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.


« The Complete Guide to Backing Up your iTunes Library

Syncing MP3s to an iPod nano »

Related Stories



I wish I would have found this site a few days ago!!!  I transferred all my ituns files to my back up D drive on my puter to free up space. Now of course after moving it all back to the C drive, I can’t even get the itunes website to open when I plug my ipod in.  I only wanted to free up some space but now I have a larger problem.  Please help.

Posted by Jason Campbell on December 23, 2009 at 7:48 AM (CST)


An update.
My iMac recognizes the NTFS external hard disc and I am able to move my music files. There is over 500Gb to be moved. My iMac is updating the library since yesterday. That’s over 18 hours!! and it’s not halfway yet, is that normal?

Posted by ferry Diederik on December 24, 2009 at 3:37 AM (CST)


Fabulous article!  I wanted to move my music to an external hard drive.  Followed your directions and worked great.  Upgraded to iTunes 9 as well.  I have a lot of bootlegged live shows downloaded to my iTunes and it successfully transferred.  However, I do have a question.

On my C: drive, I have this file:
C:\Documents and Settings\Chris\My Documents\My Music\iTunes

under this I have 3 folders, one being my iTunes Music folder.  The other two are the ones I have a question regarding.  One is the “Album Artwork” folder and the other is “Previous iTunes Libraries.”  Do, I need these on my C: drive or can I delete them?  I cannot find them on the external drive anywhere.  Have they moved?  Are they still needed?

Please advise.

Washington DC

Posted by Chris in DC on December 29, 2009 at 11:28 PM (CST)


Thank you so much! It worked perfectly!

Posted by Pablo Cruz Lemini on December 31, 2009 at 2:45 PM (CST)


I found this article really helpful, thank you. However I’ve moved my files to a second hard drive inside my Mac to create space on the start-up disk, no problem, but new downloads and newly imported CDs still go to my old location on the start-up disk even though the location has been changed in advanced preferences file. Is there something I’ve missed or is this something I have to learn to live with??

Posted by John Blundell on January 1, 2010 at 11:30 AM (CST)


I lost access to my iTune library quite some time ago.  I had 6000 songs on my iPod, and followed a process posted online for downloading my iTunes content into a newly established iTunes library and then sync-ing my new library with my the music content on my iPod.  This worked as far as I can see…I can see the music files in my library (located on my external drive).  However, I cannot access the new library through iTunes on my computer.  I have not deleted the music from my iPod for fear this process didn’t work.  What can you suggest?  I do not want to lose my iPod music…and I want to add to this library, hence the purchase of my 1Tb external HD.  Any help will be greatly appreciated.

Posted by Micha on January 1, 2010 at 12:51 PM (CST)


I found this information to be priceless!
Genius Bar was relatively useless. Following these instructions exactly gave me the solution i was looking for.
Thank You!

Posted by john on January 2, 2010 at 11:45 PM (CST)


Thank you for this detailed tutorial. Just moved my iTunes collection to an external hard drive and then to another Mac. Everything is retained, including my iPhone sync preferences and all the album art work. It was a job I’d been putting off for months - now I’m glad I procrastinated. Without your article I would have inevitably fallen into a hole somewhere along the way.

Posted by Barrie Stephenson on January 6, 2010 at 3:27 AM (CST)


The instructions were clearly written and easy to follow.  I successfully transferred my iTunes media content and library database to my external hard drive in order to free up much needed space on my computer.  I am very pleased with the outcome.

Posted by Isabel M on January 7, 2010 at 3:09 AM (CST)


You. Are. The Best!

Thank you very much.

Posted by GregA on January 7, 2010 at 10:25 PM (CST)


This article helped me transfer two pretty large itunes libraries to an external hard drive. Without the article I probably would have transferred them incorrectly. Thanks!

Posted by Dominica on January 9, 2010 at 7:28 PM (CST)


What is happening on my computer is, I get an application off iTunes and when I synchronize my iPod, so the things go from iTunes to my iPod ... usually. It isn’t and that is my problem, it is saying, Syncing Saul’s iPod Touch and nothing is happening. It just says that for about 30 seconds and then I go onto my iPod and nothing has happened. Has anyone got any answers? If so, reply to my e-mail: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) . Thank you!

Posted by Saul Knights on January 13, 2010 at 12:28 PM (CST)


i cant move my application iphone when im downloading new application.


Posted by nizam on January 17, 2010 at 9:53 PM (CST)


Great article.
Although I have a problem, I tried to transfer my iTunes library to a NAS I bought. After at least 1 hour (I went to sleep, no idea how long) it stopped, because not enough hard drive space.
This is wrong, as I have way more space than needed in my NAS (5,4 To in Raid-5 mode, QNAP TS-410).

Any idea anyone please ?

Posted by Joe on January 18, 2010 at 2:38 AM (CST)


Great advice, I thought when I lost my hard drive my 2000 songs that I had purchased on iTunes were gone.  I transferred my purchases easily, and then used the 3rd party, Copy Trans to add my playlists in less than 10 minutes!!!

