Transferring your iTunes Library | iLounge Article


Transferring your iTunes Library

For most users, iTunes does a great job of handling all of the details of managing your media library for you, allowing you to manage your content through iTunes itself and not having to worry too much about the underlying files and folders that make up your iTunes library.

Unfortunately, this user-friendly approach has one serious limitation: When it comes time to move your iTunes library, it can often be a bit of a challenge to figure out exactly what pieces you need to move and how to go about doing this. Many iTunes users start out with a basic iTunes library and use the default settings to store all of their media content on their primary internal hard drive. However, as you add new content over time, particularly with the additional video content now supported by iTunes, you may soon find that your library threatens to take over your computer.

Another common scenario many users find themselves in is what to do when they upgrade to a new computer. Your iTunes library has been working just fine on your old computer, but you’re left with the question of how to get it over to the new machine so that everything works the way it’s supposed to.

Neither of these situations are at all uncommon, and fortunately it’s really not all that difficult to relocate your iTunes library to another hard drive or move it to a whole new computer 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 transferring your iTunes library onto an external hard drive, a secondary internal hard drive, or a whole new computer.

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 point is that iTunes is designed to handle all of the details of the underlying file system for you. By design, the user manages their content through iTunes, and ideally you never need to even look at the underlying file system, much less worry about moving files around. In this scenario, iTunes can even handle the relocation of your media content for you, making the entire process quite seamless.

This may not match every user’s style of media management, but it’s very 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 from iTunes by the specific location (i.e. 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 your 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 expect to find those files in their original locations. 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 database itself is a file named “iTunes Library.itl” with several other supporting files stored alongside it. By default this is stored under a sub-folder named “iTunes” in your personal “Music” folder (this is named “My Music” on Windows XP and simply “Music” on Windows Vista/7 and Mac OS X). This path cannot be changed in your iTunes preferences, and in fact could not be easily changed at all prior to iTunes 7. How to change this path is discussed a bit later in this article.

The iTunes Media Folder contains your actual media content. By default this is a sub-folder under the iTunes Library Database folder, but can be changed to any location you prefer via your iTunes Advanced Preferences. Note that prior to iTunes 9, this folder was called the “iTunes Music” folder although despite the name it still just about every other type of media content managed by iTunes as well. In iTunes 9 this was renamed “iTunes Media” to acknowledge that more than just music gets stored here and the subfolder structure was also reorganized accordingly, with Music placed in a subfolder alongside other content types such as Movies, TV Shows and Podcasts. Note that if you’ve upgraded an existing library from a version of iTunes prior to iTunes 9 this folder will still be called “iTunes Music” and organized the original way unless you’ve specifically asked iTunes to convert it to the new iTunes Media organization.

Prior to iTunes 9, click-wheel iPod Games and iOS applications were a special case. These were stored in sub-folders relative to the iTunes database location, specifically in folders named “iPod Games” and “Mobile Applications,” respectively. Relocating your iTunes Music folder did not change the location of these items. In iTunes 9 and later, these folders are now stored in the iTunes Media folder along with your other media content.

Generally, when trying to optimize disk usage, the iTunes Media Folder is what most users will want to move, as it contains the bulk of your library. By comparison, the iTunes Library Database is much smaller and is usually best left in its default location.

Standby to Prepare to Move: Checking your Preferences

Now that you’re 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 be able to find these files, it’s important to look at how your library is currently setup in order to understand what your options are.

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


The first option, “iTunes Media 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 Media folder organized determines whether tracks in your iTunes Media 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 Media folder as necessary into sub-folders by media type, with music organized in an ARTIST\ALBUM subfolder structure and each file named by its track name from the iTunes library. If this option is disabled, then files within the iTunes Media folder will be left with whatever name and sub-folder they were placed in when you first imported them, regardless of changes to the tag information within iTunes itself.

Copy files to iTunes Media 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 you import new content with this option disabled, iTunes simply “references” the file from wherever you’re importing it, rather than making a copy of it in your iTunes Media folder.

Tracks copied into the iTunes Media Folder effectively become “Managed” files; iTunes will manage the location and naming of these files (subject to the “Keep organized” setting above). On the other hand, files that are not copied into the iTunes Media folder are “Referenced” files; iTunes stores a full path to the file, but does not take any further action with those files in terms of organizing, renaming or moving them. In fact, iTunes will not even offer to delete an underlying “referenced” media file when you remove it from your iTunes library. Basically if a file is not in the iTunes Media folder then iTunes considers that file to be outside of its control and does nothing more than point to it.

Note that content purchased from the iTunes Store or ripped from CD is always stored in the iTunes Media folder—iTunes is actually creating new files in this case so it has to have somewhere to put them by default. Therefore, this setting only affects existing files from your computer that are added to the iTunes library using the File, Add to Library option or by dragging-and-dropping them into iTunes from another folder.

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 Media 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 in the process. Users who have built their own file-system organization for their media content and want to preserve that layout will find the process of moving their content to be much more challenging without creating a whole new iTunes library and reimporting it.

The New iTunes Media Organization

With iTunes 9, Apple made some changes to how media files are actually organized within iTunes. When iTunes was first released several years ago, music content was pretty much all it supported, and iTunes was designed with this in mind when it came to organizing your content. The top-level set of folders in your iTunes Music folder represented artist names from your music collection, with albums listed beneath each artist, and a few other special folders for things like Compilations.

This was fine back when it was only about the music, but over time new media types gradually appeared in iTunes, including audiobooks, podcasts, movies, TV shows, and now even iOS applications. Despite this, iTunes stubbornly held on to its old style of organization, pigeonholing things like Movies and TV Shows into their own separate folders alongside the artist names for your music. Further, items such as iOS apps and Click Wheel iPod Games were left out of this folder entirely, stored instead within the main iTunes folder, rather than the iTunes Music folder.

As of iTunes 9 non-music content is no longer treated as a second-class citizen in your iTunes library, and media content is now organized in a more balanced fashion. The old terminology of “iTunes Music folder” has been more appropriately replaced with “iTunes Media folder” and when you start a new library iTunes 9 will organize your media content into appropriate top-level folders by media type. Further, the Mobile Applications folder for iOS applications and the iPod Games folder for Click Wheel iPod Games now form part of the iTunes Media folder as well, instead of being stored separately with the iTunes library database.


If you’re starting a brand new library with iTunes 9 or later, this will simply be the folder layout that iTunes uses from the start. However, if you’re coming from a previous version of iTunes, the old music folder style of organization will be left in place. This is done primarily to preserve backward compatibility, since you may have third-party applications that read your iTunes Music folder and expect to find your tracks organized in a certain way.

Fortunately, you can easily update to the new iTunes 9 Media Folder layout right from within iTunes itself. To do this, simply select File, Library, Organize Library from the iTunes menu, and you’ll be presented with a dialog box with the option to either consolidate your files or reorganize your files.



We’ll be discussing the “Consolidate Files” option later, but for now you can just upgrade to the media folder organization by simply checking the second option and clicking OK. iTunes will quickly go through your library and move all of your existing files around into the new layout. Note that only managed files that were originally stored in the iTunes Music folder will be moved—anything referenced from outside of the iTunes Music folder will be left where it is. If your “iTunes Music” folder was in the default location under your main iTunes folder, then it will also be renamed to “iTunes Media” in the process. On the other hand, if you had previously set your “iTunes Music” folder to another location the name will remain the same as it was before.

Note: After you upgrade to the new organizational structure, you may find that you still have Artist folders located at the top folder level. These are most likely files that were in your iTunes music folder but not actually listed in your iTunes database, often as a result of deleting tracks from iTunes but not deleting the actual files. iTunes can only reorganize the files that it knows about, so any stray files left lying around will be left exactly where they originally were. It’s obviously a good idea to double-check these files with your iTunes library, but once you’ve confirmed that they are in fact orphans, it’s perfectly safe to delete these folders.

We definitely recommend upgrading to the new iTunes Media folder organization unless you have a very specific reason not to. The new layout will be much easier to work with, and most importantly your Mobile Applications and iPod Games will also be stored in the Media folder, making it even simpler to move and backup these items along with the rest of your iTunes media.

