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



First, hats off and thousand thanks to JD Hollington - superb guide! Wasn’t entirely painless - ran into same quandary as Inteblio (277), i.e. iTunes sourced songs from both old and new drives. Drove me mad, until I read Inteblio’s solution. Brilliant. Guess iTunes was confused, and unmounting the old drive cleared its head. Keep it up, JD!

Posted by Thor-Jürgen on July 17, 2010 at 9:08 AM (CDT)


I got the Operating system on my computer reinstalled because my computer became too slow after virus attacks. Before i reinstalled the OS i copied my iTunes library on to a flash drive. It has 2000+ audio,video files. My audio video files are in Drives D,E,F. And the re-installation process deletes only the files in C drive. Now after reinstalling i ve got all my audio video files in D,E,F woeking fine. And i copied my iTunes library from flash drive n put em back in the exact same location on my computer where i copied it from before reinstalling OS. And i tried to import my playlist n i have’nt got any luck. Pl someone help me.

Posted by Ram on July 18, 2010 at 1:10 PM (CDT)


This was a great informative site, I moved my itunes “media” (something I learned) to my external hard drive and the instructions on this site were awesome.  Thank you for whoever put it all together.  I will give this site to any that has questions about iTunes.

Posted by Melissa on July 19, 2010 at 3:39 PM (CDT)


Thanks for this treasure-trove of info, I just have one question. I attempted to transfer my iTunes library from one computer to another using an external hardrive. I was sure that I followed all the necessary steps, but I probably messed up somewhere in the process, because upon transfering my library to my new computer, all the necessary folders, cover art, etc., were present, but none of my songs. Any help would be greatly appreciated.thx

Posted by rgman on July 26, 2010 at 4:17 PM (CDT)


Hi. I formated (accidentally) my external HD which had all my music, movies and the itunes library. I am using a iPad which has all the content. I dont want to connect it to my computer since it might delete the content in the ipad. I do have a back up of the library which is a little old. Is there a way to link this library n get itunes to update it with the one I have backed up without removing any content from my iPad??..

Posted by Cham Kawshal on July 28, 2010 at 8:48 AM (CDT)


By comparing libraries side by side, it seems as though I transferred my music library from a PC to iMac successfully using an external drive; however, when I try to update the iPhone software in iTunes its giving the message, “there are purchased items on your iPhone that have not been transferred to your iTunes library”...What do I do?  How can I tell what those purchases are?  I’m afraid to sync my music until I figure it out.

Posted by Christine on August 14, 2010 at 1:52 PM (CDT)


Can I transfer my itunes library from one computer to another if my old computer that has the library on it doesn’t have the internet? I have watched ALL the videos online on my new computer and tried them all but none of them work and I think it is because my old computer doesn’t have the internet anymore. I need help! Please help me! If you can that would be awesome! I need my library on my new itunes! Please read this and help me! Thank you so much.

Posted by Catherine on August 14, 2010 at 5:01 PM (CDT)


My iTunes lost it’s trail to all of the content, I have no idea how this happend. 
All of my media is stored in iTunes folders and still their well and fine. But when I open iTunes it’s empty and the location to the library went back to it’s default location. So I tryed changing the location back to iTunes music or just the drive, and nothing happens no conection. Can you help please?

Posted by Greylin on August 15, 2010 at 5:06 AM (CDT)


Worked a charm. Copied my library from a XP computer to a windows 7 machine. The steps are easy: 1. make sure that everything is consolidated, and you know where your music is. 2. copy the music folder to the new machine, maintaining the same path. 3. Copy the library to the new machine, you can then load this library by holding shift and selecting the library. Easy as that.

Posted by TK on August 15, 2010 at 3:40 PM (CDT)


Hi, I would really appreciated any help. I think I have followed the self help guide to the letter (v well written) but to no avail. I moved my itunes songs file completely off my laptops harddrive to an external drive. I then copied the songs back onto my music file on my laptop. i went throught the steps of redirecting the filepath so iTunes knows where the songs are, I reorganised etc etc however it doesnt want to recognise that that songs are now present in either my internal or external harddrive (I have tried to nominare either as my itunes media folder.) anyone know what i am doing wrong??

Posted by simon young on August 18, 2010 at 1:01 AM (CDT)


I have an Ipod that was set up on a mac.  I now use windows xp with my pc.  I no longer have access to the hard drive where the songs were stored and I would like to reformat my Ipod to a pc setup.  Is there any way to download the 750 songs from my ipod to the computer, reformat the ipod, then reinstall them?  Thanks!

Posted by Karl on August 24, 2010 at 12:09 AM (CDT)


First of all, want to say THANK YOU to the author for taking the time to write this and give the background. This way, I didn’t delete things I wasn’t supposed to.

My advice to everyone, once you have it figured out is to have good file organization practices. Me personally, I make sure my iTunes music folder is CLEAN. This means no duplicates and I make sure my files and named correctly and not have my own folder. Stick to the iTunes folder system, its very organized and makes transferring easy.

Also, rename your files so they aren’t retarted! When your iTunes re-sources the files, it makes things easier. I only had a few discrepancies with re-linking but most of it transferred.