Thank you!!!

Posted by Kristen on January 20, 2010 at 4:57 AM (CST)


I have a unique situation for which I haven’t yet devised or found an elegant solution. 

First, I am not yet using Itunes organization, nor have I consolidated my files.  They are all referenced.

I have a 20GB collection of music in one folder on my macbook that I would like to keep on the internal drive.

I have a 200GB collection in many folders and subfolders that I have on an external drive.

It would be nice to have the benefit of itunes organization/consolidation, however, with the following constraints:

-I retain the ability to play the smaller collection from the internal drive without the external drive connected.

-Both music collections can be accessed concurrently when the external drive is connected (i.e. not having to switch libraries).

I am open to having a 2nd copy of the smaller collection on the external drive as long as keeping both copies in sync is relatively painless and accurate.

On a side note, how do you add songs to a particular playlist while importing?  It seems that I would have to add them to the library first, then go find them in the library and add them to the playlist.

Posted by bkidd on January 21, 2010 at 11:03 AM (CST)


Just a quick question. Say you have a 1TB External Drive, along with a 500GB External. Is it possible to Consolidate to both external HDD’s so either or works? cuz the TB needs a power cord whereas i could strictly use the MUCH smaller 500GB one for travel. is this possible?

Posted by DrPepper22 on January 21, 2010 at 11:11 PM (CST)


Folks - sorting out my MEDIA is not the problem, my problem is my APPLICATIONS on the Iphone.
how do i sync these with another adtabase??

Posted by John Allder on January 25, 2010 at 5:27 AM (CST)


My IT guy moved my library to an external HD and now when I sync my Ipod, I says I have no music.  Can anyone help???



Posted by Kevin on January 27, 2010 at 1:40 PM (CST)


I am so confused.Someone please help me..My computer crashed and I now have a new hard drive in it.
I can see all my mucis,pics etc. on my Ipod Touch but can’t figure out how to get all that stuff on my new hard drive.For some reason I have like 4 audible accts.and only remember one password.ANY help would REALLY be appreciated.
Thank you ahead of time..

Posted by Rosalie on January 27, 2010 at 8:39 PM (CST)


how do I move the contents of my ipod to a new computer?

Posted by Jay on January 28, 2010 at 2:36 PM (CST)


hello there…
well my problem is that everytime i download itunes i have it saved to my computer UNTIL i turn my computer off, everytime i turn it back on it always says itunes removing something something.
what can i do to save it to my computer wihtout removing it everytime i turn my computer on.

Posted by judy on January 29, 2010 at 11:57 PM (CST)


Hi there, I currently have my iTunes on an external hard drive, and have just bought a new PC a couple of days ago. If I plug the external hard drive into the new PC, will iTunes still work as normal, or do I need to back it up elsewhere before I start using the new PC? I can’t find anything to help me out in relation to this. Thanks in advance.

Posted by Jamie on January 30, 2010 at 5:58 AM (CST)


Thanks Jesse.  Your instructions were very clear/helpful.  I did end up havin to “restore” my ipod (rest to initial settings) and then re-sync for some reason after I moved the content to an external hard drive.  I left the library on my primary laptop drive.  Anyway, it all worked out.  I would have never tried this without getting the confidence that I needed from your article.

Posted by Wayne Fox on January 30, 2010 at 7:03 PM (CST)


Okay, I’m not sure if this was covered or if anyone still checks this article.  But I just bought a Mac and transferred my itunes files from a PC.  But, as I’m sure many have had this issue, it did not retain my ratings, playlists, playcounts all of those fun statistics.  I have seen all of these software fixes that people are selling out there to do it for you.

But does anyone know a manual way to do it?  Here’s my latest plan when I get home.  I have my 60 GIG ipod synced with all of my music on the old computer.  I wonder if i sync that with the mac if it will fill in all of the data for the tunes?    Any thoughts?

Posted by Mike on February 2, 2010 at 10:06 AM (CST)


Thank you so very much for this excellent “how to.” I was successfully able to move my extensive library from a Windows XP machine with music on the internal second D drive to the C drive on a new Windows 7 machine. It took a couple of hops including moving it to an external I drive for the hop but it worked! A million thanks. I’ve got years worth of database notes and structure and it would’ve been a real bummer to have lost it unnecessarily.

Posted by Katherine on February 8, 2010 at 9:06 AM (CST)


Hi and thank you for this article!  It has saved me twice now!  And the process seems to work flawlessly!

I do have a quick question - I have my entire library consolidated onto my external hard drive.  But I am going to be buying a new computer soon.  What happens then?  Can I install the new iTunes on my new PC and then plug in my external?  If I designate the Library location in Preferences/Advanced will it play my music?  Or will I need to move the “Database” files as well?  Will this affect any of my purchased music?

Thanks so much.