Moving your Content to a New Computer

If you’re simply looking to move your iTunes library to an entirely new computer, the process is actually quite a bit simpler than relocating the content, provided certain conditions are met:

  1. You are moving your iTunes library between two computers using the same operating system and iTunes version; and
  2. You plan to store the iTunes library database and content in the same relative locations on the new computer

If this is the case, then transferring your iTunes library to a new computer is quite simple: Just copy the entire iTunes folder and all sub-folders from your Music folder on your old computer to the corresponding folder on the new computer.

If you have changed your iTunes Media Folder location from the default, simply make sure you copy that to the corresponding location on the new computer as well. In other words, if you have your iTunes Media folder set to D:\Music then you must copy it to D:\Music on the new computer—remember that iTunes stores the full path to each music file in your library, so your music files must be in the same place on the new computer in order for iTunes to find them.

Note that if you’re using referenced files—those stored outside of your iTunes Media folder—you can copy these to the new computer as well; simply ensure that they are copied to the same relative locations on the new computer as they were stored in on the old one so that iTunes will be able to find them.

You’ve probably read about issues with synchronizing your iPod or iOS device to a new computer. This is not a problem when you’re moving your entire library, however, since iTunes associates your device with the library database rather than the physical machine. This means that once you’ve copied your iTunes library database over to your new computer, you can continue syncing your iPod or iOS device to it in the same way as you did previously—iTunes won’t even notice the difference.

To actually copy the files between computers you can use any file transfer method you normally would for any other type of data, including an external hard drive or USB memory key, a home network between the two computers, or by burning your iTunes data to CDs or DVDs.

Note: If you have previously run iTunes on the new computer at all, even if you haven’t done anything with it, chances are that there will already be an “iTunes” folder present. Unless you’ve already started using iTunes on the new computer and adding content to it, you can safely overwrite this folder as it simply represents the empty database that iTunes initially creates.

Generally, minor differences in operating system versions will not be an impediment to moving your iTunes library directly over to a new computer, nor will moving to a later version of the same operating system (e.g. Windows XP to Windows Vista or OS X Snow Leopard to OS X Lion). Likewise, you can transfer your library to a computer with a newer version of iTunes than the one on your original computer without any problems—iTunes will simply upgrade the database when you start it up on the new computer.

Note that your iTunes preferences are machine-specific, and you will need to go through and re-configure these the first time you run iTunes after copying your library over to the new computer. You can locate the preference file itself on the original computer and copy this over, however this is not recommended as there are frequently machine-specific settings in these preference files that may not translate properly onto the new computer.

If you have any content purchased from the iTunes Store, you will need to re-authorize the new computer for your iTunes Store account. Computer authorization is machine-specific. You should also make sure you DE-authorize your old computer if you no longer plan to use it with iTunes.

If you plan on putting your iTunes Media folder in a different location on the new computer you will want to read on for the process of relocating the iTunes Media folder itself. Whether you choose to do this before transferring your library to your new computer or afterwards largely depends on your specific situation. For example, if your media folder has been stored on a drive on your original computer that does not exist on the new computer, you will need to consolidate your library before moving it to the new computer. Similarly, if you plan to keep your iTunes library on an external hard drive, it makes more sense to consolidate the media folder onto that external drive from your original computer and then just copy the iTunes library database over to the new machine and let it pick up the media from the external drive.

Moving your iTunes library to a different operating system is also possible, and we will discuss that later on this article.

Moving Your Content to a New Hard Drive: The Wrong Way

A very common mistake made by many users is to simply try and move their entire iTunes Media folder to a new location and update the iTunes Media folder path in iTunes’ preferences. In some cases this may work, but in reality you will risk iTunes losing track of some or all of your media 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 provide an opportunity to locate it yourself:


Selecting “Locate” 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 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 usually just to move your iTunes Media 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.

Users who have a completely “Managed” library configuration may be able to get away with simply moving their media folder and updating the path, however it is still not the recommended solution unless you are absolutely certain that your library is fully managed and organized in the way that iTunes expects it to be. The reason this method will work in a fully managed library is because iTunes will look for any missing tracks in their default location under the iTunes Media folder path before deciding that the links are broken. So, if your tracks are organized in the way that iTunes expects to see them, then it will be able to find them in the new location. However the problem is that it is not uncommon for users with large libraries to have a few referenced files or files with non-standard names due to changes to iTunes preference settings or even inconsistent behaviour with older versions of iTunes.

The “Consolidate Library” feature, discussed in the next section, will ensure that your library is fully managed and organized the way iTunes expects, but if you’re going to use this option anyway, you might as well let iTunes copy the files to the new location in the process and save yourself a step.

Note: Mac OS X users can get away with moving their media files around on the same drive and iTunes will still be able to find them. This is not iTunes-specific but is actually due to the fact that the Mac OS X operating system itself keeps track of files when they’re moved to new locations on the same drive, regardless of file type. This will not work, however, when moving files to a different drive, partition, or computer.

Consolidate: 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 files option, found under File, Library, Organize Library in iTunes.

What the Consolidate files option actually does it to gather all of the files listed in your iTunes library into the iTunes Media folder. It does this by copying any referenced files into the iTunes Media folder, renaming them with the proper track name, and organizing them into its standard file and folder structure. This option is at least partly intended to allow you to bring “referenced” files into the iTunes Media 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 Media folder path. Files in this folder are considered “managed” files and anything outside is a “referenced” file. So, if you change the location of the iTunes Media folder to a new path and then use the Consolidate files 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

To actually perform the move, start by going into your iTunes Advanced Preferences, and changing the iTunes Media 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 Media folder location, simply select File, Library, Organize Library… (in iTunes 8, this option was “Consolidate Library” and in iTunes 7 and prior, it was located on the “Advanced” menu):


You will be presented with a dialog box with the option to consolidate files or reorganize them. Select “Consolidate files” and click OK.


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 for each track, which makes the process difficult to undo unless you have kept a backup of your library database from prior to 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’ default way of laying it out (e.g. ARTIST\ALBUM\TRACK.MP3 in the case of music files). 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 to a new location without creating a whole new iTunes library and reimporting all of your tracks into the new library from their new locations.

Note: If you’ve upgraded to the new iTunes Media organization, your Mobile Applications and iPod Games folders will be copied into the iTunes Media folder as part of this process as well.

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 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 Media folder path.

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

Note: Keep in mind that iTunes only moves content that is actually listed in the iTunes library database, which means any stray files that were lying around the iTunes Media folder won’t be copied to the new location. This should not be a concern unless you’re storing non-iTunes media content in your iTunes Media folder.

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 folder, as described earlier. So while you can clean out the “iTunes Media” sub-folder from here once you’ve consolidated your library to another location, you should not touch any of the other files or folders in your main iTunes folder.

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 move the content first and then relocate the library database once you’ve confirmed that everything is still working properly.

To do this, shut down iTunes, and copy your “iTunes” folder (under your “Music” or “My Music” folder) to the new location. Keep in mind that you may still have media content located in an “iTunes Media” 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 all related support files and folders, simply restart iTunes while holding down the SHIFT key (Windows) or OPT key (Mac) and you will be prompted to either create a new library or choose a location for an existing library:


Simply click “Choose Library” and browse for the location where you copied the iTunes folder. iTunes will startup 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 using 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 your iTunes database.

Moving Between Operating Systems

Although the iTunes database format is the same for both the Windows and Mac OS X versions of iTunes, moving your iTunes library from Windows to Mac OS X or vice-versa is complicated by one other issue: The file systems between these two operating systems are completely different; even though iTunes will be able to read the library database from the other operating system, it will not be able to make much sense of the paths stored there. For example, where Windows uses drive letters, Mac OS X uses drive names, so there’s no way for Mac OS X to figure out what to do with a path like “D:\Music.”

However, the good news is that since iTunes will default to looking for any missing files in its normal iTunes Media folder, you can leverage this behaviour when migrating your library to a different operating system.

To make this work, you must first ensure that iTunes has organized all of the files according to its default naming standard. This way when you move the files onto the new operating system iTunes will be able to find them in their default locations.

To do this, first visit your iTunes Advanced preferences.


If the Keep iTunes Media folder organized option is enabled, deselect it and click OK. Then, go back into your Advanced preferences and RE-select this option and again click OK.

This will tell iTunes to go through your iTunes Media folder and ensure that all music files are named according to its defaults. You will be shown a progress indicator while this is happening.


Once this has completed, perform a “Consolidate files” operation, as described earlier to bring in any referenced tracks that may exist outside of your iTunes Media folder.

