The Complete Guide to Backing Up your iTunes Library | iLounge Article

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The Complete Guide to Backing Up your iTunes Library

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By Jesse Hollington

Social Media & Software Editor, iLounge
Published: Friday, December 2, 2011
Articles Categories: Tutorials

The single most common question we get from our readers is how to recover their content from their iPod back onto their computer. These questions are usually precipitated by users suddenly discovering that their iTunes library has become corrupted or erased or that their computer has suddenly died on them, taking their iTunes library and all of their media content with it.

Although we’ve covered the process of recovering your content from your iPod extensively in our tutorial on Copying Content from your iPod to your Computer, the reality is that this remains a somewhat cumbersome and imperfect recovery process. Further, many users today have iTunes libraries that are considerably larger than the capacity of their iPod or iOS device and if you have not been syncing your entire library to your device you’re not going to get all of your content back, since of course you can’t recover what isn’t there.

If your music library consists of content ripped from your own CDs, you can always go back to those as a source, but this will not only be a time-consuming process of re-importing all of your content, but you will also have lost any metadata about those tracks such as ratings, play counts, and playlist entries.

As for content you may have purchased from the iTunes Store? With the introduction of iTunes in the Cloud in June 2011 and its more recent international expansion, in most countries you can now re-download music, apps and booksthat you have previously purchased, and U.S. iTunes Store users can also re-download their previously purchased TV shows. The service does not yet, however, include other types of media content such as movies, audiobooks and podcasts. For that content you’d pretty much be relying on Apple’s good graces to allow you to re-download it—an exception that they will sometimes make, but definitely not part of their normal policy.

It’s also important to keep in mind that iTunes in the Cloud only allows you to re-download content if it is still available on the iTunes Store; if you have older content that has been removed from sale, which does happen, you’ll be out of luck getting that content back. Re-downloaded items from iTunes in the Cloud will also not contain any of your customized metadata or info such as ratings, play counts and playlist entries.

If you’re an iTunes Match subscriber this can provide another alternative to getting your music back, since every song in your library gets either matched or uploaded to Apple’s iCloud servers, and this even has the advantage of including your playlists and metadata. Keep in mind, however, that iTunes Match is only for music—it doesn’t even include things like audiobooks, podcasts even your own non-purchased music videos, much less movies and TV shows. Further, your own songs that are matched become 256kbps AAC files—a format that may be an upgrade for some and a downgrade for others; for matched tracks you don’t get your actual original files back from the iTunes Match service. If you store higher bit-rate or lossless tracks, this is not going to be an acceptable solution.

The bottom line is that Apple still tells you flat out the first time you use the iTunes Store that you are responsible to back up your iTunes purchases yourself. While services such as iTunes in the Cloud and iTunes Match

As with anything in the world of computers, you are always best to maintain a proactive backup strategy for your iTunes library. This way, when Murphy’s Law takes effect and the worst happens to your content, you can simply restore it from backup and be up and running again in no time. The good news is that this process is not as onerous as it may seem at first.

The Older iTunes Method: Back Up to Disc (iTunes 7 through iTunes 10.3 only)

The “Back Up to Disc” option was removed in iTunes 10.4. However we’ve continued to include it as this method may still be useful for users running older versions—iTunes 10.4 and 10.5 are still able to read and restore from backup discs made with earlier versions of iTunes, although it is unclear whether this will continue to be supported in future updates. If you’re running iTunes 10.4 or later, simply skip ahead to the next section, Using Third-Party Backup Tools

iTunes 7 introduced a built-in backup feature that allows you to backup your iTunes library to recordable CD or DVD media. Although users have always been able to burn data discs manually with iTunes to backup their content, the built-in backup feature handles this process more seamlessly for you, spanning discs as necessary and most importantly backing up your playlists, rating and play count information in the process as well.

To initiate a backup to CD/DVD in iTunes, simply choose File, Library, Back Up to Disc from the iTunes menu.

Note that if you’re still using iTunes 7, this option will be found directly on the File menu, rather than under the Library sub-menu.

After selecting this option, an introductory screen appears briefly explaining the process and asking you what you would like to back up.

The first consideration is whether you want to back up your entire iTunes library, or only those items purchased from the iTunes Store. Since many users may have imported their non-iTunes-Store content from their own audio CDs, this provides the option of creating a smaller backup of only the critical purchased items. Despite this, however, we strongly recommend backing up everything, since it will make the recovery process much easier in the long run.

The option is also provided to only back up those items which have changed since the last backup. This allows for smaller “incremental” backups that you can run on a semi-regular basis, generally when you’ve added enough new content to your iTunes library to justify running another backup.

Once you’ve made your selection simply click “Backup” and iTunes will prompt you to insert a blank CD or DVD disc if you have not already done so.