Posted by Jenna on February 10, 2010 at 1:34 AM (CST)


I used to transfer my itunes library and database from my main desktop to my laptop all the time. Simply copy the music folder with all my tunes and the itunes library & XML file to the same location on the laptop… BINGO mirror image & worked flawlessly. But my main computer died and has been replaced with a Win 7 box. Now when I use the same process my laptop (Win XP) cant find the tunes..and I’m not goin to manually browse for 5000 songs so is there an easy way to fix? not sure if this article is the answer and before I try this thought I’d ask. Cheers!

Posted by Mark on February 10, 2010 at 6:42 PM (CST)


I did this, and all music is fine, but i lost all my iPhone apps and when i drag them to iTunes it comes up with error (-50) which is not good at all!!!!
HELP because I have alot of apps from different accounts and really dont want to have to download them all again!!!!

Posted by matt on February 11, 2010 at 10:07 AM (CST)


Hi, Jesse.

I used this article when I got a hard drive months ago.Everything worked flawlessly. Thanks!

This past week, though, my computer got a virus and had to be wiped. I reinstalled iTunes and everything appeared to be in order (music, videos, playlists were all visible). iTunes cannot locate any of the music though.

Can you help me direct iTunes to the path to my hard drive? Thank you so much.

Posted by Ashley on February 12, 2010 at 11:04 AM (CST)


I have my old ipod and i want to sync it with my new mac book pro. 
problem 1:
i have no access to the old itunes on the old computer. 
problem 2:
I have shared music on my ipod that i know will not transfer once i click “sync” 
...what to do?

Posted by Michael Cappozzo on February 12, 2010 at 3:44 PM (CST)


Hello.I’ve tried to add songs from Music folder to the I Tunes library but had the “could not locate"problem.Followed your advice and when I came to the step where should consolidate my library did not gave me the next step/window.Please help.Thank you

Posted by Alex on February 12, 2010 at 10:56 PM (CST)


hi. great article, it was more than helpful. but i still have a big problem.
everytime i open itunes it says my media folder is still located in the computers internal drive instead of the external drive i’ve backed everything up on. im just a little worried since im dealing with 44 gbs of music. please help.

Posted by Logan Trimm on February 17, 2010 at 4:19 PM (CST)



Your article is great but I believe I have an issue that you may not have covered and if you did it may have gon over my head lol.  I have itunes on my pc with all of the songs (over 28,000) backed up on an external hard drive.  The location of where the songs were going to (the hard drive) was always (G:).  Somehow, the external became (H:) and I since have been unable to play any of my music.  I get an error message saying file not found.  I went to edit—>preferences—>advanced and changed the file location to H and I still cannot play any music, is there an easy solution to my problem?

Posted by Danny on February 17, 2010 at 10:44 PM (CST)


Itunes is the most irritating roundabout I have ever encountered in the history of computers (and examples are legion). Erased songs, duplicated songs, songs with erased names, compulsory use… itunes is the closest we’ve been to Orwell’s big brother (well, google’s watching you too), and I wouldn’t be surprised something worse is boiling up in the evil-minds of mac-osoft (after all they were old friends, Bill Gates and the rotten apples).

Posted by Perico de los Palotes on February 18, 2010 at 7:05 AM (CST)


I don’t know whether this will make sense. I hope it does, because I sure need help. Most of the music that I listen to nowadays is live concerts that, as bittorrents, I legally downloaded from dimeadozen. They are flac files that I then convert to mp3s for burning to CD or listening on my iPod. I had an iMac that was about 5-6 years old. All of these concerts—thousands—were stored on an external hard drive.  This worked fine.  I had a iTunes library on the external hard drive, kept the iTunes library folders carefully organized, and had no problem using that external folder as my library.  Then, on Monday, I got a new iMac and, in dragged the external folder over to iTunes in the advanced preferences window, saying, in essence, that that’s where my iTunes music is.  Well, to make a long story short, doing this deleted almost all of my external folders (the names of them) and left me with thousands and thousands of disorganized songs. And since the folders were carefully named by me, but given the bittorrent origins, there were a zillion tracks 1’s, track 2’s, track 3’s, etc., I’ve lost use of almost everything.  The only saving grace, if there is one, is that I still have many of the bittorrent folder and so, in concept, I can rebuild this iTunes library over time.  My bottom-line is that I don’t want this to happen again—where I tell the computer where the iTunes folder is and then it garbles the folder beyond recognition/use.  From this article, I gather that I make sure that “Keep iTunes Media folder organized” and “Copy files to iTunes Media folder ...” are NOT checked.  But what else do I do to point iTunes to the (new) iTunes folder that I will (now) create on my hard drive without allowing or causing my computer to rejigger and ruin this iTunes library?  This must be possible, as this is what I did with my old iMac without incident.  Now, however, I must have done something differently and horribly wrong, and after the trauma of losing years of effort in one fell swoop, I just want to make sure that whatever I do now is bullet-proof.  Thanks so much, and sorry about the length of the message.

Posted by RonnieO on February 18, 2010 at 10:35 AM (CST)


Fantastic article, but it was probably written before my situation arose.  I have ‘traded up’ my old laptop with Vista, to one with Windows 7.  What specific steps do I need to take to move everything over without issue?  I have an external drive available if necessary, and connect to iTunes through an iPhone.