Following these steps, your iTunes Media folder should be properly organized with all of your files in the default locations that iTunes expects to find them. You can then simply copy your entire iTunes folder and iTunes Media folder over to the new computer and operating system in the same way that you would transfer any other set of files. When iTunes starts, it won’t be able to find the music files by their specific location, but it will automatically and transparently “fall back” to looking in the default location where it would expect those files to be—in the iTunes Media folder. iTunes does this in the background transparently so you won’t even notice it happening—things should just work.

Note: In many cases, automatically downloaded artwork may not appear properly when moving your iTunes library from Windows to Mac OS X or vice-versa. This issue should only affect automatically downloaded artwork, and can be easily resolved simply by asking iTunes to get the artwork again.

Dealing with a Referenced Library

Another option of course is to simply start a new iTunes library from your existing media content. In this case, you would start up iTunes with a new database and re-import everything. Of course, this will not retain any playlists, ratings, play counts or other library metadata—you will in essence be starting over from scratch. You will also need to reload the content onto any iPod, iPhone or Apple TV devices you may be syncing, since these will also see the new library and require you to perform an “Erase and Sync” operation.

Starting a whole new library will likely be your best option if you have a primarily referenced media collection scattered through folders outside of iTunes’ own music folder and you want to preserve this file system organization. In this case you can simply move your media content to the new location, and then start a new library and import it with the Copy files to iTunes Media folder when adding to library option turned OFF, in much the same way you would have when you first imported your content to your original iTunes library.

More advanced users may be able to work around this as well by using symbolic links (OS X) or NTFS Junctions (Windows) to effectively relocate parts of the file system. This process basically involves copying the media files to a larger hard drive and then creating links in the file system to point to those new locations. iTunes continues to see the files as if they were in the same place as they have always been, while the operating system actually accesses them from the new location. Symbolic links and NTFS junctions are advanced operating system features that are beyond the scope of this article and setting this up should only be attempted by those users comfortable working in the file system with command-line tools.

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 Media 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 see broken links to any files that you try to access since the external hard drive is not present. No need to worry though as this will correct itself once the drive is available again.

However, this does allow you to download new content (e.g. 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 Media folder, and will be usable from there.

You can even sync your iPod or iOS device to your library in this state. Unavailable tracks (those with the exclamation marks beside them) will remain on the device since they are still listed in the library. You obviously won’t be able to add content to your device that isn’t already there, but you could certainly sync any new content you’ve added while disconnected since those files 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 import 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 Media folder has returned, and go back to using that. Any content you’ve downloaded or imported while you were away from your main library storage can be transferred over simply by running the Consolidate files 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. You can even keep a copy of your favorite tracks in your local iTunes Media folder for use while you’re away from your external hard drive; iTunes will seamlessly switch between using whichever set of media files are available.


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I had the “Copying Failed” problem and was able to work around the issue. I scanned my external drive that held my music with Tech Tool Pro and found I had bad blocks. The mp3 files that were written on these blocks were the cause of the problem. When trying to consolidate the iTunes library, I noticed which song would hang and then I would delete that song. Sometimes I would get the error so quickly it was hard to see which song file was the issue. Try restarting computer or iTunes, to see if it’s easier to find where the consolidation hangs. Delete these song from your iTunes and then continue. I don’t know if there’s an easier way to find out the bad files. i did notice when selecting these particular songs in the iTunes library that it would hand for a few seconds or more.

Posted by Michael DeLeon on June 10, 2009 at 2:03 AM (CDT)


The transfer worked for me, although haven’t tried to connect ipod up to new laptop yet. Thanks, great help.

Posted by Samantha on June 14, 2009 at 6:51 PM (CDT)


Help! I was moving my itunes from a 80gig hardrive to a 160gig hardrive- both on the same computer. I followed the above instructions- all went well and I have all the music folder on the new drive, but when I tried to open up itunes- it just wont open at all. I can play individual tracks on Quicktime- so it seems that itunes can’t find the music folder? Any thoughts please?

Posted by Bernard on June 15, 2009 at 3:08 AM (CDT)


I lost my hard drive and hence lost my songs listed in Itunes. Is there any way to import my list from my Iphone or Ipod back into my computer and re-establish my Itunes list?

Posted by Ross Jones on June 15, 2009 at 3:13 PM (CDT)


I followed your directions a couple of months ago and they worked just fine moving my library to an external hard drive. Today, when I purchased some new song iTunes put the songs in my OLD location on the C Drive. When I went into the advanced preferences it will no longer look at different drives as a possible location. Suggestions on how to get these other songs moved to the external drive? I assume Apple changed something in a recent update which screwed things up, especially with the company being so good at doing this!

Posted by Rhonda Shouse on June 19, 2009 at 6:38 PM (CDT)


I keep losing my music and i’m not changing the position or folder to which i download to.
One day they are there the next day i get the symbol that says they cant find my music.
What should i do

Posted by Peter Lelievre on June 28, 2009 at 2:26 PM (CDT)


I was running out of space on my laptop, so I copied a bunch of music files to an external HD and then deleted them from the laptop.  Right now, iTunes doesn’t know where to find them.

Now, I am about to move my entire iTunes library to the external HD (as described above). 

Once I do this, will I be able to copy those previously deleted files into the new iTunes folder on the ext HD, and have iTunes recognize this files?

Is there a better way of re-consolidating all these files?

Posted by Lynn on June 28, 2009 at 3:53 PM (CDT)


As a follow up to the post I just made…

Would there be any downside to simply saving all the music files that are in iTunes in a seperate folder, deleting my iTunes music folder and everything in iTunes, and reloading iTunes from scratch directly onto the external HD?

Thanks for any advice.  I’m just realizing how much I’ve messed up my system (changing file paths, etc)...and I’m not really sure how to clean up my mess.

Posted by Lynn on June 28, 2009 at 4:09 PM (CDT)


Using this solution has caused the biggest mess I have ever had in file management on my PC. I now have copies of all of the music from my iTunes folder in both the original location on C: and another copy of the entire folder on the new expansion drive G: and guess what? iTunes doesn’t see either one! every file has the “file not found” exclamation point, even though all the files from the original location and the new location still exist. Referenced files were NOT copied into iTunes as they should have been, so now I have 4 problems. My original iTunes folder still exists, taking up valuable space on C. The referenced files from C still exist elsewhere on C, but were not copied over by iTunes into G. A brand new iTunes music folder folder exists on G which iTunes is not reading. And lastly, I am afraid to do anything else, since this made such a muck of everything. Any suggestions?

Posted by Markus on July 4, 2009 at 2:09 PM (CDT)


Okay, so my situation is a bit unique as well. I’m simply transferring my library from my Windows XP Desktop to my Windows Vista Laptop. I’m using an external HD to move it and I’m a bit anxious about consolidating my music on my XP. But as of late, I seem to be having an issue opening iTunes itself. I get the error message “iTunes has encountered a problem and needs to close. We are sorry for the inconvenience.” and then it gives me the: Send Error Report or Don’t Send options.

Now I’ve checked my My Music folder and all the files are there intact as well as the scattered (Referenced) Files located around my account. The trouble with consolidating first of all is that I have absolutely no room for consolidation for the reason that I lack the memory for it. And the fact that I cannot open iTunes at all stops me from consolidating.

I’ve tried solving this problem by downloading and installing the new most recent version of iTunes (which I should be able to do since I literally just freed up about 5GB’s of space on my HD). But the trouble there is that when i go to run the installation, nothing happens. And since I can’t install the new version of iTunes, I have no way of consolidating my library. This is broader issue rather than that of the iTunes software itself, but assistance would be greatly appreciated.

Posted by Dylan on July 7, 2009 at 11:32 PM (CDT)


I’m the proud new owner of an iPod Touch, and am the exception to your statement:

“Click-wheel iPod Games and iPhone and iPod touch applications are a special case. These are stored in sub-folders relative to the iTunes database location, specifically in folders named “iPod Games” and “Mobile Applications.” Relocating your iTunes Music folder does not change the location of these items.

Generally, when trying to conserve disk space, the iTunes Music Folder is what most users will want to move, as it contains the bulk of your library. By comparison, the iTunes Library Database is much smaller and is usually best left in its default location.”