Cleverly, rather than worrying about asking you what type and size of medium you plan to use, iTunes simply looks at what you put in the drive and gives you an estimate of how many discs will be required based on that.

Should you find this number to be a bit higher than you expected, you can always cancel the backup process at this point and try again using a higher-capacity medium such as DVD-R or DVD-R DL.

Note that iTunes won’t split up individual files when backing up your library, so if you are trying to backup to CD media and you have any one item in your iTunes library that is larger than the size of a CD, such as Movies or TV Shows, iTunes will notify you of this and require that you backup to larger DVD media instead.

Once you click OK, iTunes begins backing up your library. This backup includes all of your content: music, music videos, audiobooks, podcasts, movies, TV shows, and even Click Wheel iPod Games and iOS apps. Library metadata such as playlists, ratings, and play counts are also backed up as part of this process. As iTunes fills each disc, it prompts you to insert the next one.

When finished, you’ll have a complete set of discs that represent your entire iTunes library. As iTunes indicates when your backup completes, restoring from these discs is simply a matter of inserting them into your computer. iTunes will detect a backup disc, and immediately offer you the opportunity to restore from it.

Note that you can also insert an individual backup disc and restore individual files or tracks from it. The backup disc will appear in your iTunes Devices listing, and you can browse the content of it and drag-and-drop individual tracks directly into your library.

Limitations of the iTunes Back Up to Disc Feature

Although iTunes’ built-in backup feature is a handy way for users with small libraries to create quick and easy backups, it’s not without its limitations that you should be aware of.

The first and most obvious limitation is the size of your library. The highest-capacity recordable media commonly available are Dual-Layer DVD-R discs at approximately 8.5 GB per disc. For users with small libraries, only a few discs may be required, but for users capable of filling a 160GB iPod classic, there is going to be a lot of disc-shuffling involved, and higher-capacity DVD-R DL media can be expensive.

It’s also important to note that only some of your metadata is preserved. Specifically, ratings, play counts, and playlists are backed up and restored by iTunes, but last played times, skip count, and last skipped time are not. Technically, this other information is stored in the backup, but for whatever reason iTunes does not restore this information. Further, when dragging content in manually from your back up discs, only the rating is restored, not the play count. Also the “Date Added” for any restored content will be the date you actually restored it. As with last played dates, the original date added information appears to be in the backup XML file, but is not restored by iTunes. Although play counts are backed up and restored for fully played items, bookmarks and status for partially-played items like podcasts, TV shows and audiobooks is not.

It’s also worth noting that playlists cannot be recovered manually through drag-and-drop. These are only available when performing a complete restore of your entire library from disc. Also, if you have listed Internet Radio stations in your playlists, this information is not backed up or restored.

Podcasts and iTunes U content will be restored, but you will need to resubscribe to each podcast/iTunes U series by clicking the “Subscribe” button which appears at the top of each one in your Podcast/iTunes U listings.

Album artwork is only backed up if it has been embedded within the file itself. iTunes operates under the assumption that automatically downloaded artwork can be automatically downloaded again. Unfortunately, this is not always the case, as artwork can only be downloaded automatically for items that are present on the iTunes Store. Not only are items sometimes removed from the iTunes Store, but the tags on your music must match the tags in the iTunes Store catalog for this to work, and it’s not uncommon for either you or iTunes to change these tags since you last downloaded album artwork.

When doing a disaster-recovery restore of your entire iTunes library from an iTunes-created backup set, you are in essence creating a whole new library, and then restoring your content into it. The most significant issue with this is that your iPod, iOS or Apple TV devices will see this as a different library and want to erase and re-sync all of your content. You shouldn’t lose anything in this process, since it should all have been restored from your backups, but you will be prompted to “Erase and Sync” the first time you connect your device and it may take more time to perform this initial sync.

Using Third-Party Backup Tools

For users with larger iTunes libraries, the built-in backup procedure offered by iTunes is going to be inefficient at best and in some cases completely unrealistic.

Fortunately, your iTunes library is comprised of nothing more than a database and a collection of files, and can be backed up by any number of third-party backup utilities just like any other data on your computer.

Ideally, for users with sizeable libraries, we strongly recommend using an external hard drive or network storage location that is at least large enough to contain your entire library, accounting for future growth. This will be far more efficient than trying to shuffle through a few dozen CD or DVD discs each time you want to back up your library. External USB flash memory devices and hard drives have become very inexpensive in recent years, and in the longer term are likely to be a more cost-effective solution than optical media anyway, particularly since you can use the same storage for multiple backups.

Using an external storage device also puts in a much better position to incrementally back up your iTunes library to a single complete backup, rather than dealing with multiple sets of media. Further, since you’re making an exact copy of your entire, existing library database, you’re not subject to the rather inconsistent limitations of iTunes’ own backup service. Of course, if you’re running iTunes 10.4 or later, you’re also pretty much stuck with rolling your own backup solution anyway.