Posted by ruth on August 24, 2010 at 3:31 PM (CDT)


Worked fine, many thanks for the knowledge all files moved succesfully to my ext hard drive

Posted by dave on August 28, 2010 at 8:43 AM (CDT)


Thanks for the instructions. I was intending to transfer my music to an external hard drive. However, having read these posts I still have trepidation about the process since I have 40 Gb of music and I’ve made many alterations to the tracks (text, file names/folders, volume adjustments…). If it does go wrong, can the original path be located? Also, how is the library backed up once the iTunes folder is essentially “split” between the computer and external drive?

Posted by Snowy on September 3, 2010 at 6:53 AM (CDT)


This is a good article, however, I’m having trouble shifting my music to a 32GB SD drive only moved 560 out os 2200 songs.
I am using WIN7 PRO and iTunes9.215.
Any help or links to additional tutorials or fixes would be greatly appreciated.

Posted by Stefano Piviali on September 3, 2010 at 10:13 AM (CDT)


I have a problem that isn’t covered by the guide here:
I completley manage my music-library by myself (and I want it to keep that way), because it has a structure, grown over many years, that I prefer to work with. Everything is on an external harddrive - and now I want to move it to another external harddrive without losing my playcounts and so on. I mirrored my music folder (since I want to keep the old drive as a backup) and now I simply want Itunes to use the new location. I’ve even tried to manually change the iTunes Music Library.xml. But this doesn’t seem to work - it will only play my songs if I reconnect the old drive.
What did I do wrong and what can I do to fix this?

Posted by Locutus on September 5, 2010 at 5:24 AM (CDT)


Follow the instuctions to move my iTunes to a new laptop.  Worked wonderfully!

Many thanks,


Posted by Charles Farley on September 7, 2010 at 7:18 AM (CDT)


I failed to say that I went to the Apple web site followed the directions from Apple to switch to a new PC.  I got a fatal error message and only 1/3 of the music was transfered.

Posted by Dave on September 7, 2010 at 11:45 AM (CDT)


What about your Playlist folders I have 3 iphone so every one have their own diff music

Posted by Elizabeth Gourneau on September 7, 2010 at 1:34 PM (CDT)


Wow, the web site manager removed my post????
I did not swear nor day anything in poor taste.  The only thing I suggested was that we should consider how hard it is to use the product for the end results, being mostly music.  I say maybe (not necessarily) suggest an MP3. 

Please remove my post #318 if you can’t keep my previous post.  This confirms that the MP3 is probably a better solution, why I am being edited for nothing.

Posted by Dave on September 8, 2010 at 1:37 PM (CDT)


Can’t seem to find an answer anywhere for my issue. I have 2 computers, an iMac and a Mac brrok pro. Both of which have VERY VERY large iTunes library’s. now the iMac has a lot more movies, and both have LOTS of music that the other does not have. And I mean LOTS!! between them I have discography’s for just about every known band/group/singer/rapper from the 60’s till today, and more tomorrow! I want to get all my music, movies, PLAYLIST, etc. off one computer and on to the other. Is there a way to do this? I love Mac but when it comes down to having to do things like this they are absolutly HORRIBLE, not so much mac but using iTunes which sucks when you want to do normal things or move stuff yourself, its nothing like winamp and PC’s. Please help me I have YEARS! of time and money sunk in to both of these library’s. And am afraid of ending up with 10-20,000 duplicates yet both computers probly have that same amount of songs, movies, iPhone APPS, etc of their own that the other does not have!!

Posted by Michael Thompson on September 16, 2010 at 12:52 PM (CDT)


Cheers. Great tips which saved me removing my hair.

Posted by Tom on September 18, 2010 at 6:55 PM (CDT)


my itunes library and ipod were working just fine until this weekend. however i went to recharge my ipod and now i get an error message that says there is a problem and 55 songs cannot be transferred. i click the tab and it says thet the following songs are not authorized to play on this computer(they WERE before!). so go to itunes store, select “authorize this computer” and it says “this computer is already authorized”...grrrrr! i still cant get these songs BACK onto my ipod! any ideae?

Posted by andee on September 21, 2010 at 2:50 PM (CDT)


Hi, I have a problem with my itunes and was wondering if you could help?

I recently got a new laptop and had to move my itunes onto it from my old laptop.  I authorised the new laptop to take my purchases from my ipod, which it did.  My music was already on my old laptop so I burned it all to data cds which I then imported onto my itunes library. However my itunes wont let me sync this music to my ipod again and it now has no music on it….

Posted by sarah on September 22, 2010 at 10:45 AM (CDT)


Thanks so much for a very informative article. I have been agonising over how to transfer my library and contents from my old Windows XP / iTunes 7 laptop to my new Windows 7 / iTunes 10 computer. Fortunately, following your advice, it all went smoothly!

The only small problem I incurred was the fact that my external hard drive was on different drive letters (E: on the old laptop and H:) on the new one, but that I could solve quite easily by changing the iTunes Music library location in the Advanced Preferences on the new computer.

Thanks again!

Posted by Denise on September 23, 2010 at 12:08 PM (CDT)


This article is so hard to sift through. I don’t think there is enough explicit information on what exactly maintains the ratings system and other personalised data, and how to successfully transfer that.