I would like to note here that I am typing this comment on an HP Mini 1035.  A whopping 16GB solid state drive leaves me about 6GB of working space after my default programs are installed (and windows of course, no offense macintosh, I just have a lot of exclusives at the moment). 

That’s not exactly big enough to house my entire library, let alone my library, PLUS applications (which actually DO take up a VERY large amount of space when you have more than 100 of them) plus a lot of games, artistry software, and other space hogs installed on my ever dwindling SSD.  So, having a grand total of 500 megabytes free at any given time, it tends to make storing all 1.5GB worth of iPod Touch apps a BIT difficult for me.

ALL that to say, how do I relocate my library folder onto a portable hard drive? I don’t care if I can’t use my iTunes library on a different computer, I don’t really need to. This comes with me everywhere ANYWAY.  Thanks so much.


PS, I really DO love my iPod.  Very awesome. Best thing you guys’ve made yet and I’m excited to see where you’re headed as a company.

Posted by Levi on July 10, 2009 at 5:59 AM (CDT)


Hi There… Please help if you can. I tunes has been running fine for months. My music files resides on an external harddrive (H). They were moved here because of the C drive was getting full. This weekend my C drive filled up I decided to remove the old Itunes files and Libraries from the C drive. Now my Itunes on the H drive (13,000 files) will not work, even though the path to the itunes files are the same before I deleted the files on C. Why is this happening

Posted by Dennis Gill on July 13, 2009 at 5:31 AM (CDT)


Hello. I just formatted my computer and installed itunes on it. It automatically took all the music from my computer and compiled it into a new library. My question is: how can I get to my previous itunes library (the way it is on my ipod now, with playlists etc) on my computer… if there is a way.

Posted by pete on July 17, 2009 at 8:25 AM (CDT)


Is it a way to change the location for the iTunes Library Database (contains the actual index of your media content)? I would like to have it directly on C: instead of under the standard windows catalogue.

BR, Erik

Posted by Erik Jansen on July 19, 2009 at 7:40 AM (CDT)


Very pleased with the information given to me on this website.  Seems very credible and easy to understand.  Thank you for making this transition easy!

Posted by Erin Saxion on July 26, 2009 at 2:02 PM (CDT)


I read this after the fact. I had a virus on my computer so I copied my music 18,000 songs on a external (drag and drop) cleaned out my computer tried to simply drag and drop music back into Itunes and now it only works when My hard drive is plugged in, how do i make it copied back into my itunes with having to plug in my hard drive? please help…..

Posted by Rob on July 27, 2009 at 9:44 AM (CDT)


My computer has 2 drives (C & D). When I instal iTunes choosing the D drive, it automaticaly stores Artwork and other things in C. Can anyone help? Thanks

Posted by Nakis on July 30, 2009 at 5:21 PM (CDT)


When my iriver mp3 machine broke I bought an ipod thinking I was buying the best but moving files from one place to another is a pain in the ass, (as described above) compared to drag and dropping files or folders in the iriver format.  I am still trying to figure out why people say Apple is so wonderful.

Posted by Billydkidd on August 5, 2009 at 4:32 AM (CDT)


I’m hoping to get a bit of help. I’ve already copied all of my music over to an external hard drive. My husband and I would both like to use the hard drive to store all of our music (he uses an iPhone, I use an iPod for music).

I’ve gone through the setup steps a million times. The problem is, when I change the iTunes Music folder location to point to the external drive, nothing happens except for the setting showing as changed. I can’t see the music in iTunes. I haven’t been able to sync my iPod in almost a year because of this and I think it’s about time.

Any suggestions?

Posted by Carrie on August 7, 2009 at 2:26 PM (CDT)


Hi can you provide any answers you might have given to 6,9 and 31 above.  Not sure how bad our problem is but thsose points look like they are going to vcover our scenario


Posted by Laurence on August 8, 2009 at 3:19 PM (CDT)


Would be very grateful for an idiot’s guide to UPLOADING music and movie content from an external hard drive back into iTunes so that all my music is in iTunes but NOT stored on the main PC drive.

I THINK I know how to do it, but a step by step guide would be great

Posted by Gordon Lyon on August 10, 2009 at 5:49 AM (CDT)


The internal hard drive from my 6-year old Dell desktop computer was added as a secondary internal hard drive on a somewhat newer Dell desktop computer. How do I access my iTunes?  I’ve tried going to the G: drive on My Computer.  I used to be able to log on to that drive when it was in my old computer and was the C: drive.  I don’t recognize many of the file names in Program Files.  I’m not that computer literate.  I desperately need assistance.  I’d like to be able to access the iTune I paid for and put them on my iPod.

Posted by Emily S on August 17, 2009 at 4:59 PM (CDT)


A newbie question: I have a 325 GB iTunes Library in the wav format on the c drive of my PC.  I want to move this library to an external HD so I can use this HD the new Squeezebox Touch which will recognize the iTunes music files and play them to my home audio system via a DAC.  My questionn is should I copy the entire My Music folder to the external HD or just the iTunes files as described in the iLounge article. 
The external HD will do double duty on both my PC and the Squeezebox Touch if this is possible.
Thanks for youir help…Bill.

Posted by Bill Pauge on August 22, 2009 at 2:38 AM (CDT)


Worked flawlessly.  If you follow the instructions, you will get what you want. Good article.

Posted by jon swayze on August 22, 2009 at 9:42 PM (CDT)


These directions worked beautifully! Very clearly written too. Thanks for helping me free up 30 GB of precious space on my ancient PowerBook.

Posted by M.J. on August 24, 2009 at 2:13 PM (CDT)


Thanks for this guide!  I was stressed about making sure all of the personalized items (categories, etc) I had put in iTunes would be lost…

Posted by Fred on August 25, 2009 at 12:17 PM (CDT)


I have to backup my iTunes because I have to do a system restore (to factory settings) on my laptop. Can someone list out the step-by-step guide on how to backup my itunes so I can get it back onto the laptop? I’d like for my ratings and playlists to also come back in when I put it back on. I know it is in the article but a step-by-step may insure I do it correctly and will cut down on some of the other info in the article.

Posted by Ryan on August 25, 2009 at 3:59 PM (CDT)


I was reading several messages but couldn’t find the one that relates to my problem: I can’t upload my apps onto my ipod touch! I transferred all the data from a pc to a laptop (including the apps). I was able to sync everything but the apps despite of the fact tht they are shown in the library along with the rest of the data. When asked to authorize my laptop, I clicked on store/authorize this computer. Guess what? I keep getting the message that my apps can’t be uploaded since I didn’t authorize the new itunes library. I’m using the same account, I’ve just changed the computer. I’vehad this problem for 4 days but still can’t find a solution. Any suggestions will be highly appreaciated.

Posted by charles on September 1, 2009 at 3:50 AM (CDT)


Thanks so much, it worked like a charm.  You are a Digital DJ’s new best friend :) and quick note: it was done on 2 OS’s 10.4.11 & 10.5.8

Posted by Cedric on September 6, 2009 at 6:07 PM (CDT)


Thank you for your excellent explanation. I ran into a small problem though: when consolidating the iTunes-files (the final step), iTunes showed a progress bar with the names of the songs appearing one by one. in the new content location, I noticed that a folder for the artist and the album was created, containing the song. However, as soon as iTunes moved on to the next song, this folder structure was deleted and a new folder was created, called something like “Add automatically to iTunes” (running a Dutch version which says “Voeg automatisch toe aan iTunes”, don’t know the exact English phrasing), which was also automatically deleted.

I’m running the latest version of iTunes (9.0 70) and OSX 10.5.8. The new content is on a AC Ryan media player drive to which I have full access.

Any help would be appreciated!

Posted by Wopke on September 15, 2009 at 3:46 PM (CDT)


Just a quick note, iTunes 9 now gives you the option to consolidate library without turning your library into a completely itunes managed Library.

A small change, but helpful for those, as you say, that use their music for different sources.

Simply go to File > Library > Organise
it now gives the option to Consolidate
and also a tick box for “Switch to iTunes Managed Library”

Simples ;)

Posted by Arcsbite on September 16, 2009 at 9:10 AM (CDT)



i followed exactly as you said, with the consolidating library and all, and during the process of consolidationg an error came up saying that..