Any help would be appreciated!

Posted by Anne M. on February 20, 2010 at 10:22 AM (CST)


I bought a new computer and installed the latest version of iTunes (9) and took my old hard drive with my iTunes library and made an external hard drive out of it by installing it into an enclosure with USB 2 connection. Without transferring the content of the old iTunes library to my new hard drive, can I get the newest iTunes program to point at the old hard drive iTunes library without transferring all of the files/folders??  thanks for the assist

Posted by Gumshoe on February 20, 2010 at 1:48 PM (CST)


Thank you for the great instructions.  There were complete and easy to understand.  Worked perfectly the first time!

I appreciate the time you took to do this well.

Posted by C L Cooper on February 22, 2010 at 6:52 AM (CST)


Followed all the steps to move my iTunes library from my old 70 GB HD to my new 500 GB HD. Worked fine, untill I reopened iTunes. Everything was gone, it was like it was my first time using iTunes :( Help!

Posted by David Emanuel on February 23, 2010 at 2:54 AM (CST)


Thank you,Thank you,Thank you,Thank you!!
You saved my musical life!!!!!!!

Posted by Paul on February 23, 2010 at 9:27 AM (CST)


I have just purchased the new Ibook as I am about to leave my current job where I have a HP Laptop that has all my itunes.  I have synct my ipod and all data is on the ipod.
I want to get my playlist over to my new ibook and then delete content from the hp laptop can anyone assist.

Posted by David Ward on February 23, 2010 at 9:26 PM (CST)


I was able to transfer my songs from my old computer to my new one, but I can’t get new songs to download on to my iPod…My iPod only has the content from my old computer. The old one’s shot, so there’s no hope for that, so how am I to get new songs on my iPod? Thanks.

Posted by Madison on February 24, 2010 at 7:46 AM (CST)


I bought a new internal hard drive for my MacBook Pro a while ago. Before transferring my library it was transferred to an external Hard Drive. Then once the library was transfered into the new internal hard drive from the external, a lot of files are unable to locate on my Mac but, only when the external is plugged in can those files play. Otherwise i have to manually locate them. what should i do? Should i delete my entire library and dump my external back into my itunes music folder consolidated? Please help me on this.. It’s killing me when i have to DJ!! Thank you!

Posted by DJ Prestige on February 24, 2010 at 3:54 PM (CST)


Please help me move data from my IPOD to a new computer, my old computer crashed with all of my IPOD data. I need to set up new audiobook & music libraries from my actual IPOD to my new computer. HELP, HEPL!!

Posted by Loretta on February 27, 2010 at 5:09 PM (CST)


The one line in your excellent article helped me: Since iTunes copies the media content rather than moving it, you will probably also want to delete your iTunes media files from their original locations.
By knowing this I was able to delete all the files sitting outside itunes music and free up lots of space.
Can this be made to happen automatically when I rip a CD. Also I was not given the option of “Update to itunes organisation” only that of consolidate my library. Why was that? Thanks again VERY much

Posted by Andrew on February 28, 2010 at 4:37 PM (CST)


This tutorial worked perfect for my move to a new hardrive.  There are other tutorials out there that didn’t work for me.  This was spot-on!

Posted by Scott on March 5, 2010 at 2:06 AM (CST)


I’m lost.
My music folder is not in the itunes media folder. Either is the xml and the date on the xml is wrong.
how can I fix?
thank you in advance for any help!!!!!

Posted by ann on March 5, 2010 at 1:00 PM (CST)


Any suggestions on moving some, but not all files to a new drive? I have upgraded to a bigger external drive, but neither the original or the new drive are large enough to house all my music.

Posted by Alan on March 8, 2010 at 7:47 PM (CST)


my old computer crashed i have itunes on my new computer and have also downloaded music from itunes on my ipod touch but i cant sync the two otherwise it says all content must be deletd if i wish to continue, i dont want to loosed all the songs i have purchased. is there anything i can do to stop this?

Posted by Anthony on March 12, 2010 at 11:09 PM (CST)


Please help!!

I copied EVERYTHING from my itunes to an external hard drive and when I plugged my ipod in it erased everything and won’t sync anything back!

Can anyone please tell me how do I get my music back on my ipod?

Posted by Deborah on March 16, 2010 at 3:37 PM (CDT)


It worked!  Thanks for the clear and concise instructions!

Posted by Trudy Jerls on March 31, 2010 at 11:16 PM (CDT)


i rly need help. i changed the itunes media folder location and tried to go on consolidaye files, and when i try to do it it keeps saying ‘there is not enough room on ‘system’ to copy all of the requested files’ my music folder is only around 5-6 gb! plz help soon =)

Posted by Kelsie on April 3, 2010 at 8:14 AM (CDT)



I have managed to get my ITunes library so that my PC and Mac now share the same one but upon loading iTunes it now takes about 20 minutes or so Updating iTunes library - why is this??