There are many different third-party backup applications available, and going into each of these is beyond the scope of this article. Instead, what we will do is discuss the files and folders you need to ensure that you back up using whichever back up software you prefer, as well as some strategies for handling regular incremental backups of your iTunes library.

How the iTunes Folder is Organized

For most users, your entire iTunes library is contained in a folder named “iTunes” located within your home Music folder. On Windows XP this is named “My Music” while on Windows Vista, Windows 7 and Mac OS X it’s simply named “Music.”

This folder is specific to your own user profile on your computer. If you have multiple user accounts on your computer and log in as another user, you will be creating a new iTunes library in that particular user’s own Music folder.

By default this folder contains not only your iTunes library database but also all of your iTunes media content. A sub-folder, named “iTunes Media” stores your music as well as music videos, audiobooks, podcasts, movies and TV shows. The location of this folder can be confirmed or changed in iTunes’ Advanced preferences:

More information on changing this location is discussed in our tutorial on Transferring your iTunes Library

The iTunes Media folder was called “iTunes Music” prior to iTunes 9, and may retain this name and structure if you have upgraded from a previous version. See Transferring your iTunes Library for more information on this and converting to the new iTunes Media format.

The following are some other files and folders of interest that you will find in your main iTunes folder:

iTunes Library.itl (file)—This is your actual iTunes library database. It is a self-contained file with almost all of the information about your iTunes library, including your playlists, your track metadata, ratings, play counts, file locations and much more. This file is absolutely critical to back up as part of any iTunes backup strategy, as it is basically the key to your entire iTunes world.
iTunes Music Library.xml (file)—This is an XML-based version of the main iTunes library database. Although iTunes updates this file, it is not actually read by iTunes itself except in rare situations where the main database is corrupted and needs to be rebuilt. The primary purpose for this file is to allow third-party applications to easily read information stored in the iTunes database itself.
iTunes Library Genius.itdb (file)—This is a database of the Genius information for iTunes 8 and later. This file is not critical, as it can be easily recreated by re-running the Genius setup, but there’s usually little reason to not back it up. Although this file can get rather large, it’s still small compared to your actual media content.
iTunes Library Extras.itdb (file)—This is a SQLite database containing information related to CD’s that you have previously imported and looked up on the CDDB service as well as iTunes Match tracking information. Like the Genius database, this is not critical, but it’s also usually pretty small and there’s also little reason to not back it up. If you’re an iTunes Match subscriber it’s a good idea to back this up as without it you will need to re-run the entire lengthy iTunes Match process after restoring your library.
Album Artwork (folder)—This contains a cache of all album artwork, both that which has been downloaded from the iTunes Store as well as artwork from the tags within your actual files. For automatically downloaded artwork, this is the only place it is stored, although you can theoretically re-download the artwork again from the iTunes Store. Ideally, however, you should include this folder in your backups, although again it is not critical.
Previous iTunes Libraries (folder)—When you update iTunes to a newer version and there are database structural changes involved, a backup of your pre-upgrade database is kept in this folder with the date appended to the file name. Over time you may have several older versions of your iTunes database stored in here. These files are relatively small, but if you’re concerned about space you can delete them as they are just backups and not actually used by iTunes.

If you’ve come from a version of iTunes prior to iTunes 9 there may be two other folders present here as well:

iPod Games (folder)—This contains any Click Wheel iPod Games that you have purchased from the iTunes Store.
Mobile Applications (folder)—This folder contains any iOS applications that you have purchased from the iTunes Store.

If you began your library with iTunes 9 or later, or specifically converted your library to the new iTunes Media folder structure, then these folders will instead be located in your “iTunes Media” folder alongside the rest of your media content. See Transferring your iTunes Library for more information on converting to the new iTunes Media folder layout.

Backing up the iTunes Library Database

With the above in mind, the simplest solution for backing up the iTunes library database is to simply back up the iTunes folder and everything in it. This will include not only the main iTunes library database and its supporting database files, but also any Click Wheel iPod Games, iOS apps, and downloaded and cached album artwork.

Note that if you’re using iTunes 9 or later and have updated to the new iTunes Media folder organization, your iPod Games and Mobile Applications will be stored in your iTunes Media folder instead. See Transferring your iTunes Library for more information on this and converting to the new iTunes 9 format.

This will ensure you have a backup of your iTunes library database and related files, but whether or not it includes your media content will depend on how and where you have chosen to store it.

Determining where your media content is actually stored

One very important thing to keep in mind when planning an all-encompassing backup strategy is where your media content actually lives. For the average iTunes user it will likely all be in the iTunes Media or iTunes Music folder under your iTunes folder, but this is not always the case.