Posted by David Buckeridge on September 27, 2010 at 8:21 AM (CDT)


100 posts, most of them questions or deep gratitude… shows just how bad mac os is designed… to move a media library… shows that it’s still good ol’ linux running under the hood… LOL

Posted by mac-hater on September 28, 2010 at 4:46 PM (CDT)


Oh, strike that, 327 posts… to move files around without having them disappear? :-P
Windows is ugly as hell but can at least do the basics…

Posted by mac-hater on September 28, 2010 at 4:48 PM (CDT)


im having trouble exporting itunes playlists from windows xp itunes to windows 7 itunes?

can anyone help!?

Posted by Michael Würtz on September 29, 2010 at 11:29 AM (CDT)


absolutely crystal clear article - an epiphany for me thanks!

Posted by pascal on October 1, 2010 at 6:19 PM (CDT)


For the record, just used the core of these instructions to shift and consolidate an iTunes Media library of over 150 GB from one external drive to another, and it seems to have worked perfectly.  Thanks for the extreme detail ... it really helped!

Posted by Nate on October 12, 2010 at 1:46 AM (CDT)


I have been looking for this for a long time!  It worked perfectly… who knew you had to hold shift down to select a new library?  Could have used that years ago.  Thanks!!!

Posted by flash on October 17, 2010 at 10:57 PM (CDT)


Yeay!  A fellow Rush fan!  Great article and thank you for explaining everything so well!

Posted by Michelle on October 19, 2010 at 1:26 PM (CDT)


If I consolidate and move my itunes and does my playlists still work?

How do I go about saving playlists to work again if I was to lose my itunes.

Posted by Dave on October 20, 2010 at 11:04 PM (CDT)


I have two iTunes library - one is for all songs except Holiday songs and, of course, the other library is just for my Christmas music.  Just recently I started noticing Christmas songs in with my main library.  I went to Windows Explorer and looked at the files there.  I still have a folder called iTunes and one called iTunes Christmas.  If you open the iTunes Media then Music folder under either of these (iTunes/iTunes Media/Music or iTunes Christmas/iTunes Media/Music), only the folders for the music that belongs in the individual libraries is shown.  However, if you open the iTunes Library file in the iTunes or iTunes Christmas folders (iTunes/iTunes Library or iTunes Christmas/iTunes Library), I get all of the songs mixed together.  I am unsure what caused this to happen.  I have my Christmas songs on a separate, smaller iPod and had not accessed it since last Christmas and was shocked to see these songs in my main library.  I could delete from the iTunes Christmas/iTunes Library and import or add the files back, but I am afraid I will lose all of my songs since that the Christmas library now looks just like my main library.  I’m not sure what I need to do.

Posted by B on October 22, 2010 at 2:12 AM (CDT)


does anyone know after doing the above on and external hard drive if i ever have to reinstall itunes if it will just find the new location if not how do i get itunes to find it

Posted by dan on October 29, 2010 at 11:58 PM (CDT)


For those who need to get the music off their ipods, there are programs you can buy by various companies that allow you to transfer your information back to your computer from your ipod. This is great if you don’t have your info on an external. My computer had a hard drive issue recently and this option worked beautifully.

Posted by Kira on November 9, 2010 at 12:52 AM (CST)


This is a really good explanation. Well written and thorough! Great article.

It’s silly you can’t just move the iTunes folder manually, point iTunes to the new directory in Preferences -> Advanced -> iTunes Media folder location. If all the files are in the same relative locations… it would seem to be relatively trivial for Apple to add this feature. Why no “Relocate media” button? AfterEffects, InDesign and lots of other programs can do this easily :-/

Posted by Geoffrey Hoffman on November 13, 2010 at 1:15 PM (CST)


On my Windows XP PC I have an adminstrative account set up for me and an non-adminstrative account set up for my son. The iTunes library on my administrative account is the one my son has been using and it contains his songs. I want to transfer his songs in the my adminstrative account to his non-adminstrative account esseentailly deleting all the songs in my adminstartive account. Our music taste is not the same and I’d like to have songs on the adminstrative account that are mine. Can anyone help me with this?

Posted by Mike Cope on November 14, 2010 at 5:12 PM (CST)


Here’s an easier way
1 Copy your old Itunes folder onto the new computer, using a portable hard drive or a network (change the name of the copied version to anything you like)
2 Having installed Itunes on the new computer, do the following: File/Add Folder to Libray/Select (whatever you called the origninal Itunes file) and click Select Folder. If you use a portable HD, the whole process takes less than half an hour for 30GB.
This does not include the playlists. to do that:
1 On the old PC export the playlist onto a pen drive or such.(File/Library/Export Playlist) You will get an XML document called Library
2 Copy this into the folder that contains your transfered (Renamed) Itunes folder on the new PC.
3 On the new PC do the following: (File/Library/Import Playlist) (Choosing the Library file you have copied from the original PC)
That’s it, I have only done this on computers using Windows of various versions. Hope this is useful

Posted by Andrew Hollett on November 17, 2010 at 10:54 AM (CST)


Re my previous Post
I should have said that you need to “Consolidate” the music files before you start the transfer process
To do this:
File/Library/Organise Library/Check “Consolidate Files” & click OK

Posted by Andrew Hollett on November 17, 2010 at 11:03 AM (CST)


You helped me move my husband’s library of songs back to an external drive back in 2008 and I was so great. But the one thing I didn’t have the courage to do at that time was to deleting the iTunes Media file. But now, I think I may have to because I think it’s still taking up alot hard drive space, something we bought the external drive to do in the first place. Can I still do it now and what is the exact location of the Media file? (I can’t tell with all the sub-folders!) Thanks in advance.