Posted by Darren Noyce on April 5, 2010 at 2:36 AM (CDT)


Thanks for posting this,I purchased a portable hard drive and moved 20gig of music and pictures with no trouble at all.thanks again

Posted by Paul Bebbington on April 6, 2010 at 5:19 PM (CDT)



I have itunes on 2 computers…a WIN 7 box and an XP box. The WIN 7 is the main itunes box but I use the XP (laptop) when traveling. I transfered the whole itunes folder from the WIN 7 box to the XP and the music is all there and plays (no broken links) but my playlists didnt update? they are listed but not 100% up to date. any ideas?

Posted by Mark on April 10, 2010 at 2:25 PM (CDT)



Posted by GREG PEGUES on April 10, 2010 at 5:41 PM (CDT)


I want to move all of my itune songs onto my external hardrive but still leave them on my computer. I want to do this so that i can listen to them on my xbox 360 while playing my games. A new update came out so that you can use you usb drives on your 360 mine is 500gb so i definatley have enough room to take all my music. I just dont want to move it then have it all deleted from my itunes libaray

Posted by Brock on April 10, 2010 at 8:56 PM (CDT)



I have all of my iTunes media on an eternal hard drive.  I take my laptop with me some times and it’d be nice to play a movie or some music when I’m on the road.  I’d like to be able to do this without storing all of my media on my laptop.  Rather, I’d like to set up a “virtual” ipod that exists only on my laptop so that I can copy some of the songs that I assign to that “virtual” ipod and play them when I’m on the road….

Has anyone seen something like this?

Posted by Sean on April 11, 2010 at 7:49 PM (CDT)


Thanks for the advice. Worked great for me.

Posted by Olly W on April 14, 2010 at 5:55 PM (CDT)


I am trying to move my iTunes Library to an external drive and have followed the directions in your article clearly. I am trying to move a 53 GB Library to a 1TB external. I keep getting an error that there is not enough disk space. Trying the same thing with a freshly reformatted 250 GB drive gives me the same error message. I am working on an iMac. Any clue why? Thanks.

Posted by Greg on April 15, 2010 at 2:14 PM (CDT)


I want share the library between Windows 7 and Vista, both using iTune9. However, the itune in Vista PC can not read the library that copy from the iTunes 9 (64bit)from the Windows 7 PC. How can I do this? Besides, any way to syn the iTune library and datablse between 2 PC?

Posted by wily on April 16, 2010 at 11:34 PM (CDT)


I moved my entire itunes library on my internal hard drive to an external hard drive after reading up on it from you and it worked flawlessly.
Everything has been okay till a couple of days ago i started to see exclamation marks on almost everything when i opened up itunes to sync to my ipod. I panicked but later checked to find that my external hard drive that i transferred to, had moved from an “F” to a “G”. When i did the transfer, it was to the external hard drive Lacie (F:), but all of a sudden it changed on it’s own to Lacie (G:) I have tried everything to get it back to an “F” but no way? Please help!!!

Posted by Torie on April 17, 2010 at 9:13 PM (CDT)


I upgraded to the latest iTunes two weeks ago.I changed the directory to the one I have the data F: My ipod started to make problems. I tried to restore it.The system said: disk is full. I realized that iTunes changed itunes file to the one for default C:/user…  I have all my music in a hard drive F:
Uncomprenssible, but it deleted like 2000 songs…. Alleatorilly deleted them. They are not in the hard drive F: where are they?????? HELP!!!!

Posted by pepito2003 on April 19, 2010 at 9:56 AM (CDT)


@ Anthony March 12, 2010

To get songs off of your old ipod, uninstall itunes, then plug in your ipod. Your computer will recognize it as an external HD. Open that folder and make the hidden folders visible. There should be a folder called “iPod Control,” open it and then you’ll see a music folder. Open the music folder, and drag all of the files/folders into a folder on your computers HD. The files will all have 4 letter names/numbers, but don’t worry about that. After everything transfers to your computer, reinstall itunes, then select the add folder option in the file menu, and select the folder you place your ipods files. Everything will import to your library with all of its tags already in place. Hope that helps. David

Posted by David on April 21, 2010 at 1:49 PM (CDT)


I’m a new ipod touch user ipod library is located on my pc where as all my WMA music files are on an external hard drive, I’ve read various web pages and bought the dummies book but cannot see any specific reference on how to get itunes to see my hard drive. Will i need to import all the WMA files into itunes on my pc before transferring them back to the external hard drive, sory if this is a dim question but I’ve been struggling for weeks trying to resolve this

Posted by Barry Thomas on April 23, 2010 at 7:23 PM (CDT)


I’m pretty sure my issue is not that uncommon. My original ipod just got wrecked by water. I bought a new ipod but havent taken it out of the package yet because before I do and connect it to my computer I was looking for instructions on how to get my itunes library onto the new ipod. I guess my question is if I just plug the new one into the computer with my itunes library will it auto sync and put all my songs on the new ipod?