“copying files failed, the file name was invalid or too long”

i have no idea what this means and i need this problem resolving urgently

many thanx,

Posted by dave on September 17, 2009 at 10:38 AM (CDT)


Excellent write up ! U r a genius. Just managed to copy my music files to my new Leopard from Tiger! Simple. But, my files organisation is simple. Just copy - log, stock, barrel! IU r better than those folks at Apple. Migration Assistant is pretty useless.

Posted by Hockthye on September 18, 2009 at 6:42 AM (CDT)


Hoping you just saved my collection with this article.  My IT department just ordered us to dump music files off our work laptops, so I followed your process to put my content and library onto an external hard drive.  As I don’t currently have a functioning personal PC (just the work one) I’m hoping this just saved my collection until I can buy a new home PC.  It is running and showing the new pathways ok - have not tried hooking up my 80GB ipod classic to it yet (gulp).  Will this process work a second time if I want to do another back up to another hard drive or DVD ROM of my content (not library)?

Posted by Kat on September 22, 2009 at 11:38 PM (CDT)


As a Dj using video….I have lots and lots of files….I have 1 4tb sharespace’s and 1 8tb drobo (which rocks) and I want to tell you my friend YOU KICKA$$!!!!!  Great well written post.  There are many programs out there that “manage” our music and videos but no one does it like MAC and itunes…this article should come inside the box of your new computer so 1000’s of people dont waste 10,000’s of hours spinning there wheels with crap results…...follow these directions and you will be all set….worked for me with over 8tb (yes TB) of data…..


Posted by Tim on September 25, 2009 at 2:28 AM (CDT)


My iTunes stopped working recently when I moved the My Music folder onto an
external hard drive. Realising my stupidity, I promptly moved it back onto my
PC’s hard drive, but unfortunately I am still faced with the same frustrating
message: “The folder “iTunes” cannot be found or created, and is required.
The default location for this folder is inside the “My Music” folder.” The
folder does exist in this location however.

After a bit of investigation, and consulting I have come to the conclusion that my operating system no
longer knows where My Music lives, or even that it exists, and so iTunes does
not know where to find it’s precious folder (my main reason for thinking this. HELP!!!

Posted by Megan B on September 27, 2009 at 10:47 AM (CDT)


Hi thanks for the very informative article regarding itunes.  I have a question though regarding backing up files to the library.  I have almost never saved songs to my pc’s itunes library given that my computer’s hard drive has less capacity than my 160gb ipod classic.  i just bought a 64gb ipod touch and want to transfer songs and videos from my ipod classic to the new ipod touch.  can i do this via the itunes library? or do i need additional software to get the files like ipod access/ipod copy, etc.?

Posted by [email protected] on September 29, 2009 at 9:29 PM (CDT)


Wouldn’t it be nice if EVERYONE wrote articles with this much clarity.  Well done and very helpful.


Posted by Steve Maul on September 30, 2009 at 7:48 AM (CDT)


Sorry it does not work, Jesse. I pick a pathname for my external drive (e.g. f:\), follow your instructions to the letter (apart from “consolidate” as this precise option no longer exists in version!) and all I get is every track showing “!” and no evidnec that anything has been moved to my external drive at all. So I undo the process and end up wasting time getting nowhere.

Posted by Charles on October 2, 2009 at 2:19 PM (CDT)


My 5g iPod video crashed and I had to restore it.  In order to restore it I had to update iTunes. After upgrading to iTunes 9 my library reverted to one from 6 mos ago.  Luckily, I had a backup copy of the most recent library in my “Previous iTunes Libraries” folder, however, though I successfully changed to that library, now my iTunes says “Previous iTunes Library” at the top.  I tried replacing the older library file with the more recent one, but it keeps reverting to the 6 month old version. What am I doing wrong?  I want get rid of the old library and make sure the most recent one is the default.  Please help.

Posted by tabitha on October 3, 2009 at 6:48 AM (CDT)


This article is the best. I looked for an article that could assist me in this venture. This was the best. The process described above worked beautifully.

Thanks so much!!!!!!!!!

Posted by gwen on October 5, 2009 at 8:33 PM (CDT)


I’ve read the tutorial, and I think I understand what to do.  But since it appears most of the problems described in the comments come from trying and then asking, I’m going to try asking before trying.  I have a simple task.  I bought a new laptop and a new ipod at just about the same time (laptop runs XP, no iTunes installed yet, ipod is 4G).  I already have an older ipod on an older computer (computer runs win2K, iTunes, ipod is 2G).  What I want to do is run my new ipod off of the new computer, but immediately start using my music from my old computer.  I only have about 4 GB in music on my old computer.  I think the steps are:
1) Transfer my iTunes folder from MyMusic on the old computer to a USB key.  Note the path.
2) Install iTunes on my new computer (I assume it will version 9 I downloaded Quicktime with iTunes for media, but haven’t installed it yet- but this is what I’ll install)
3) Copy the iTunes folder from the USB key to the corresponding folder in MyMusic in the new computer.
4) Authorize the iTunes with my current account info.
5) Connect the new iPod to the new computer and let it synch and charge

Are these the right things in the right order?  Thanks for any help or advice.

Posted by jspargo on October 5, 2009 at 11:32 PM (CDT)


hello, i just wanna say thanks sooo much!!!!

Everything worked out great, i cant even remember last time i read so much but it was worth it!!! 

thanks (Y)

Posted by NAME DONT MATTER :) on October 7, 2009 at 11:47 AM (CDT)


I recently moved to Windows 7 since my Vista install died, but I luckily had a copy of my iTunes library. Unluckily, it was set up to use a drive that no longer existed. I tried using the methos above to fix it, but when I opened iTunes after creating the 0-sized itl file it would simple create a new, blank library and delete my xml library file (thank heavens I backed up).

They way I solved my issue was a bit complicated Firstly I recreated the folder structure on my new c: drive to mimic the way it was set up on my old d: drive.  I then pointed iTunes to the old library (which reported all the broken links when I opened it). I then used the windows command subst to create a virtual d: drive that pointed at my c: drive. When I opened iTunes this time it found all my files and could play them. I then used the consolidate option to move it all back to my c: drive (where the library lives).

It is a bit of messing around, but it worked for me and I thought it might help some others.

Posted by phil on October 8, 2009 at 7:25 AM (CDT)


Hi My question is this. I recorded some songs from another computer onto my Ipod. I want to transfer those songs to my Itunes Library. How do I do this? If I sync up my Ipod and update it from my Ipod Library i will erase those songs that I put on my Ipod from another source.

Posted by Dave Blakely on October 8, 2009 at 1:34 PM (CDT)


i have my itunes all on an external hard drive and it seems to work a-okay; except every time i fire up itunes after shut down, itunes re-imports the library, which takes bloody hours. any ideas guys? not sure if i need to change pref\s etc?

any help would be appreciated

Posted by harrington on October 10, 2009 at 3:46 PM (CDT)


The steps in the article are supposed to work flawlessly - except if:

1. Both your PCs call your external drive differently - eg G:\ vs H:\. In that case your iTunes library probably points to G:\, and your new PC refers to the location as H:\.

2. iTunes by default probably does not auto-manage your music, so when it loads the itl file, it changes the location to the windows specified music directory. I cant be sure if this is because of #1, it cant find the actual location, so it changes the location to the default—or—if it is because of the default settings pointing elsewhere, and not to your hard drive.

Posted by Nitin on October 10, 2009 at 11:56 PM (CDT)


i’m in a bit of a fix,my itunes info that i had on my wifes laptop is lost due to the computer crashing i need to download my ipod info(music,movies,etc.) to my new laptop without loosing any of the info,it won’t let me transfer the info because it is still registered to the other computer,it is a 160gb ipod classic,please help.

Posted by shane on October 11, 2009 at 5:17 AM (CDT)


Help!!! I have all my songs stored on my laptop and iphone. The laptop crashed. Ok fine. All my songs are still on my iphone. I got a new computer. I’m trying to transfer all my songs from the iphone to the computer. It will only let me transfer the songs I’ve purchased using the iphone. All my previous purchased music will not transfer. What can I do???

Posted by Carolyn on October 11, 2009 at 12:48 PM (CDT)


This is precisely what’s wrong with iTunes. I have a very large library (60,000+ tracks) that I need to move to a new drive. iTunes (and, seemingly, most of the people here) assume that there will never be anything but iTunes and that it should be trusted absolutely with music collections. I disagree. My iTunes library is entirely referenced and now I find that I can’t move it. I will not, under any circumstances, allow iTunes to mess with my files or my carefully constructed directory structure. iTunes’ opinion of how files should be named and directories structured isn’t necessarily everyone else’s. What’s really needed here is an application that will enable manipulation of iTunes’ database, so the pointers within the records can be pointed to a new location. It’s massively egomaniacal that Apple won’t enable a simple relocation of a library.