Posted by Carolyn on November 20, 2010 at 2:44 PM (CST)


I have recently changed jobs and have had to change computers.  I had my itunes library on an external drive.  I went to transfer my library of over 13,000 songs and a significant amount of my artwork is missing.  I did this 3 years ago with no problems.  I can’t figure out why certain albums are coming up with no artwork.  the only artwork that is there is from albums I scanned in.  I have tried almost everything.  It seems the only thing I have left is to purchase copytrans and copy my ipod directly to my new computer.  I really don’t want to waste any money if I don’t have to.  Any suggestions?

Posted by Pete Pietryka on November 27, 2010 at 11:26 PM (CST)


Have heard horror stories about transferring without Migration Assistant but the above worked flawlessly.

Transferred iTunes from old ibookG4 to new MacBookPro without Firewire using external hard drive. Thanks for the tutorial

Posted by Baz NZ on December 8, 2010 at 3:13 AM (CST)


thank you very much. This article helped me a lot. Keep up the good work.

Posted by Amit Sharma on December 10, 2010 at 10:05 AM (CST)


Thank you so much for this article! I just got a Mac and was able to easily move my entire iTunes library from my PC to the new Mac. keep up the great work!

Posted by Simon B on December 12, 2010 at 4:49 PM (CST)


moved 50,000 from an ext hard drive to another, bigger one. I get an ! on about 1,000 songs. some I can find. some I cannot. files seem to be all over the place. can someone please help.

Posted by craig on December 17, 2010 at 11:46 AM (CST)


Hi I have a question, my computer crashed
Is there any way I can access my iTunes library
From another computer? Any info would be greatly
Appreciated thanks

Posted by Oscar Gonzalez on December 22, 2010 at 10:44 AM (CST)


Got to the stage of copying the database and encountered “Unknown Error(69)”.  Using iTunes 10.  Any idea what the problem is?

Posted by Charles Washington on December 27, 2010 at 5:20 PM (CST)


Here’s a funny one. I read through as many of these comments as I could, but I did not see if anyone has addressed this topic:

When I am at home with my laptop, and I plug in my external hard drive, the computer tells me that the drive is “E:\”
When I go to work and plug the laptop into the workstation dock, it tells me that the drive is “J:\”
ITunes gets grumpy when this situation arises.
That raises a tough question for a novice to all this, as I am: Must I change thousands of music file pathways every time I use the hard drive at home or at work? I can see this getting very tiresome very quickly.

Posted by Robert MacMillan on December 28, 2010 at 11:59 AM (CST)


I have a desktop PC which currently holds my main itunes library. I have migrated said library to the external hard drive (seagate 1TB). I followed the instructions as per the video on It was easy to do. Now I am on my laptop, and I have itunes installed. I want to play all of my music and see it at once, but it’s not happening. I have set the path to see the music on my external hard drive (edit-pref-advanced-change). Here’s my opinion: I see that in the folder I sent my library to, there are other folders named and categorized by artist. I believe that the itunes on my laptop can’t see the music because it is contained in these files sorted by artist. the file depth is as follows: itunes music: artist: album: then finally, the songs.
I think itunes looks at the folder and sees other folders, then doesn’t know what to do.
Q1 is this correct?
Q2 am i supposed to see these folders like this?
Q3 is there some way that I can put all the songs to open in one folder, regardless of artist?
Thanks all ya’ll in advance for your help in this matter.

Posted by josh on January 3, 2011 at 12:06 AM (CST)


This was the most helpful thing I found on the web.

Just bought a 32g iPod Touch after losing my classic 20g. 

I moved my old .itl file under the new iTunes folder and did the iTunes restart with the “shift key” trick.  That allowed me to choose the library.  It loaded like a charm.

Now the bad news, it also deleted all my APPS and none of the music has a source and won’t play.  Too bad I sold all my CDs.  Now I have over 5,0000 songs that won’t do a bloody thing but make a nice list of music I used to have.
Good advice nontheless!  I hate Apple now. :o(

Posted by Belinda on January 3, 2011 at 3:43 PM (CST)


Use ‘home sharing’ to move music from PC to MacBook Pro.

We hooked both computers on the same wifi network, logged into the same version of Itunes with one account and turned on the home sharing. Once the PC library appeared as ‘shared’ it was easy to drag and drop the library to the MacBook. It took a while to move 50GB.

I could barely believe it was this easy after spending about 4 hours searching for and following instructions online (use ipod/external harddrive/linking computers) with no degree of success.


Posted by Martha Van Arts on January 7, 2011 at 9:11 PM (CST)


i had an old macbook but the logic board broke. i had my itunes library on an external hard drive, which i put on my new macbook pro. my whole library was transferred over, but i lost all my playlists. i have an ipod and a shuffle that i haven’t synced yet but they have all my playlists on them that i don’t want to lose. since i have all the same music on both my mac and devices, is there a way to transfer my playlists to my mac without having to erase all my music on my ipods and go through all the clicking and dragging and naming again?

Posted by kelsey on January 10, 2011 at 12:15 AM (CST)


Even though the post is older it is still very helpful!  Thanks for taking the time to help clarify some of the more confusing parts of Itunes.