Posted by Joe May on April 25, 2010 at 7:01 PM (CDT)


I followed the tutorial directions to the T and everything seemed to work fine. However, when I deleted several files from my internal drive, I noticed that the same files were gone from the external drive that I had just moved them to. PANIC! Then I discovered that I didn’t lose them. Since everything was COPIED to the external drive, the original files still exist in the original location. I now have to figure out how to put them back into the new location. I wish to empty the internal drive’s iTunes library to free up space for more music. How do I do this without losing everything I now have?

Posted by steve on April 26, 2010 at 11:18 AM (CDT)


I hate this!!! It was so much easier with PC! Arg!

Posted by Liz on April 27, 2010 at 3:27 AM (CDT)


It shouldn’t be this hard.  in this dy & age of throw away electronics - Apple should be prepared for people to transfer thei iLibraries in a seamless user friendly manner.
It shouldn’t matter if you own an Apple or PC.  Where ever & when ever would be the good business customer oriented approach.  Having said that wish me luck.  Here I go…. HELP!!!

Posted by Shaka Brah on April 29, 2010 at 1:15 AM (CDT)


Maybe I am just a big dummy… but…OK,

So I think I know WHERE I screwed up in this process, but I am having a devil of a time recovering, and I think it should be easy to recover, and I am wondering what I am missing/forgetting.

I have two external firewire drives, one is a 500GB MyBook and the other is a 1TB LaCie.  I decided this week to move my iTunes Media AND library AND xml DB from the MyBook to the LaCie to allow for more growth. 

Steps taken:

1. I copied the WHOLE shebang over.  I copied the entire “Music” folder to the LaCie, including all the media files, the DB, the Library file and everything else in there…
2. I launched iTunes from the NEWLY copied Library file (this is the mistake) in the hopes to “point” it to the new LaCie.  It went through the “Update Library” process which I should have known was an error.
3. After it was done, I “pointed” the library to the NEW location (LaCie)


I looked in iTunes in my music library and noticed that when I sorted by “Date Added” NO files were listed as “added” since 2008 - which is wrong, I have added at least 150 GB of music and video since then.  Additionally, in looking at my playlists, I noticed none that were created in the last year or two - which is also wrong.

Solution 1:

So I simply copied the OLD xml DB and library files from the MyBook BACK into the LaCie.  I then looked in Finder and saw that they were tagged as being modified a month ago - which is about right.

Problem 2:

EVERY time I click that library, it begins the “Update Library” routine and ends up with the old database referenced above.  I then checked in Finder and see that it is now listed as modified as of today.

Solution 2:

Forget the LaCie!  Let’s just go back to the way it was….  I disconnect the LaCie, go to a BACKUP copy (of about a month ago) of the iTunes folder, restore the XML, and Library files to the MyBook, then launch iTunes from the restored Library file

Problem 3:

Defying all logic, it does the SAME FREAKING thing.  “Updates” the Library and goes back to this ancient library/database/media selection/playlists…

I can’t figure it out…

Posted by Max Carratura on April 29, 2010 at 11:33 AM (CDT)


So I haven’t figured out what I need to do in my situation. My computer died about 6 months ago. I had music that I purchased through iTunes. Obviously, I can’t access that anymore. However, I still have all this music on my ipod and wanted to put it into my new iTunes library. How can I access my iTunes account with the music I have purchased and how do I get my new library to accept the music from my ipod?

Posted by sQuEaKs on May 1, 2010 at 11:40 AM (CDT)


I had just bought my iPod last year along with my laptop. I bought music from the iTune’s store spending only about $60. Not long after, my laptop completely broke. I have no backup memory of anything that was on my laptop before. And I was wondering if iTunes still had memory from the music I had bought before.

I use my mom’s laptop now, and I downloaded iTunes onto it. It says theres an error everytime I try to log onto my account through “Home Sharing” and the iTune’s Store.

I don’t want to sync on new music because it says that all my old music will be erased.
Is there anything i can do?

Posted by Jennifer Diamond on May 2, 2010 at 1:16 PM (CDT)


I am trying to inport a 400G back up of my music library into a new machine from an external hard drive.  In the process about 300G of songs keep getting reclasified into an unknown artist/unknown album file. all reference to the artist and album are lost.  The music seems to be the stuff I origionaly loaded off CD’s in WAV format.

Posted by Tony on May 2, 2010 at 5:57 PM (CDT)


my Ipod this error. and it have messaging [An unknown error occurred(-48)]
how to repair ipod nano

Posted by oukdara on May 5, 2010 at 10:25 AM (CDT)


on a mac, applescript can change the location of files. I moved from one hard drive to another, and don’t want to reconsolidate the library because i have a custom (applescript) solution. Applescript can (and will) go through the whole library and change the location (just hard-drive name) of them. It will take a Very Long Time - maybe 10-20 hours. (for 200gb). Worth mentioning in this Excellent article. See “dougs applescript for itunes” - a website dedicated to scripts. I’m sure he has one…

Posted by inteblio on May 5, 2010 at 4:08 PM (CDT)


also - I’m moving itunes from one HD to another. So i copied everything over (music + libraries), set the ‘media place’ to be the new one - nothing. Then i un-mounted the old HD using disk utility (on mac). Magically, all the songs were re-pathed to their new home. Works great. Lovely.