Posted by danegeld on October 11, 2009 at 8:45 PM (CDT)


thank you thank you thank you!

Flawless.  However, Is there an easy way to make only certain playlist local to your machine rather than the hard drive?  For instance I have about 3 playlists for work that I need to have on my computer.  I believe Question 15 relates to this but a little unclear.

Posted by Drew on October 13, 2009 at 8:49 AM (CDT)


I had music on an external 500mb disk formatted as NTFS. I could add them to the library on the Mac by reference but I could not add/delete/change the files on the Mac where I keep my iTunes. So I bought a 500mb passport formatted in Fat32. Copied the music files over the the new disk. Is there a way to eliminate the file references to the NTFS disk (300 gb of music) and then have iTunes add a new library consisting of the files from the new disk?


Posted by Malcolm on October 13, 2009 at 11:39 AM (CDT)


I have just followed the instructions, very carefully, about transferring an iTunes library to an external hard drive. I updated my Safari (Mac) to the latest and updated iTunes to ver. 9.0. I then “consolidated” the music to the external drive, which I know is working.

However, in the Finder window, the folder “Movies” still appears rather than as a sub-menu under Music-iTunes-iTunes Media which I believe is to happen under iTunes 9.0. Is this correct?

There is also a folder called “Previous iTunes Libraries under iTunes folder in the Music main folder (Music-iTunes-Previous iTunes Libraries). In it are labeled 8 files, each of about 3 MB in size and each dated from 2006-2009. Do you know what these are and if they can be deleted without affecting the main Library for iTunes?

Thank you.

Posted by Jay on October 15, 2009 at 2:19 PM (CDT)


One thing I’ve always been curious about.  Suppose I want to organize two iTunes libraries on two different devices (as hard drives get bigger and cheaper this question becomes less relevant).  Say I had one hard drive for movies and another for music.  Is it possible to “conveniently” repoint iTunes depending what I wnat to play?  Is it possible to point to two libraries at once?

Posted by Al on October 15, 2009 at 4:19 PM (CDT)


absolutely perfect, worked a treat. couldnt have don it without this. computers a lot faster now. 10 out of ten.

Posted by gareth smyth on October 16, 2009 at 6:48 PM (CDT)


Thank you for your paper on iTunes migration. It qualifies for a PhD dissertation.

However - I have “a very good reason” for NOT letting iTunes organize my library. How then can I make an external FW drive so I can carry my library from Mac to Mac. (I have 6 Macs and 4 PCs…)

I can copy the whole iTunes folder, with the library and xml etc in it. It also contains, BTW, an alias to a folder called MP3 Collection, where all my mps are organized as I liked them - lst by Composer, then by type, then by Artist. For example: Beethoven - String Quartets - Juilliard String Quartet.

How do I move this on a FW drive without getting “file not found”?

BTW I see you recommend Dupin for removing duplicates. (Not a problem I have now.) Dougs Dupin failed utterly with a large (200 GB) library. He had me send him diagnostic files, but could never get it to work.)

Posted by Burt Goldstein on October 19, 2009 at 4:54 PM (CDT)


Thanks for the great article.  It’s helped me a couple of times.  Now I have a puzzler, though:

My friend had an ITunes library on an HD that crashed.  She thought the HD was cooked.  She didn’t have a backup (ugh!) and went ahead and started a new ITunes library on her new HD.  ITunes would never let her transfer the songs stored on her IPod to the new HD because of a “not authorized to play this music on this computer” problem.  She deauthorized, reauthorized, deauthorized all, then reauthorized—nothing worked.  It’s the same account name/password as the old HD.

Now , here’s the exciting part.  I managed to recover her old ITunes library from her semi-crashed hard drive.  So, I am thinking about approaching the problem as follows:
1.  export Itunes from her current library on new HD (she has purchased some music that she hasn’t moved to her iPod).
2 Delete ITunes library on new HD.
3. Remove ITunes program from new HD,
4.  Re-add fresh copy of ITunes 9 to new HD
5.  Copy ITunes library from old HD to new ITunes library per the instructions in this article.
6.  Import the music that she’s purchased since the hard drive crash.

Does that sound reasonable?  I am thinking (can’t confirm this) that her “authorization” problem may have to do with the IPod last being synced to ITunes 8 (with the old library) and the new HD having ITunes 9 and a new library.

If anyone actually followed this and can offer advice, I’d appreciate it.

Posted by reggie on October 21, 2009 at 12:59 AM (CDT)


This article was a HUGE help, but since iTunes 9 came out I have had a problem.  When I got to Organize my Library, I get a message saying “There is not enough room on “Iomega HDD” to copy all of the requested files.”  I have over 120 gb of space availabe on the external hard drive, and my PowerBook G4 only has a 120 gb hard drive which has 30 gb of space available.  First, my iTunes library is not all 90 gb of space taken up on my laptop, which means that my iTunes library is much smaller than the space available on my external hard drive.  So, why am I getting this message?

Posted by Jamie on October 21, 2009 at 9:03 PM (CDT)


AMAZING! Most complete and thorough explanation on the internet.  Thank you so much!

Posted by Kjenn on October 22, 2009 at 1:34 PM (CDT)


This article did NOT provide sufficient information.  I’m trying to move my iTunes from my Mac to a PC.  The actual music is on an external HDD.  I want to preserve my cover art and specially-entered info without having to start over from scratch.  The Library.xml file needs to be extensively edited to change all the path information from OS-X format to Windoze drive-letter format.  I’m going to try doing this using MS-Word’s search-and-replace feature.  Has anyone done this?  Can you provide guidance?  I went to the “Genius Bar” at the local Apple store today and they were absolutely CLUELESS.  ANY help appreciated!

Posted by Boomzilla on October 22, 2009 at 8:19 PM (CDT)


I just uploaded itunes 9 and now my music path is not working (from external HD).  It says it is locked.  I have gave security permissions to all and unchecked the read only boxes…  what now?

Posted by katherine on October 24, 2009 at 5:51 PM (CDT)


thanks for the advice.  Best I found because it worked!

Posted by Mary Lou on October 26, 2009 at 4:53 PM (CDT)


My Library in Itunes is @ 500 GB nut the itnes music folder is 700+ GB. Why Are they not the same?

Posted by phraxos5 on October 28, 2009 at 8:20 PM (CDT)


Hi can some one give me advice i have a large amount of music in my I tunes , i need to have my computer restored but dont want to lose all my music , How do i tranfer all to a external hard drive

Posted by steven on October 31, 2009 at 2:23 PM (CDT)


Why is that that after downloading some cds to Itunes I cannot move them to my external hard drive?

Posted by Bill B on November 1, 2009 at 11:06 AM (CST)


To the author: This is a good tutorial as far as it goes, but it does not seem to address the most basic need of families: How to duplicate and maintain copies of the iTunes Library database and media files on a main computer AND the five authorized computers allowed by the iTunes Store license.

I have a MacBook Pro and a Mac Pro, my wife has a MacBook Pro, and we also have an old Mac running OS X (10.5.8) acting as a media server and backup machine (we hope to purchase an AppleTV in early 2010, assuming Apple finally updates the outdated hardware).  To keep the library simple, we only purchase iTunes songs, videos and movies using my iTunes account and my MacBook Pro (our main database). Every couple of months, we manually copy the entire iTunes folder from the main MacBook Pro to each of the other machines.

This seems to work, but my honey does buy audio books from Audible, so she has to re-download the books after each copying operation to separately maintain that library.

We want an easier way to (daily or weekly) update the copies of all the song files on these computers so that we each have separate access to the files if one of us is on the road (or should one computer fail).

This is the one scenario that most families actually need, and if I’m correct, the one situation left out of the entire story (and left out of Apple’s ownership flow.

Also, here’s a related question. Aging Baby Boomers want to know hat becomes of our music when we pass on — to again see Elvis, the Big Bopper and Michael J in the afterlife? Does my wife have to morbidly maintain my iTunes Store account to retain access to our purchased store files? At the very least, the license and/or store account ought to be transferrable to her, or perhaps even one of our children. Can an account owner’s name be changed?