Posted by Joe C on January 10, 2011 at 10:15 PM (CST)


Before I attempt the moving process described in the article I would like to ask a question:

I use a PC.  My Itunes library is already located on an external hard drive: drive(F:).  When I move it to a larger hard drive the new path from Itunes to the library will be recognized as drive(G:). But I’m assuming that whenever I plug in the new hard drive in the future, on its own without the old hard drive, the computer will recognize the new hard drive as drive(F:). Are you following me?  How will this effect the move?  Will Itunes still be able to find my library?

Posted by Travis on January 21, 2011 at 10:14 AM (CST)


It’s been a while since anyone else has posted here, but I figured I’d update the comments with my latest experience.  First of all, let me say “THANK YOU” for putting together such a concise and detailed description of the iTunes topology.  I’ve actually transferred my iTunes library no less than 6 times, each time involved quite a headache with plenty of imperfection (and I’ve learned along the way).  I have to say that this last time was the most effortless after carefully reading though your guide. :)  That being said, I still had a few (very minor) issues, but that probably has much to do with the nature of my latest library transfer.

I was transferring my iTunes library (which I’ve long since learned to keep consolidated and managed by iTunes) from an XP computer that I’d recently had to restore (this prompting my previous iTunes library revival).  With the recent addition of an Win 7 computer to the household, it was begging for yet another library transfer despite it being less than a week since I’d restored the old computer. I’d just recently upgraded to iTunes 10 on the old XP computer and was hoping to redefine the file structure under the new “media” folder format vs the older “music” one.  Unfortunately, no such option exists on the XP version of iTunes 10.  I copied the entire library and saved to the new computer under the public (shared) music library and then opened iTunes on the new computer for the first time.  I changed the directory under the advanced preferences and then conducted an “organize library” to consolidate the library to no avail (curiously, the update to iTunes media option was grayed out).  I thought about the problem for a moment and decided to change the folder name for the imported library from “music” to “media”, then linked the library location under advanced preferences and tried to complete another round of library consolidation/ media update.  No dice…  Still undaunted, I decided to just add the folder to the library. Progress!!!  As the library was updating, I had to tell it to write over (or skip, I don’t think it mattered) existing files.  Viola!  My iTunes library transfer was complete! :)  I then hooked up my iPod touch synched and transfered purchases without a hitch. :)

Oddly, I did end up with a few duplicates in the library and I also had to confirm/ skip a number of duped covers, but I think this was more of a result from my fiddling with the library’s previous location on the old XP computer (it had been dealing with some noticeable file corruption and required a manual restoration of the offending files from a back up, sadly, the old HDD is slowly giving out sector by sector, glad I had the backup!)

Long story short, alls well that ends well, time to deauthorize the other computer and my latest venture will be finished.

Posted by Eric Das Wiking on January 25, 2011 at 5:38 AM (CST)


Ha! I just noticed there were 3 other pages of comments after I posted.  Oh well, I guess the comment thread is still relevant, maybe someone else has already posted similar experiences…

Posted by Eric Das Wiking on January 25, 2011 at 5:41 AM (CST)


My sons both have separate i-tunes accounts with different e-mail addresses. We would like to combine both of these accounts into one. We want all the apps and music moved from one account to the other so that we only have one account. Is there anyway to do this so that we do not lose all of the data on one of the accounts. Thanks!

Posted by Julie Hartman on January 27, 2011 at 9:31 PM (CST)


Lovely, it worked perfectly, thank you!

Posted by Melissa on February 5, 2011 at 9:02 PM (CST)


Read the part on moving itune stuff to EXTERNAL drive.  Im getting a complete new computer built.  How do I then move the itune stuff on the EXTERNAL drive to the new computer?  The same way?  Or do I need to load itune on new machine and do some dragging and dropping or moving to new computer via new itune on new machine…?

Putting in a new SSD (solid state drive) for the C drive and DO NOT want to put any programs or files on the C drive.  Will put all programs on a D drive.  Can I install itumes on the new D drive…but doesnt itunes still try to put the Music into the My Music folder….

Posted by Bill on February 12, 2011 at 12:21 PM (CST)


Yesterday I got my new laptop and the first thing I did was transfer my itunes.  It was simple enough, but I noticed my playcount and playlists were lost.  I found this article today, and followed it, but had troubles.  I moved the path to my external hard drive, then moved those files to the new laptop with the same result.  I then figured I would just move the path back to my original laptop, but now I can’t.  (changing the folder location in the advanced preferences). The only way to play my itunes on the original laptop, is to have the external hard drive plugged in to it.  This will be a major pain in the future.  If I can’t have my accurate playcount moved over to the new computer, then I will continue to use my old one when it comes to my itunes.  How can I get everything back to the way it was?  Or better yet, how can I get the play count and playlist onto the new computer?

Posted by Shawn on February 16, 2011 at 5:45 PM (CST)


Thank you for the great tutorial. One concern… I movied my itunes files to my external hard drive, but when I go to sync my iPhone 4… I’m given the option to sync my apps (which in turn gives me a warning of my data being deleted etc.) I guess it is recognizing it as a whole new library or new computer. Though all of my apps transferred successfully, How do I make sure that my app data is not deleted? thank you

Posted by David Eclevia on February 17, 2011 at 9:24 PM (CST)


One question that I have is:

If I move my itunes library to an external drive (due to space issues), will it still be backed up online through my dropbox service, (or for other people, their relevant backup services).