Posted by inteblio on May 6, 2010 at 5:45 AM (CDT)


your article is awesome….......but, what happens if you have moved one of the (or many??) itunes files prior to finding this article.  I was able to retrieve all the music and that is working - however, playcount and ratings are all gone.  Any way to recover that??  thanks!!

Posted by Annie on May 11, 2010 at 8:16 AM (CDT)


Solid article, thanks for the better than the manual explanation. Consolidating ~2TB library spread over 4 disks to a nice, cozy and roomy 6TB RAID 5 array. On the slow train to paradise, finally letting iTunes handle the organisation of my media library. I am glad iTunes is finally segmenting my media into proper folders instead of all of it into a catch all music folder. Curious when Apple will re-invent the iTunes brand name to better suit it’s functionality? It is one of the best “free” apps there is going now.

Posted by Rex on May 18, 2010 at 9:24 AM (CDT)


QUESTION - My iTunes content is stored on an external hard drive that has more or less died, so I’m not able to use the Consolidate method.  Fortunately, I have Time Machine running, so everything is backed up on a 2nd external hard drive.  I tried using the Database moving method, by copying my entire iTunes folder into the base folder of my functioning external hard drive, with the intent of using this as my new music storage location.

I shut down iTunes, then option+click to open it, get the Choose iTunes Library popup window, and navigate to choose the folder location.  When iTunes loads, it only sees about 6500 of the 12000+ songs, and as such a bunch of my playlists are missing.  I’ve double-checked the iTunes folder, and every song is in there.

Any idea why this would happen, and how I can get all of my music to load?  I really, REALLY don’t want to have to delete everything and then copy every song into iTunes again.  Actually, that part isn’t too bad, it’s the part where I’d have to manually rebuild every playlist…


Posted by Stack on May 20, 2010 at 8:35 AM (CDT)


Worked for me. Just wished I’d read the instructions before trying to move my library to an external h/d!!!

Posted by graham on May 29, 2010 at 3:48 PM (CDT)


What do I do if there is not enough room on my core hard drive to complete the Consolidate Files procedure?

Posted by Alan Wagman on June 6, 2010 at 9:02 PM (CDT)


I am moving to a new iMac from my G5. I want to only move my music and not all of the movies. I’m leaving the movies on the G5 and it’s acting as a server. How can I move just the music and podcasts and leave some of the movies?

Posted by Jim Felder on June 7, 2010 at 8:00 AM (CDT)


Hi i have a problem, some how all my info on my itunes library is gone. My sister tried to plug my mothers iphone in the computer and synced it. Some how she did something and now all the music.videos,apps ext is gone. I dnt know what she did she doesnt know but somehow all the info was erased. Maby she started a new library or something. I cant find my old library. I have all my music vides and app on my ipod touch. I dont know if when i plug in my ipod it will dlete it all. It sayss its synced with another computer or librar. The options are to eras ans sync or transfer. I dont know if it will only transfer my apps or what. Will it transfer my music and vids to? Can u help me?

Posted by Alex on June 9, 2010 at 11:53 AM (CDT)


Wow. TMI for me. I am trying to get my iPhone to sync to my new Windows 7 computer. My previous computer’s OS is Vista. How can I get my playlists to sync to my iPhone on my new computer? I was able to copy over all my music files from my old computer and import them into my new computer and iTunes (put all the files onto a flash drive, then just dropped the entire “Music” folder onto iTunes.) But, none of the play lists show up, of course. I’ve authorized this computer, so my apps will sync, but it’s the play lists I want to have show up on my new pc. Can someone help me get the library and db over from my Vista pc to my new Windows 7 pc?

Posted by Patty S. on June 9, 2010 at 4:45 PM (CDT)


Okay so I went to both my laptops and went to file>library>organize library and clicked upgrade to itunes media organization. After doing this, I dragged the iTunes Music folder on a hard drive then replaced the old “iTunes Music” folder on my new laptop. This transfered all the songs but I still have no iPhone apps or backup files. Did I do something wrong? am I supposed to consolidate my library first also?

Posted by caleb on June 9, 2010 at 4:46 PM (CDT)


First off, thanks for a great article. Made a lot of sense and will definitely help me sort out my current issue. One question I have before I try it - the path to my external hard drive is different on my PC (it’s K:\) and my laptop (E:\). Is that going to mess me up if I want to run my library off the external drive now (since my laptop can’t hold my entire library)?

Thanks for any help

Posted by Mike on June 9, 2010 at 11:21 PM (CDT)


Lots of very interesting comments and a very informative article, but how come there are no answers to all of the comments? What good does it do to post a question, if you don’t get an answer?  Puzzled


Posted by Mark on June 13, 2010 at 8:50 PM (CDT)


I recently had to reformat my computer, but managed to save my iTunes library. After I downloaded iTunes onto my new OS, I spent hours trying to get iTunes to read from my old iTunes folder that I had on my secondary hard drive. NOTHING worked until I held down the SHIFT key (while iTunes was starting up) like this article said to under “Moving the Library Database”. THANK YOU SO MUCH! I even called the Apple help hotline last time this happened, and they ended up hanging up on me because they didn’t know how to do it!