Obviously, knowing where your files actually are is important to being able to back them up. Within iTunes’ Advanced Preferences, there is a checkbox labelled Copy files to iTunes Music folder when adding to library. This setting controls whether tracks you import into iTunes are copied into your iTunes Media folder or whether they are referenced from their original locations.

Depending on the version of iTunes that you first used to set up your library, this option may have been enabled by default if you were using iTunes on a Mac, and may have been disabled by default if you were using iTunes on Windows.

If this option is unchecked, then there’s a good chance that any content you’ve imported into iTunes has been left in its original location on your computer. If you have deliberately left this option off because you wanted to pre-organize your content into your own folder structure before importing it this is not a big problem since you know where that content is and can simply back up that set of folders in addition to your iTunes folder.

However, if you didn’t realize that this setting was disabled and have simply been importing content from various locations with this setting OFF, then you will very likely have your media content scattered around your computer’s hard drive, and it may be difficult to track it all down to back it up.

In this second case, your best option is to consolidate your content into the iTunes Media folder so that it all lives within a single folder and can be backed up from there. Note that this folder can be the default iTunes Media folder or any other folder you specify. Our tutorial on Transferring your iTunes Library describes how to use iTunes’ built-in library consolidation feature to accomplish this.

The bottom line is that you should ensure that all of your iTunes media content is stored in a known location so that you can easily point your backup software at it and be assured that it’s all going to be included.

Incremental Backups

For users with a large iTunes library, full backups may take a relatively long time. In this situation it may not be practical to perform full backups on a regular basis.

Fortunately, most backup software provides the ability to perform “incremental” backups, essentially backing up only those files that have changed since the last backup. In general terms, there are two ways that you can handle an incremental backup strategy with your iTunes library.

The first method is to simply run an incremental “update” backup to a single iTunes backup folder, essentially mirroring your existing iTunes library to that folder during each backup. This has the advantage of reducing the amount of space required to store your backups; since you’re only keeping a single full copy of your iTunes library, you only need as much space as your iTunes library normally takes up on your computer. Further, restoring from a single iTunes backup folder is also much easier—you basically just need to copy all of the data back in the other direction during a restore.

Note that if you choose to use this method, you should ensure that your backup software performs a proper “mirror” update in that it should not only add and update any files that have changed, but also remove files from your backup that have been deleted from your iTunes library. Otherwise, your backup will continue to grow as old deleted files are left lying around.

The major disadvantage to the single-backup method are that you will not be able to go back to a previous version of your iTunes library, as each time you perform a backup you’re getting only a current “snapshot” of your library. Further, you will not be able to effectively use this method with CD-R or DVD-R media as you obviously can’t overwrite these to update your existing backups.

An alternative strategy is to perform a single full backup of your iTunes library, and then perform incremental backups to different folders or media. This ensures that you can go back to your iTunes library at any point in time that you had made a backup, which can be very useful if you don’t discover an accidentally-deleted file or playlist until a few weeks after it was deleted. However, this also has the disadvantage of potentially requiring a lot more storage space, since you may end up keeping multiple copies of files as they change.

Keep in mind that when editing track information iTunes updates not only its own database with the new tags, but also writes these changes into the media files themselves. This means that any incremental backup that looks for changed files is going to want to re-copy these files. This is not a bad thing, as it’s best for your backed up files to have the most up-to-date tag information, but it’s something you should be aware of, particularly when dealing with relatively large video files. Re-tagging a whole season of a TV series, for example, could easily add several gigabytes to your next incremental backup.

The other disadvantage of keeping separate incremental backups is that when it comes time to restore your iTunes library, you must individually restore each backup session to bring your iTunes library up to date, starting with the last “full” backup session and then updating that with each subsequent incremental session. This will increase the time it takes to restore your library, as well as running the risk of lost information due to a missing or corrupted incremental session.

Note that if you are concerned about preserving an incremental history of your iTunes database you may want to consider running a separate backup plan with only the iTunes library databases themselves selected, rather than your media content. Although this will not protect you against accidental deletion of a file, it will allow you to revert back to a previous version of your iTunes database in the event that you delete a playlist or experience database corruption. Since the iTunes database is relatively small in comparison to your actual media files, incremental backups of this data will not require nearly as much storage capacity.

A Word About Time Machine

If you’re running Mac OS X 10.5 or later you can easily use Time Machine to handle incremental backups of your iTunes library on a regular basis. This process is almost transparent in terms of how the backups are kept, but there are some considerations related to restoring information.

The most important thing to keep in mind is that Time Machine is not integrated with iTunes. This means that unlike other applications like Mail and iPhoto, you cannot restore an individual item such as a track or playlist back into the iTunes database. The only way to restore iTunes data from Time Machine is to do so by restoring individual files.