Sorry that this is a bit off-topic.

I think that the dropbox service means that you have to choose its location to be either the c: drive or the d:drive, but not both…  (I have a PC)

Has anyone else had this problem?

If I find out an answer about how to solve this, I’ll let you know.


Posted by David Mackie on February 21, 2011 at 12:42 PM (CST)


How do you delete the itunes and its content from the original hard drive once you have copied it all/consolidated it to the new hard drive?

Posted by Beth on February 23, 2011 at 10:51 AM (CST)


Hello…i read up on this, and did not find an exact answer….simply put, new computer, got my music back in itunes library, but cant get my playlist back in there….i have 138, so i’m hoping not to have to re-do them…..can i transfer the playlist in any way?....or am i stuck re-doing them?  thanks for any help

Posted by Jim Hollis on February 26, 2011 at 11:07 AM (CST)


Excellent article, told me everything I needed to know in order to move my iTunes library to a NAS disk and my iTunes DB to my laptop from my to-be-sold Mac.

Posted by Ronald on February 28, 2011 at 5:12 AM (CST)


i’m using itunes 10, and there’s no function for me to ‘update itunes media organization’.
also, when i try to consolidate, it says i dont have enough disk space. any suggestions?

Posted by peach on March 20, 2011 at 1:08 AM (CDT)


We originally tried to move our itunes library onto an external hard drive when it started affecting our laptop’s performance. However I cant remember how we did it, but i suspect we did it the copy and paste (wrong) way and now its a bit of a mess. My itunes library content is on my external hard drive but whenever I open itunes my library does not appear. If I plug in my ipod it states that it is not synced with this computer. I suspect I have moved the database in error. When I try and move the files as you have shown here into the new library database on screen, the process starts but then freezes the computer and the hard drive to a point that even cntrl alt del cant deal with! I am at a loss as to what to do. Should I wipe everything and start from scratch - most of my music is from cd imports so could be replaced.

Posted by Jane Mayor on March 23, 2011 at 8:40 AM (CDT)


Thank you!  I was able to move all my itunes library from my old computer to my new computer by following all the steps.  Very helpful article…I appreciate it!

Posted by HB on March 24, 2011 at 11:40 PM (CDT)


Upon “sweeping” my hard drive (148.73 gb capacity) with Omnisweep after a “not enough disk space” message during a software update, I discovered that I have BOTH an “iTunes Media” folder (62.2 gb) AND an “iTunes Music” folder (49.4 gb) Within the “media” folder, there’s a “music” folder (55.7 gb) and when using the iTunes app, it says I only have 55.58 gb of music, and 6.51gb of podcasts. No movies or TV shows or anything else. WTF? How should I go about having everything ONCE in ONCE folder, so it doesn’t take up double the space on my hard drive??? Any help would be much appreciated! Thanks very much in advance. All good things.

Posted by ali on April 8, 2011 at 2:17 AM (CDT)


I think I successfully moved my library to my external hard drive.  However, when we try to update our Ipods, as long as the Ipod is plugged into the computer, our music shows.  When we unplug the Ipods, our music shows “no content”.  How do we get the music to stay on the Ipods?

Posted by Amy on April 22, 2011 at 8:57 PM (CDT)


This whole forum devoted just to transferring files from one computer to another, or getting files off an iPod or iphone or whatever, what an perfect example on the hopelessness of iTunes   Having just purchased an iMac after using windows, and having iPhone, iPod and iPad, I cannot believe that Apple can make something which is so easy to do on a windows machine (drag and drop), so complex.  I have seen heaps of questions about a simple problem, the database of music is gone, the files are on the device, how can they be retrieved and loaded onto the new computer - and not one simple answer.  It is incredulous that with so many devices being portable, Apple still allows its products to be connected to one computer.  ITunes must be one of the worst programmes ever created, the forums are full of people having problems like on this forum, when the solution is so simple, allow drag and drop on any computer.

Posted by laikanuki on May 3, 2011 at 4:31 AM (CDT)


I copied my ITunes Library onto a CD from my old computer (XP), and now want to import it to my new computer (XP 64bit).

When I insert the disc, all the music is there, when I eject the disc, the music goes away.

How do I get it permanently on my new computer?

Posted by Janice on May 6, 2011 at 11:39 AM (CDT)


Windows users of external drives should know that unless you take steps to ensure the drive gets assigned the same letter each time it is connected, the drive will get assigned the next available letter. This confuses iTunes.
Here’s how I fixed it in XP; (I do not have Vista or Windows 7 so I cannot help you there.) With the drive connected, I went to Programs-Administrative Tools-Computer Management-device manager-storage-removable storage-Disk Management. There a list of my drives is displayed. I selected my portable drive and right-clicked on it to get the context menu, where I chose Change Drive letters and paths. Then under the next dialog, I chose change; I could have also chosen Add and pinned it to a particular path on my system, but that would have added unnecessary complexity.
So I changed the drive’s letter to I. I figured I could remember I for iTunes. If the drive had already been assigned letter I, I would have selected “I” here anyway, to force it to be permanent.
Next I restarted my system and verified that the drive was still showing up as I. I did the same thing on all other computers running iTunes to which I wanted to connect the external drive.

