

One thing. I want to do what you said about having a portable computer with a external hard drive and having a certain folder for macbook music and the rest on my harddrive. Is it possible to have my external harddrive music not show up in my itunes library when it is not connected?

That would be ideal, because I only want a small portion here on my macbook and it would be annoying to have thousands of broken links when I don’t have my external hard drive

Posted by Sean Pritzkau on April 12, 2009 at 10:59 PM (CDT)


Re: Phil’s problem in comment #59 about the “not enough room on {LOCATION} to copy all the requested files” I got the same thing.

Funny enough how I seemed to fix it (all tracks are currently copying so crossing-fingers) is:

. close iTunes
. hold down Option key (Shift for Windows I think?) and re-open iTunes
. choose to locate an existing library and find the library you want iTunes to point to

—> here’s the kicker… it was the SAME library iTunes was already pointing to but VOILA it worked! <—

Silly I know, but that’s what seemed to do it… a good smack up the head.

Hope that helps…


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 3:57 PM (PDT)

Posted by Brett on June 16, 2009 at 11:46 PM (CDT)


Hello, I’m having trouble consolidating my iTunes library. Whenever I start the consolidation it says “Preparing to copy files…,” but then a window pops up and says “Copying files failed. The file name was invalid or too long.” Any insight into why this error is coming up would be greatly appreciated!

Posted by Dan699 on July 30, 2009 at 10:54 AM (CDT)


I can see you guys answer questions.  Well my Ipod has extra stuff I don’t want on the Other stuff in there.  I want to empty it because it is taking too much space but no matter how many times I Restore it it is still in my ipod can you help me solve this problem

Posted by Chris on September 29, 2009 at 3:38 AM (CDT)


I have all of my Itunes files on DVD’s (via the Itunes backup feature). I just bought a new laptop and external hard drive. Is there a way to transfer the files from the DVD’s to the external hard drive without first putting them all on the laptop and then transferring them to the eternal hard drive?


Posted by Ian on December 13, 2009 at 3:34 PM (CST)


Why can’t I see the pictures in the instructions? All I get is an X in a box.


Posted by Louis on February 11, 2010 at 5:42 PM (CST)


This article helped me very much.  My only regret is that I didn’t find it & read it before I tried doing it ‘my way’.

Thank you very much for your time in putting this resource together and thank you for making it available to all who take the time to find and read it!

Posted by Spencer on February 15, 2011 at 1:56 PM (CST)


So i followed the steps to the T but i can’t find the Consolidate Library Option im using Windows XP and the most up to date Itunes version what am i missing

Posted by Ollie on March 30, 2011 at 3:44 PM (CDT)


I can not find this consolidate library under the Advanced menu in iTunes.

Can somebody clarify?

Posted by Jim on December 30, 2011 at 11:22 PM (CST)


Okay so basically i have a Macbook and a 1T external.
I dragged the files from my library>itunes file and moved it into my external. I just realized that I didn’t need to do this since i only have 15 gigs of music. I want to turn things back to the way it was before. I don’t want to carry harddrive just to listen to music. That just sucks..


Posted by alien on January 20, 2012 at 5:58 AM (CST)


This is a great article, and helped immensely when I was moving all my itunes to an external hard drive last fall.  Now, however, I’ve had to reinstall windows, and then all my software, and my links to itunes music are broken.  Read your article again, and most of the comments, but feel confused—when I tried to consolidate the library I did get doubles of some, but not all.  However, ALL of the music should have been in the folder I linked to.  Any tips on how I figure this out?

Posted by margretta on January 28, 2012 at 4:59 PM (CST)


For all those taking notes:
This article provides a great way to carry your library with you to any computer with very little trouble.  Utilizing an XML file adjustment and wiping the itl file, you could move to a new computer, or even have multiple libraries…  For everybody who wants to have multiple libraries with one computer logon in windows, great, this will do it for you, just remember to press the right key when you click on the itunes shortcut, and it will ask you if you want to select a library.  Done.  When you close it, you can eject your external drive, plug in another with another library, and do the same with that one… ...just press the correct key when you click on the shortcut.  Wanna let your friends see your tastes?  Wanna move to a new computer with just a simple text-file type of adjustment?  Both are possible.  If your friend has the same type of Operating system as you (you and friend have windows or you and friend have mac X etc), you can just work it the same as with your own, by holding down the key as you click the shortcut, and you should do it again to set itunes back to normal when you are finished.  New computer, and different Operating system?  If you made sure to format your external so it could be read by anything (MS-DOS FAT16 or FAT 32, or ExFAT), you should be able to make a minor adjustment.  Also, make sure to give your External drive a LABEL other than the normal C: or G: letter style in windows.  Yes you will always see it in windows, and if you force a letter to be given to all drives you attach, it will always work with your machine.  You can change the letter a drive has if you tell the system to do so, in case your friend’s comp tries to give it a different one.  Look that up.  Not enough space here.  Anywho… ...if you give it a Volume LABEL, it will have that LABEL in the Volumes area of a unix or mac machine.  SO you can copy your XML file to a backup folder for later, then alter the original.  Open the XML file in a text editor (any editor will do, as long as it has the Replace or Find and Replace search style).  Check a few file paths, and make note of the uppercase and lowercase of the drive letter or volume LABEL of your drive.  Use the “Replace” type of search, and replace the front of the file path by only replacing the G:\ or the Volumes\LABEL with what it should be on the new system (if going mac windows, Find Volumes\LABEL, it should be replaced with the G:\ version, on Mac and most unix to windows, find the G:\ portion, replace it with the Volumes\LABEL), use the replace all command, check it after, and save the file.  You should keep a blank copy of the itl file in a folder all it’s own, so you can copy it and paste over the old one.  This will force itunes to use the xml file instead and rebuild the itl file on it’s own.  Only do the itl file replacement if moving to a system with a completely different OS.
You may now move about the cabin.
YES YOU MAY HAVE MORE THAN ONE LIBRARY ON EXTERNALS, just remember to press the right key on the keyboard (check the article above) when you click on the itunes icon on your desktop.
YES YOU CAN MOVE TO AN EXTERNAL AND THEN IMPORT YOUR LIBRARY.  You might lose some small pieces of info, possibly your podcast subscriptions, but podcasts are easy to retrieve.  Order everything in the library by genre, select all podcasts, move them to the podcasts marker on the left side by drag and drop, then subscribe to them, alls well.
Play counts are not usually important, unless you used them to make smart playlists.  If you did, the first thing you should have done was copy all songs from those to an actual playlist all their own (Smart playlists are active normal ones are not;  Smart Playlists change on their own, normal ones are manually changed).  If you wish to reimplement the smart playlist, you may add a rule that links the normal playlist to it.  Now you should be able to continue with it.  If the smart playlist makes a copy of a song from the normal playlist, leave it until most are copied, then make a new smart playlist without the normal playlist rule, delete the old smart playlist, and you’re set.  If you end up with duplicate songs, you may wish to remove the dupe, but this may take a while.

Posted by Harley Davis on March 10, 2012 at 6:36 PM (CST)

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