This means that an iTunes database restore is an all-or-nothing deal. If you have lost a playlist that you wanted to recover, you would need to roll back the entire iTunes database to a prior time, losing any other changes you have made in the process. Alternatively, you could restore the iTunes database to a different location, point iTunes at it, and export the playlist. This is still a largely manual process however and Time Machine offers no specific benefit in this regard over any other similar backup solution.

Also keep in mind that while it is possible to restore an individual track or set of tracks from your Time Machine backup, you will need to restore the individual files through Time Machine and then re-import those tracks manually. The restored tracks will be treated as newly-imported tracks with no rating or play count data and will have to be manually re-added to any playlists that they may have been in.

Conclusion

The bottom line to all of this is that the best way to recover from a lost, damaged, or corrupted iTunes library is to plan ahead by making a backup of it in the first place. While solutions such as iTunes in the Cloud and iTunes Match offer some recovery options, these are not designed for this purpose and you should not rely on them as they include very limited types of content and even that content may not always be available. No cloud service should ever be considered a complete replacement for your own, solid backup strategy.

However, you should also keep in mind that backups are useless without an actual restore plan in place. Don’t just blindly run a backup process without checking on it and assume that everything is working properly. Ideally you should do a test restore to confirm that you will be able to actually restore your data in the event that a disaster occurs. There’s nothing worse than finding out that your backups are corrupted or incomplete after you’ve already lost the original data.

Performing restore testing is generally simple enough as long as you have adequate hard disk space on your computer, or at least on an external hard drive. The easiest method is to log on under a different user account on your computer and try restoring your library under that account—since iTunes keeps a separate library for each user account, this will simulate the process of creating a whole new iTunes library. If disk space is a problem and you cannot actually test a full restore, then in the very least you should perform regular verification of your backups to ensure that your data has been copied properly, and double-check to ensure that you are getting everything you need for a full restore.

In short: Don’t make a backup plan—make a restore plan, and remember that you are in the best position to take responsibility for backing up your own data.

« The Complete Guide to iTunes Books, Podcasts + iTunes U

Transferring your iTunes Library »

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Comments

1

I have a stack of DVD+R discs.  When I follow the outlined procedure the disc is read but nothing else happens.

Any idea what the problem might be.

Posted by omnibus on December 9, 2008 at 12:38 PM (PDT)

2

The mobile applications folder contains only the latest versions of apps. The older versions are now moved to the trash, unless you specifically keep them.

Posted by EMAVEN on December 9, 2008 at 5:21 PM (PDT)

3

my ipod was set up using a windows pc which i no longer have, how can i restore my ipod to my mac without losing all my songs, movies, and videos

Posted by stephen slawinski on December 26, 2008 at 6:58 PM (PDT)

4

I was backing up to DVD—it told me it would take 11 DVDs—when in the middle of the 7th disc, iTunes crashed and said “An unexpected error has occurred (-81)”  What happened??

Posted by Sara on January 6, 2009 at 10:18 PM (PDT)

5

i have a new pc.  I transferred all files from old XP too Vista using thumb drive.  My ipod files are here but won’t play.  The library doessn’t appear to mix with the Windows Media libraary.  Have you been able to use yur ipod fils and have you been able to use this file format when transferred from the thumb drive to the pc?  Did that some how interfere with how they converse?  Thansk for any help.

Posted by mmac88 on January 16, 2009 at 7:19 PM (PDT)

6

Good day,

I have a 2 GB nano for 3 years now, and would like to upgrade to a 120 GB Classic or Touch.

A year or so ago, I lost all of the data in my laptop, including all IMusic and the ITunes program.  I reloaded the program and all CDs, one at a time.  I believe there is no way to bring IMusic from an old nano back to the laptop, if there is, it is too late since I am done loading all CDs.  Now I want to back it up into CDs or a thumb drive, but I noticed that all files in the ITunes Music, are saved just as Track 1 12, Track 1 13, etc.  When copying the music from my CDs into ITunes, I had to manually type the names of the song, artist and album, since ITunes did not recognize them, with the exception of two or three.  On ITunes it shows with the info I entered, but in ITunes Music (back up file in My Documents) it does not.  I have questions:

1) If I loose all info in my laptop again, can I bring all songs from a Classic or Touch with names of song, artist, album?

2) How do I make the back up to be stored in alfabetic order by names of song, artist, album as shown in ITunes?  I have over 4000 songs in IMusic…

Thank you for any light you can shed.

Augusto Negrete
.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Posted by Augusto Negrete on January 18, 2009 at 10:49 AM (PDT)

7

I used third party software called iPod Access software to restore my iTunes library from my iPod to a new external hard drive.
 