Additionally, after backing up both the data and my iPod, I then deleted the iTunes directory on my PCS and tested to see what would happen if the drive wasn’t connected. iTunes loaded but complained it could not continue without a library, and invited me to either choose or create a new library. This was the behavior I wanted. I now have one iTunes library I can use on multiple Windows XP PCS.

Posted by Deborah Armstrong on May 13, 2011 at 12:51 PM (CDT)


i like your help here, i just have one question/problem. so i bought a new 1TB external harddrive and consolidated my itunes library and chose my external as the new location in my preferences. i disconnect my harddrive to use at school and other locations and with it disconnected i have added music and movies to my library, but when i look into the folder on my external drive the new stuff is not appearing? do i need to delete the folder on my external and re-consolidate?

Posted by Jeff Olson on May 18, 2011 at 4:00 AM (CDT)


hey jesse, thank you very much for posting the MOST THOROUGH guide for transferring itunes library! Well I’ve got a very confusing issue and I’d greatly appreciate your feedback.

I’ve read your guide before when I needed to export my itunes library to my (Seagate FreeAgent GoFlex 1TB HardDrive.) I followed the steps and somehow I was able to transfer my itunes library and files from my macbook/desktop to the external harddrive and also the other way backwards. During that time, I did not take note of the capabilities of my ex-hd. It reads that it has NTFS driver for mac.

And now when I again want to transfer all my itunes library in my macbook to my ex-hd, it says I do not have enough room even though I clearly do have more than 10 times the space needed. Also, I get a message saying that my ex-hd cannot be modified. However, I can only copy files from my ex-hd to the macbook/desktop.

Therefore, this is my confusion, and my question is that since I now realize my ex-hd is in the NTFS format, how was I able to transfer my itunes library and all my files in my macbook/desktop to the ex-hd and the other way backwards before even though that is impossible because of the NTFS limitations on a mac? And now it seems impossible to transfer files from my macbook/desktop to the ex-hd, and I can only transfer files from ex-hd to the macbook/desktop.

So this is my problem and please do reply asap. Thank you :D

Posted by joshhuckerson on May 20, 2011 at 8:14 PM (CDT)


can we move the movie files in ipod to a laptop???i’ve tried to copy and paste it to my laptop and it’s not working

Posted by jerome on May 25, 2011 at 7:55 AM (CDT)


I’ve read each questions and answers posted in this thread since 2008 to today, but still I haven’t found that kind of help that I need. Please consider that I’m very bad talking considering software and all that kind of stuff. My case is as follows:

I just bought a WDMyBook Network Hard Drive, because I wanted to transfer all my music& photos files from a usb hardrive to this new wireless hard drive. Ok. After walking in circules for about 1 week, trying to play my music using iTunes, I finally created a new library.itl file in WDMyBook’s “shared music/my music/iTunes” folder, and even after transfering all music&photo; files from old hard drive to new wireless hard drive.

Due to I had plenty playlists in my old iTunes, I would like (actually I would love) to have the same playlists now in the new iTunes library and new hard drive. Options that I’ve tried just keep track-paths to old hard drive, but I’d like to transfer the same playlists to new iTunes but having all track-paths now linked to new music folder location.

Finally I probably need to mention that I haven’t consolidated library due to I have music foldered in my own way, and I’m planning to keep them in that way.

Please help…!

Posted by arnie on June 13, 2011 at 7:08 AM (CDT)


I have another kind of issue.

New iMac with SSD. I will transfer the Users to the SSD without the Musicfiles which are in the iTunes-folder. So what is the right way?

Because the SSD is only 250 GB and the userfolders are much bigger it is nessesary to move first the iTunes-Mediafiles to a new location an tell iTunes where they are (as you wrote in the great tutorial. BUT: After this i tell OSX via the useraccounts to move the users to the SSD. After the reboot OSX changed the entrys in iTunes an the iTunes-Media-Move is undone.

What can I do in this situation?

Daniel from Germany

Posted by Daniel on July 4, 2011 at 5:26 AM (CDT)


I have a problem with iTunes. For some reason it stop recognizing my apps library. can transfer all my apps from my iPod Touch to iTunes. Everything looks fine, but when I reboot I get an error the iTunes does not recognize my library file. Whe iTunes opens there is nothing in the Apps folder again. I haveeven tried reinstalling iTunes on my computer. If I download one of my free Apps into iTunes, that app remains there after a reboot. Also it wants to import all my music every time I do a reboot.

Posted by Bob Loveless on July 11, 2011 at 12:46 PM (CDT)


I am a software developer.  It baffles me that Apple can’t even include a simple backup and restore feature for a piece of software with this many users!  Beyond appalling.  I’d get fired if I wrote software that missed such important functionality.

Posted by Derek on July 30, 2011 at 9:16 PM (CDT)


Thank you so much for a brilliant tutorial! Moved my 140 GB iTunes library to a new external drive flawlessly. Thanks again for the help.

Posted by Rob on July 30, 2011 at 9:48 PM (CDT)


I can’t thank you enough for this. I’ve been searching the Internet for a way to move my library over with play counts, playlists, ratings, and everything, and yours is the one that not only finally worked for me but also was by far the simplest way. <3 So thank you, again.

Posted by Kiyoko on August 10, 2011 at 1:38 AM (CDT)


Thanks so much for the clear instructions. This article was incredibly helpful. I moved my library to an external hard drive with no problems.
Much appreciated!