Posted by HD Boy on November 2, 2009 at 2:25 PM (CST)


I followed the procedures outlined here and had great and immediate success transferring my 100 GB music collection to an external drive from my MacBook Pro.

I do, however, have a couple of clarifying comments to make. Firs of all, although I have a very recent version of iTunes 9, my main folder is labeled “iTunes Music,” and not “iTunes Media.” Some of the test that came up during the transfer did call the folder “iTunes Media.” Also, after I changed the location of my folder, a dialog box came up that said something I don’t remember. I answered “Yes,” which seems to have been the right answer. I think that it was asking me, in effect, if I wanted the files and folder in the original location to go automatically into the Trash as they are used. When I go to the internal drive and open folders, the folders and the file in them disappear, which is good.

Posted by Tony Gerard on November 2, 2009 at 6:56 PM (CST)


I found a data discs of Mp3’s . what is the best way of adding them to my Itunes library ? to include adding additional info eg cover art ,genre etc.


Posted by Gregory Totman on November 2, 2009 at 8:12 PM (CST)


I have had nothing but HORRIBLE expeirence with this ipod. I’ve paid well over $400.00 on the classic,headphones,itunes card ect….I get homeand the site will not give me access to down load ANY music not my cd’s not even the itunes Ipaid alot of money on.Yes Ichecked with the bank I have plenty of funds I also made sure there were no flags on my card there were not.Understandable I’m am PISSED.the only other thing thier site says is maybe thier billing people can’t sync up with my bank Wachovia REALLY??? One of the largest banks in the nation if not the largest. If I can’t get music on this ipod soon I’m going to mail this ipod back to Sony and tell them they can shove it up their *****.Funny thing is I work for a news paper We’er allways looking for somthing to write about.Looks like I may have found it.

Posted by Kurt Edwards on November 5, 2009 at 12:00 PM (CST)


library to organize to consolidate library saved my life.  I followed your prompts and was able to move my library.  What happens if I ever crash and want to move to another laptop again.  Can I use the same steps and same flash drive.  THANKYOU!

Posted by Robin on November 5, 2009 at 10:16 PM (CST)


Hi, I have a different kind of problem and I’m surprised I can’t find it anywhere here: everything I read here is very useful for me, as far as the music part. I want to put my library, podcasts etc on my E-drive…but what about the appications??? I moved them too, and set the preferences right. Did not move the media folder, only the applications folder, but iTunes keeps putting the folder back to the C-drive. Everything else goes fine….
What am I doing wrong????

Posted by Esther van Looij on November 10, 2009 at 7:05 AM (CST)


I have an issue. I recently purchased almost $70.00 in music from iTunes. I’m notorious for backing up my purchases but the one time I didn’t have time to do it before the most disastrous thing happened. I spilled liquid on my computer. It went crash and HP said they would have to replace my motherboard for a cost of $734. I decided to just buy a new laptop. So I have my new laptop but those songs that I downloaded from iTunes that never made it to my iPod are lost forever. Right? If anyone knows of a way I can get them back please let me know.

Posted by Kim on November 11, 2009 at 7:50 PM (CST)


#171: Firstly, you will need to convert to the iTunes Media folder organization before iTunes will start putting your Mobile Applications alongside your music. Prior to that, they will remain in the primary iTunes folder on your C: drive. Once you upgrade to the Media folder structure, the “Consolidate” option will copy your applications along with your other content.

#172: You will need to contact the iTunes Store customer service folks and explain your situation to them. I had the same problem a few years back when my Powerbook hard drive crashed almost immediately after downloading a couple of new albums. The iTunes Store folks are usually pretty good about letting you redownload lost purchases like that as long as you’re not requesting it too often (they don’t want to be a substitute for proper backups).

Posted by Jesse Hollington in Toronto on November 12, 2009 at 10:04 AM (CST)


Almost all of the songs in my library have a gray “!” next to them because they do not actually exist on my computer. but even after syncing my ipod none of those songs are taken off of my ipod. why? and how do i transfer a library that does not actually have songs in it so that when i sync my library on a new system nothing changes on my ipod except new songs or songs that i choose to take off?

Posted by woookie on November 13, 2009 at 11:42 PM (CST)


I have basically the same problem as #90.  I have a macBook Pro that i have my itunes library on an external hard drive, i have a new imac that i want to use the same library on (but keep storing them on the external hard drive) what do i need to move to the new computer?

please help

Posted by tuck on November 16, 2009 at 10:55 PM (CST)


I’ve outgrown my 100 GB external hard drive.  I bought a 1 TB MY BOOK external hard drive and I’m having problems transferring my itunes library from the old ext.HD to the new, larger one.  Any suggestions???

Posted by Jamey on November 20, 2009 at 5:44 PM (CST)


Is there a way to use the consolidate (or organize) library function by MOVING files instead of copying them?  The current method implies that anyone storing their media on an external drive has at least 50% of the drive empty (which certainly isn’t true for everyone out there).  I have a 95% full drive and desperately need to organize my library.  How am I supposed to get iTunes to work for me in this case?

Posted by Chillindownunder on November 23, 2009 at 8:13 AM (CST)


Hi, tried your tips and it worked but what the mobile apps didn’t transfer to the new Itunes media library destination.  Do I have to manuually move the Mobile apps folder?
Itunes now has Autommatically Add to Itunes.  If I move it from the original location, will Itunes still be able to detect?

Posted by Gen on November 24, 2009 at 9:21 PM (CST)


Can I save my data by putting the hard drive from my old 80gig Classic and putting it into my new 80 gig Classic?

I have an iPod that got wet and the logic board is fried. So, I just bought another iPod of the exact same type on ebay. Can I put my old drive into my new iPod, and will it read?

Thanks for any replies.

Posted by Patrick on November 25, 2009 at 6:34 PM (CST)


Does the following mean that if one has created his own Playlists, they will be moved to the new media library, but reorganized by itunes?

The other important note is that this will reorganize your entire library file system into iTunes’ default way of laying it out (ie, ARTISTALBUMTRACK.MP3 in the case of music files). 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.

Posted by sam on November 28, 2009 at 4:52 PM (CST)


i read everything u posted. im transfering my itunes to an external hard drive then to my new desktop. I did all the steps to put it on the hard drive. now do i just sync the hard drive to my new computer and what?
i dont know what to do after i hook up the hard drive to my new computer
pleasehelp!!!! gracias amigo :)))))

Posted by Eddie on November 28, 2009 at 7:17 PM (CST)


i already posted how to put ther music in my new desktop form my hard drive.
i did it by myself and all my music has the exclamation point nd says it needs the original file
and on my laptop where it all was has that too!!
all my music is messed up

Posted by eddie on November 28, 2009 at 8:34 PM (CST)


my old computer has crashed and I can’t transfer my ipod library onto my new computer.

Posted by greg birch on November 29, 2009 at 3:34 PM (CST)


I have a External HD with nearly 400gb of music have backed up over the years using iTunes. Most of it is missing artwork info, and other stuff. I want to update my entire back up. Can I use my ext hd
as my itunes library and update that info without having to pull it on to my cpu’s hd??

Posted by michael g on December 1, 2009 at 2:40 AM (CST)


In reference to the iTunes library, you mention that “there are advantages to leaving this file on your local hard drive and simply storing the content on an external drive.”
What are those advantages?  Speed?

You also mention that multiple iTunes users should not share a single library.  I understand the rationale behind that, but can/should they share a single media folder (on a network drive) and use separate (local) library folders?

Posted by MSFeinstein on December 2, 2009 at 1:21 PM (CST)


Great article!

Helps to know the ‘whys’ together with the ‘hows’. Am transferring all my music files (80GB) over to an external HDD now. Can’t wait to free up some space on my Macbook…


Posted by Eugene Lim on December 4, 2009 at 1:01 PM (CST)


My iTunes Library File was recently corrupted and deleted by the computer. It happened when I one day got a bluescreen while I was using iTunes. I still have all my music on my computer, but my problem is that I would like to the Library File back, because it contains all my music information, which is very important if I don’t want to go through the whole music collection again and adding info. So I thought that maybe there’s a way to sync FROM the iPod TO iTunes, because I guess the iTunes Library File is located on the iPod somewhere, and I could just get it back, then I’d be really happy.