I have lots of personal videos in my iPod that were originally imported and then names re-labeled in iTunes.  I have my external HD attached to my main computer and now I want to move it to another computer and import into another iTunes

Using the third party software it brought the videos into iTunes with the correct titles.  For example, in my current iTunes library I have a video clip titled, “CBC 26 Control and Counter Backups and Adv concepts”.  When I look at the actual mp4 file on my external hard drive it only has “CBC 26 Control and Counter Backups.” It is missing 14 more characters.  (I also verified this to be the case by looking in the properties of the mp4 file as well.)

Now that I am going to move my external hard drive to a different computer I am uncertain if these complete titles will carry over when imported to a new iTunes—since the original mp4 files is does not contain the complete title.  It is like this for hundreds of files on my hard drive that do not have the full name as shown in the iTunes movie library. 

Do these two files “iTunes Library.itl” & “iTunes Music Library.xml” have anything to do with the FULL listing of my video titles as listed in my iTunes library?  And if so, do I have to somehow place them into my other computer?

Is there software that has a feature that makes sure that the actual mp4 file is labeled the way it is in iTunes?  What should I expect when I move my hard drive and import all my movie clips?

Any help would be tremendously appreciated,
Rob

Posted by Rob on April 29, 2009 at 5:21 PM (PDT)

8

I have a question that may be obvious, but… I am new to my iPod shuffle and iTunes.  I have both iTunes music and music videos.  When I make a back up disc, does it have to be a DVD and not a CD to have the music videos be backed up too?

Posted by Lynette Caubin on May 29, 2009 at 4:02 PM (PDT)

9

Have downloaded tv shows on th my computer from itunes tramsfered t5hem to my ipod .
Can I delete shows from my computer but keep them on my ipod

Posted by Roy Inman on July 21, 2009 at 4:40 AM (PDT)

10

okay so i tried to back up my itunes libary with a cd well i tried to use a CD-RW a CD rewritable but every time it says the unexspected error has occured and that the burn couldn’t be complete or move to the next cd? why wont it work?

Posted by holly on July 27, 2009 at 4:44 PM (PDT)

11

I have a homemade script that runs every night copying the database files as well as every item in my music folder to my external hard drive.  If the track is unchanged and already on the external it doesn’t copy over it so the backup is usually quick.  This has been very beneficial in moving my library as well as recovering from any crashes.

The main risk is a virus or disaster whipping out both units.

Posted by Ryan on September 22, 2009 at 7:52 AM (PDT)

12

my question is DOES ALL THE DOWNLOADED(itunes) Artwork get contained in the “complete backup” or is it lost if the artwork isnt in the id3 tags?  Maintaining the files is easy, you should keep them in an external hd from the get go… but my problem is moving over the artwork… that is the last piece to my puzzle

Posted by maroon_tiger on September 24, 2009 at 6:58 AM (PDT)

13

^^^
i just read your comment about the album artwork.  It seems that i will have to download the artwork from itunes, and then copy+paste it into the files so that it is put into the id3 tags… I assumed that when you allow itunes to download the artwork, that it would actually store it in the file.. i was wrong

Posted by maroon_tiger on September 24, 2009 at 7:02 AM (PDT)

14

With the new home sharing, the biggest issue I have is figuring out how to share track ratings in my 28K library.  If there is any way to share ratings in a home sharing network without overwriting the entire library on all 5 computers, I’d love to know.

thanks.

Posted by Skip S on October 3, 2009 at 8:16 AM (PDT)

15

does this method also includes photos???
i.e., can we backup photos in our ipod with the itunes backup manager?//

Posted by Ramachandran.K on November 7, 2009 at 7:44 AM (PDT)

16

#8:  You can use CD-Rs to burn your backup disc(s).  iTunes will figure out how many CD-Rs you need.

The only absolute reason to use DVDs is storage:  for example, a movie purchased from the iTunes Store will not fit on a CD-R, but music videos will.

#12:  Downloaded art is lost in the backup.  Only embedded art is kept. 

#15:  There is an option in your iPod syncing menu to also include full-resolution versions of every photo you sync.  The iPod then acts as a backup to your iPhoto library, or at least the photos you choose to sync.  Just “enable disk use” on your iPod to access those full-resolution versions on the HD.

Posted by jhart71 on November 24, 2009 at 1:07 PM (PDT)

17

I have just downloaded the latest Quiktime/Itunes. In trying to backup my ITunes library, I get as far as the Insert disk instruction. I put in a blank DVD to my DVD burner and then nothing else happens. TASKMGR shows no activity by ITunes upon disk insertion.
Shouldn’t ITunes at least tell me what is wrong ???

Posted by John Gocek on November 27, 2009 at 6:48 PM (PDT)

18

How do I go about backing up my entire itunes library to an external hard drive?

Posted by eric on December 26, 2009 at 9:14 AM (PDT)

19

Hi, new to i-tunes. I used i-tunes to move the music folder to an external hard drive because i was changing out my hard drive. now that my new drive is in I downloaded i-tunes, but how do I get my music from the external drive to the new drive?

