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Preserving iTunes metadata when reinstalling Windows

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Q: Whenever I reinstall Windows, and iTunes, I cannot seem to find a way to reimport my podcasts into iTunes. I have them stored in the same default iTunes folder under podcasts, but iTunes will not add them to its list. Nor does iTunes recognize that I already have certain podcasts; iTunes downloads them again unless I clear the titles from the subscription listing. Can you help me find a solution? Thank you very much in advance!

- Peter

A: Unfortunately, podcasts imported directly into iTunes from the file system are not catalogued properly by iTunes itself. Only podcasts that you subscribe to, which are downloaded directly by iTunes, are listed in the “Podcast” section.

More recent versions of iTunes have made this problem slightly more complicated as well, in that podcasts do not appear in the Music section of iTunes either, resulting in “lost” entries that are in your database that are difficult to find within iTunes. Some devices which read the entire library from the database, such as the Apple TV 2.0, will reveal these, and you can also search for them with smart playlists (simply use a criteria of “Podcast is true”).

Specifically to your problem, however, the real issue is that you are likely creating a brand new iTunes database and reimporting your entire library even though this is not strictly necessary. Not only does this result in the loss of podcast information, but other metadata such as ratings, play counts, and your playlists are also going to be lost in the process.

If you simply backup your iTunes library database before reformatting your hard drive and reinstalling Windows, then you can restore this file back to its original location, and iTunes will use your original database and you will pretty much be working right where you left off before reinstalling Windows. You may need to reset some of your iTunes preferences, but the library metadata and organization will be preserved.

Regardless of where you store your actual media files, the iTunes library database lives by default in an “iTunes” sub-folder under your “My Music” folder for the current Windows user. The critical file here is the “iTunes Library.itl” file, although we recommend backing up the entire folder, since there is other useful information in here as well, such as the album artwork cache, and any iPod Games that you may have purchased.

You can relocated this library onto a different drive as well, but this is a separate process from setting the path for the actual music folder (where your media is stored). For more information, see our tutorial on Managing your iTunes Library on an External Hard Drive.

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