Does anyone have an idea how I can do this?

Posted by Jacob on December 7, 2009 at 8:45 AM (CST)


Thanks for your thorough article.  Here’s one for you - one that also has Apple support baffled with their only response being to restore my itunes folder from backup and try again (which I made sure to Time machine before i started).

To summarize, I’m on Macbook 3,1, Snow Leopard, iTunes 9.0.2.  Read your article and the companion at the apple support webpage “iTunes for Mac:  Moving you iTunes Music Folder”.  I’ve always had the “Keep Media folder organized” and “copy files to iTunes Media” boxes checked under Preferences/Advanced.  To prep for the move to an external drive, I backed up, “consolidated the library” as above, backed up, “upgrade to iTunes Media organization” then backed up again.  After this I discovered the following:

- Artwork seemed to be haywire in iTunes, unavailable in the preview pane on bottom left
- Under Music/iTunes folder I had iTunes Music folder + Album Artwork, Garageband, database files, etc.
- Here’s the weirdness:  Under Music/iTunes/iTunes Music folder not only did I have the Music, Movies, Audiobooks ‘itunes 9’/media subfolders but I also had subfolders for every artist in my library and these folders only contained the desktop.ini files, artwork jpg files, .pdf files from purchased content, and album subfolders.  Under the Music subfolder the artist subfolders were repeated and these contained the audio/video files

On discussion with Apple (today), they agreed with my approach but could not resolve or provide rationale.  One guess they had was the artwork I had added manually (for ripped CD’s, much of which was probably added on my PC before I moved to the Macbook in 2007) may be one culprit - but I’m not the first person to have added artwork manually nor the first to convert to this filing structure - to which they agreed. 

One other curiosity is they were unable to tell me where iTunes would have stored the underlying jpg files for added artwork for me to determine if iTunes had duplicated this in the Music/iTunes/Album Artwork folder. 

I attempted to recover the artwork links/references by first using the ‘Get Album Artwork’ iTunes command, then tried ‘Add to Library’ the folder Music/iTunes/iTunes Music folder in hopes of itunes discovering the missing artwork.  That process (not sure which step though) seemed to resolve the artwork issue for 90% (est) of my library – I had to resubscribe to some podcasts to reclaim some artwork, but there is still the remaining 10% or so where the artwork missing, wrong or incomplete.  Where it’s missing, the affected music seems to be obscure music not in the ‘Get Album Artwork’ database but for which I added artwork to.  For wrong or incomplete, this seems to be mostly compilations (designated as such or not in iTunes) and is probably due to the ‘Get Album Artwork’ command attempting to find the best match (incomplete would be where artwork was added for selected tracks in a compilation that is the cource for the compilation, not the artwork for the compilation itself).

I’m off to restore a backup of my iTunes library to before I started this process but I have no reason to believe this will not happen again.  Thoughts?

Posted by David on December 9, 2009 at 1:58 PM (CST)


Thank you for the information. I followed your steps to move my 3600+ tune library to my new HP EX490 MediaSmart Server (aka Windows Home Server, hereafter referred to as WHS).

I did this for several reasons, most of which don’t matter to anyone else. Some of the main reasons is that the iTunes Server (Firefly) loaded with WHS seems to choke if you have more than a couple thousand songs, as does the Media Sharing, aka TwonkyMedia server. Since I have over 100,000 mp3s altogether, this was the best solution.

1. Create a mapped drive from my computer to the Music share - I used M:
2. Create a folder in the Music share named iTunes Music
3. Library>Organize Library>Upgrade to iTunes Media organization
4. Library>Organize Library>Consolidate to move everything into the folders on my PC
5. Change the location of the iTunes Media folder location to M:\iTunes Music
6. Run Library>OrganizeLibrary>Consolidate again to copy everything over to the WHS
7. Cleaned out the Music folder on the PC - I left the database on the PC because it will run faster

Hope this helps any who would like to do the same thing.

Posted by Dave on December 9, 2009 at 5:46 PM (CST)


I have had my library on an external drive for some time and apart from having to remind iTunes occasionally where the location is (it then correctly updates location for all songs). The location was the G: drive. For some reason when I now connect the same external hard drive it appears as the H: drive (noting else is plugged in). Despite resetting location to H: drive, the location will not be updated. The only way to get iTunes to find a song is by INDIVIDUALLY linking every track with its location on the external drive (whereas previously all I neede to do was to tell iTunes to “go and look on G: drive”. Any similar experiences out there and any solutions?

Posted by Yves on December 10, 2009 at 4:48 PM (CST)


I have had my library on an external drive for some time and apart from having to remind iTunes occasionally where the location is (it then correctly updates location for all songs). The location was the G: drive. For some reason when I now connect the same external hard drive it appears as the H: drive (noting else is plugged in). Despite resetting location to H: drive, the location will not be updated. The only way to get iTunes to find a song is by INDIVIDUALLY linking every track with its location on the external drive (whereas previously all I neede to do was to tell iTunes to “go and look on G: drive”. Any similar experiences out there and any solutions?

Posted by Yves Noldus on December 10, 2009 at 5:17 PM (CST)


Re above: a memory stick that was attached to my computer just before the problem started not has the following file on it: iTunes preferences.plist. Is it possible this file someone went from its original location onto the stick and has caused all the problems and where should this file be located in the iTunes folder on in the folder containing the actual tracks on my external drive?

Posted by Yves on December 10, 2009 at 7:53 PM (CST)



This is a wonderful post. I think it almost my problem, but I just want to make sure.

I have all my music on my external HD, and that’s all nicely organized. No need to change that. I left the podcasts on my C: drive, because the folder wasn’t that big. However, it has grown (thanks movies), and it needs to move to the external HD as well.

Do I understand properly from the post that I can *not* move *just the iTunes media library* from C: to my external drive without having to consolidate?

Or can I change the location under edit/prefs/advanced, and then organize my library via file/library/organize *without* consolidating?

Posted by Jasper on December 12, 2009 at 11:58 AM (CST)


OK so i totally upgraded my whole computer as in operating system (pc) and i just installed itunes and logged on and none of my songs are there, please help

Posted by alex on December 12, 2009 at 5:57 PM (CST)


I found that if you change the iTunes Media folder, you can lateron manually copy all content from the old to the new folder. iTunes will find it, without doing anything. It also remembers all playcount info, as well as partially placed songs.

Posted by Jasper on December 13, 2009 at 8:35 PM (CST)


I recently had to restore my computer and lost my entire itune library. I had the xml library saved on another hard drive. How do i open my old library?

Posted by bryan on December 15, 2009 at 1:22 AM (CST)


Ok hears my problem and i dont fell like acalling support. Ok i had tones of stuff then my pc crashed. I didn’t put it or save it because i never thought i would have to reset my pc ok i atorived this pc but now i click cheak avalible purchases and of course nope nothing. So my itunes is empty nothing. Also i sold my ipod. So i tryed to by something i USED TO HAVE the osuth park movie (bigger longer and uncut) then i said buy. Then it said it is already on thsia ccount and to clikc cheak for avilible downloads… well i teyed agian and NOTHING. Everything i tryed was a failure. I need assistance but i dont want to phone anyone and i cant figure out how to email so this is where i am now.

Posted by joshua on December 16, 2009 at 9:44 PM (CST)


Hey, thanks for the article! I didn’t know Apple had finally made it possible to move the database, and it worked perfectly when I followed your instructions

Posted by Tindi on December 17, 2009 at 11:15 PM (CST)


I am running the latest iTunes on my G4. Now I want to consolidate my iTunes Library to an ext drive. The 32GB of music is currently on my internal 60GB drive.

I first set my Music Folder file to the new drive, then perform the function: File>Library>Organize Library>Consolidate Files

After it runs a 30 second “Preparing Copy” function, I get the incorrect error:
“There is not enough room on <Toshiba ext> to copy all of the requested files.” There is 263GB available on the ext drive.

Does anyone know the solution to this? Thank you.

Posted by Greg on December 18, 2009 at 1:11 PM (CST)


Hi there, I have a new iMac and am trying to move the library to an eternal harddisc. With my old laptop (microsoft) there was no problem. But now the iMac “tells me” the ’ iTunes Library.itl ’ is secured and it is not allowed to move it. What am I doing wrong here?

Posted by Ferry Diederik on December 23, 2009 at 6:12 AM (CST)

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