Posted by norm on December 28, 2009 at 9:27 PM (PDT)

20

HELP!  The dog knocked over my external hard drive while I was loading songs onto itunes and killed it.  So, now I have a dead external hard drive that was filled with music.  Just bought a new hard drive but want to know if I have to start all over with music or if there is some way to get what I have on the ipod to the new hard drive!  Thank you!

Posted by shelly on January 1, 2010 at 1:29 AM (PDT)

21

Would it make the article too long if it was expanded to include a complete backup of iTunes, including the library file and metadata?

These days, users have over 100GB of music, video, applications, etc. so I think a complete backup to hard drive tutorial would really be helpful.

Posted by Ray on January 2, 2010 at 10:41 PM (PDT)

22

I am trying to backup my itunes library for the first time.  When I click on the “backup” radio button in itunes nothing happens.  I have tried with a DVDRW and a CDRW.  I have a Lightscribe DVD Multi Recorder in a PC.  Any advice?

Posted by Carey Hattic on January 3, 2010 at 12:00 PM (PDT)

23

My iTunes Library is over 300 GB (blame it on my obsession with HD TV shows and movies).

I’ve resigned myself to having 4 spindles worth of DVD backups, plus my Time Machine, plus my external hard drive.

Is there a software out there that will allow me to backup the whole Library to the EHD and NOT delete the files that I want to delete (after the back up) to save my MBP’s hard drive from being filled to the brim?

Posted by Hunter on January 6, 2010 at 8:57 PM (PDT)

24

i dont see the itunes library.xml and itunes library.itl files

im looking in the itunes file folder. where are they?

Posted by jenna on January 9, 2010 at 3:45 PM (PDT)

25

I want to back up my iTunes library so I can put windows 7 on my machine. If I back up my library and reformat my machine could I use those back up disk to restore my iTunes library? Or would it only restore my library on the same o.s.?

Posted by Dominic on February 14, 2010 at 6:28 PM (PDT)

26

I am trying to back up my iPod Library to DVD.  I have tried various DVD-R’s and DVD-RW’s, but everytime I insert the DVD it says “reading media…” and then nothing happens.  I know the DVD drive functions because it is the same computer I used to copy all my CD music onto my iPod.  What could the problem be?  I tried to save the library onto a flashdrive, and it is there, but the songs are not in the correct order, and I don’t know how to tell if I saved the actual song content or I just saved a list of the song titles?  Confused.

Posted by Patti on February 16, 2010 at 8:07 AM (PDT)

27

What *I* need to do is be able to move things onto my iTouch from an external hard drive AND keep the ruddy thing from dumping all of that content back onto my laptop which hasn’t got the room for it.  Is there any way to teach it to save to the external hard drive instead?  If I tell it not to sync once everything’s loaded, it just deletes all the music on the iTouch in a pique.  And it’s not necessary - none of the music I have or want on it comes from off the net; it’s all my currently extant library.

Posted by Kay Shapero on March 23, 2010 at 10:52 PM (PDT)

28

#25: Yes, the iTunes library database files are compatible across different OS versions, as long as you’re running the same version of iTunes itself. Note you could also load a newer version and iTunes will update the library database for the new version, but then you won’t be able to go back to the older version of iTunes should you need to (unless you’ve backed up the ITL file).

#26: Ensure that you’re using the latest version of iTunes and if you’re on Windows that you’ve installed the latest drivers for your DVD drive.

#27: You’ll want to take a look at our companion article on Transferring your iTunes Library, which covers the steps necessary to move your iTunes media content onto an external hard drive and keep it there. You would leave all of your content in the iTunes library database, but physically stored on the external hard drive. When you sync your iPod touch, it will keep whatever content is selected for synchronization regardless of whether the underlying files are physically present or not.

Posted by Jesse Hollington in Toronto on March 24, 2010 at 6:30 AM (PDT)

29

I am running iTunes 9, on an old XP computer.  In the next 30 days or so, I intend to purchase a new computer with a Quad processor and probably around a 1.5TB HDD.  I also recently purchased Seagate FreeAgent 500GB external HDD.  I own over 2,400 CD’s, and my thought is to put all them onto the external drive and run iTunes from that.  I currently have about 1,530 songs in iTunes.  Am I better off starting fresh with the new machine, or can I somehow transfer the current songs onto the external drive?  I was hoping that the backup feature would allow the drive to be an external HDD rather than just a CD/DVD burner.  Any suggestions?

Posted by John McClellan on March 29, 2010 at 8:42 AM (PDT)

30

#29: Realistically you don’t want to backup your library, but rather transfer it to the new computer.  See our guide on Transferring your iTunes Library for more detailed information on how to do this.