Posted by Paige on June 14, 2010 at 3:27 PM (CDT)


This information was phenomenal. I was doubting myself the entire way, but it worked great. I transfered a 200gig library to another hard drive, and it worked perfectly. I had to stop a couple of times and figure things out, but other than that it worked fine. You may have to put some independent thought into some of the steps, but it wasn’t too difficult, and I am just a novice. Thank you very much.

Posted by Ken Schwall on June 19, 2010 at 5:44 PM (CDT)


Great article, very helpful but I could not find an answer to my question… Can I use backup disks made using itunes backup feature on my old computer to transfer my music to a new computer with itunes installed ? Thanks for your help, much appreciated

Posted by Ron Walz on June 21, 2010 at 11:21 AM (CDT)


hi, i want to copy my videos from my ipod down to my computer, is it possible?

Posted by sheila on June 25, 2010 at 8:04 PM (CDT)


Thanks a lot,

Your super article helped me move my iTunes media to a new computer and after that from one partition to a new one in the same computer.  It is a great tutorial, Thank you!


Posted by Jean-François on June 27, 2010 at 10:29 PM (CDT)


A part of the problem #287 can be resolved by renaming your’s laptop “E”-Drive to a “K”-drive with disk management.

Posted by WJ on June 28, 2010 at 5:05 PM (CDT)


I have a 500GB External.  I would like to add all of its music contents into the iTunes library.  It seems to take FOREVER>  Maybe I am going about it the wrong way.  I click on File then add folder to library.  It says it is copying?  Is it possible to lessen my wait or am i doing somethign wrong?  Any help would be appreciated!!!

Posted by Ron on June 30, 2010 at 10:47 PM (CDT)


Today i merged two partitions, the one in which i had my itunes library with the system one, but forgot about itunes completely.

Anyway, this worked for me.

I created a backup of my library, getting a xml file.
Deleted every playlist and song.
Opened the “library.xml” i just got, with a text editor.
    You’ll notice every song has the old path of the music folder.
Then i just replaced the old path with the new one. For example, i replaced:

“file://Volumes/Old_volume/mymusicfolder” with “file://Volumes/New_volume/mymusicfolder”

It might take a while, since in my case it was a 10 mb. file. When done, save the xml file, and import back into itunes.


Posted by Rafael Miranda on July 3, 2010 at 6:14 PM (CDT)



There is a much simple way of managing your own library not needing to to rely in iTunes, or relinking tune by tune at each major location changes.

1 - In your iTunes folder you have the file called “ITunes Music Library.xml”
2 - Every tune has a tag called location. Open this xml file in a text editor, use the functionality “find and replace”.
    Eg: replace all “/500HD/” by “/timeCapsule/”
3- Go to iTunes, select option ‘import playlist’ (file > library), point it to the refurbished xml, and done!

*this will work if you do have a library xml, which until iTunes 9 they all had it

Posted by Mario Vieira on July 4, 2010 at 6:24 AM (CDT)


Thanks! I initially just swapped the files from the full HD to the new T2 one. Took me 6 hours, but my library was ruined. I deleted all the iTunes stuff, and tried again. Now I have my old library back. Still quite a bit of art work missing (my ‘stamp collection’) but hey, better than starting all over again, like 2 years ago. The only thing: my apps didn’t port to the new library. What’s your advice here? If I sync now, I probably lose my apps… Anyone?

Posted by Pjong on July 5, 2010 at 3:51 PM (CDT)


Doesn’t work moving backed up/consolidated iTunes folder from external HD into iTunes V9 on Windows 7. Too many missing pieces, needs updating. Please Fix It!

Posted by Ian Daniel on July 10, 2010 at 11:27 AM (CDT)


Very helpful walkthrough! Thank you very much for posting it.

Posted by Eric Piotrowski on July 11, 2010 at 9:17 PM (CDT)

Page 3 of 5 pages  < 1 2 3 4 5 > 

If you have a comment, news tip, advertising inquiry, or coverage request, a question about iPods/iPhones/iPad or accessories, or if you sell or market iPod/iPhone/iPad products or services, read iLounge's Comments + Questions policies before posting, and fully identify yourself if you do. We will delete comments containing advertising, astroturfing, trolling, personal attacks, offensive language, or other objectionable content, then ban and/or publicly identify violators.

Commenting is not available in this channel entry.
Sign up for the iLounge Weekly Newsletter


Recent News

Recent Reviews

Recent Articles

Sign up for the iLounge Weekly Newsletter


iLounge is an independent resource for all things iPod, iPhone, iPad, and beyond.
iPod, iPhone, iPad, iTunes, Apple TV, Mac, and the Apple logo are trademarks of Apple Inc.
iLounge is © 2001 - 2014 iLounge, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Terms of Use | Privacy Policy