Posted by Jen on August 10, 2011 at 12:01 PM (CDT)


Part of the problem stems from Apple’s deal with the various music labels which puts tags and blocks within Itunes. It is designed to prevent piracy. I have used “Red Chair on my pc and it does create a way to transfer and save/store music on a portable device(Ipod) in addition to ones’ laptop/desktop. I just purchased a MacBookPro and I was able to transfer all music/movies purchased via Itunes onto the laptop. However, that music purchased at brick-and-morter stores and uploaded onto my old PC and Ipod would not transfer over. I am still working on the issue though may wipe the Ipod and follow suggestions from above. I’ll let you know what happens.

Posted by kevin davis on August 10, 2011 at 2:20 PM (CDT)


iTunes 10.0 - does all this apply? iTunes 9 is mentioned here, woth substantial changes compared to earlier versions

Posted by Makaleka on August 21, 2011 at 5:31 PM (CDT)


Using 3 TB Western Digital HD to store 350+ converted personal movies from my collection. Want to add more movies from my collection but this process is slowing my computer down considerably. Although I have downloaded the movies to my Ext HD, have left my itunes library on my desktop main drive. Is there a way to add more movies without slowing down my computer?


Posted by Michael on August 29, 2011 at 1:13 PM (CDT)


Brilliant, did exactly what I wanted with clear and concise instructions, even the “way not to do it” was most valuable to avoid making simple but not so obvious mistakes.

Posted by Martin Salter on September 23, 2011 at 6:14 AM (CDT)


I already had all my music in my own folders before I started using iTunes so I just kept them all there and don’t have a lot of files in my iTunes Media Folder, only the ones I bought in iTunes or ripped from a CD. I now have a new laptop and already moved all my seperate folders (the referenced files) to my new laptop before checking on how to get them in iTunes. I don’t really feel like consolidating the files and then moving everything again since this took me quite some time and I’d have to remove everything in the separate folders from both my old laptop and new laptop.
If I just move the iTunes Library Database, will iTunes recognize all of those files?
I moved all files to the exact same place on the new laptop, with a few exceptions but my music library isn’t too big so it won’t be too much work fixing the few broken links. But will iTunes still have all the data of these songs? Will the songs show up in iTunes?

Posted by Lenn on October 3, 2011 at 4:22 PM (CDT)


Thanks! Easy solution to a major problem I have had for awhile now. Worked like a charm.

Posted by Mike on October 4, 2011 at 11:22 PM (CDT)


thank you very much for this article. you have successfully held my hand through what i see as a chaotic minefield. :) much appreciated

Posted by caleb on October 26, 2011 at 1:08 AM (CDT)


So I cannot see a way I can possibly get F***ng itunes to recognise the folders of music on my external hard drive. At the moment it is trying to duplicate everything in it’s own new folders, despite the old paths my old computer used being left exactly as they were.

This guide is a massive help, and I thank you, but it is ABSOLUTELY ABSURD that a music player should require this much help documentation simply for moving location or drives. Why can itunes not simply recognise a basic folder structure and import the contained folders/files to build its library? All I want to do is play the music in the media folder on my external drive. I guess my other mac had the itunes database xml/itdb files etc, so I cannot. FAIL.

Posted by Clark on November 7, 2011 at 8:32 AM (CST)


Thank you. This was very helpful and clear. My newly liberated hard drive thanks you, too.

Posted by Rebecca on November 8, 2011 at 9:51 AM (CST)


I backed up my iTunes library to multiple disks and restored on my new windows 7 OS. Everuthing went as expected with playlist and ratings. However, some of the play counts are lower than they were. Is there a sequence I can follow to ensure I get all backed up data? Can I just pop in each CD and see what data it can add without overwriting?

Posted by Royal Tipton on November 15, 2011 at 5:21 PM (CST)


Wow that was odd. I just wrote an very long comment but after I clicked submit my comment didn’t show up. Grrrr… well I’m not writing all that over again. Anyways, just wanted to say great blog!

Posted by CNA Training on December 3, 2011 at 5:39 PM (CST)


I did the ‘Reorganize files in the folder “iTunes Music”. Everything looks good, except when I go to the Finder and see that the folder is still named “iTunes Music”, not iTunes Media. Should I not worry about it? Rename it myself?

Posted by Bob on December 11, 2011 at 4:04 PM (CST)


I think I have yet a different problem, my I-tunes files on my computer are corrupted.  The good music library is on my I-phone 3gs.  I have just purchased an i-phone 4 and want to move my music from the i-phone 3 to i-phone 4.  Note that some of my music moved over, but much did not.  Another problem, my i-tunes purchased songs are totally corrupted as only the most recent purchases in December (still my old phone) show up in history of purchases.  Any help appreciated

Posted by Don on December 20, 2011 at 3:41 PM (CST)


Thankyou, your article was very helpful

Posted by Craig Smith on January 1, 2012 at 6:51 AM (CST)


Please help me understand! I imported my CDs to my I tunes account on my computer and I transferred them to my iPod with no problem. I recently got a new iPhone4 and only my purchased songs transferred to it. Can u only transfer purchased songs multiple times or am I missing something??

Posted by Elizabeth on January 2, 2012 at 9:05 AM (CST)

Page 4 of 5 pages ‹ First  < 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