Posted by Jesse Hollington in Toronto on March 29, 2010 at 2:42 PM (PDT)

31

I just purchased some more tunes from the iTunes store and want to add them to the recent backup. the DVD-RW I am trying to use is not even half full, but apparently I cannot use it. Do I have to use a new disc each time I want to add to the backup?

Posted by Gailene on April 12, 2010 at 6:45 PM (PDT)

32

This is one of the best written guides I’ve come across. Unfortunately, I’m a total noob when it comes to ipods/itunes and I’ve hit a snag with regards to backing up.  I’m planning to format my HDD and reinstall my OS and I have a few queries.  I don’t actually need to back up any songs at all because I already have it ALL on separate storage, precisely because of my frequent formats and OS reinstalls. iTunes just references it.  However, I would like to learn how to backup/transfer my playlists/counts/metadata, etc. That’s what I’m afraid of losing.  I’m afraid of my ipod having to start from scratch.  Any tips/guides/links would be extremely appreciated.

Posted by Steven on April 22, 2010 at 5:48 AM (PDT)

33

Im get mad easily.

Posted by Jeffrey Lem on April 27, 2010 at 6:39 AM (PDT)

34

I love music

Posted by Jeffrey on April 27, 2010 at 10:20 AM (PDT)

35

I love music, Cant live without it right.

Posted by Jeff Lem on April 27, 2010 at 10:22 AM (PDT)

36

i am trying to free up some memory on my laptop that i have been running itunes from.  i still want to be able to use itunes.  but i would like to know if possible if it is ok to put all the itunes library and running systems onto an external hard drive, delete it from my laptop and then subsequently use the external memory to play my music from.  am i correct in thinking that as long as i have the external hard drive plugged into the computer that i will still be able to use itunes?

Posted by sarah gould on May 10, 2010 at 4:43 AM (PDT)

37

I tried to back up my itunes library, it says it requires 8 dvd discs. After it burns 1 disc, it says to insert blank disc, I do so, and right before it begins to burn, it spits out the blank disc and says to insert blank disc. I’ve bout various kinds of blank discs, and the same thing happens, only burns one disc. Anyone know why? My motherboard is crashing and i want to back it up before I can’t restart my computer…

Posted by Randy on May 13, 2010 at 1:44 PM (PDT)

38

It’s too bad Time Machine doesn’t work with network drives. Really lame IMO.

I’ve resorted to just copying the iTunes folder to my network drive. I delete the old folder before coping the new version. Unfortunately, this is very time consuming but it’s the only option available.

It would be nice if dragging the iTunes folder on my iMac to the network drive would just update the contents of the iTunes folder on the network drive, instead of having to delete the folder and make a whole new one.

And IMO, its stupid that the TV Shows and Movies folders are inside the music folder.

Posted by Aric on May 22, 2010 at 1:32 PM (PDT)

39

When I insert a dvd it burns, but then after that it freezes! I can’t get my dvd out of the drive unless I close itunes. Apple is really starting to get on my nerves. The best part is Ipod touch don’t have “enable disc” features. My PC doesn’t recognize the ipod touch, so I can’t transfer my music from my itouch to itunes. I just wasted 4 hours of my life putting music on itunes, and now I can’t even back it up. I was going to buy an apple computer, but now I changed my mind, I’m sticking with microsoft.

Posted by Jim on May 23, 2010 at 8:41 AM (PDT)

40

i just received a brand new ipod touch from sending in my “broken” one. i pluged it into itunes as said and tried to back-up everything of my recent ipod(touch) as i have backed up everything from the last one. when i try to presume when it asked me to do so..it said it wasn’t possible because the software on the ipod i just received is too old. im afraid that if i set up a “new” ipod…it will diminish everything i had from the old and i had very important things on there…please help asap.

thanks,
Ryan

Posted by Ryan Keith on June 14, 2010 at 9:37 AM (PDT)

41

Hi, Im trying to get all my backed up music onto my iTunes library but it only copies 4 songs out of 750 and pops up with ‘unexpected HDD error (-69)

Any idea as to why this is happening, thanks

Phil

Posted by Phil Higgins on June 22, 2010 at 2:56 AM (PDT)

42

hello,

I have just bought a new netbook with Windows C.E 6.0, can i use Itunes with this as i have an external hard drive so could i run itunes off the external hard drive.
Thanks
Michelle

Posted by Michelle Docherty on August 11, 2010 at 5:01 AM (PDT)

43

Thanks, this was very helpful in restoring my ratings and everything in my itl file. After replacing a hard drive I restored the music OK but was amazed a lot of other stuff was missing. I searched my external backup drive and found the file. I was still shaky about the process but I was replacing a small file with one much larger and proceeded, it looks like I’m back to very close to where I was.
Thanks
(Leo Laporte led me here I think this is the article he made reference to in a recent podcast.)

Posted by GaryCN on August 19, 2010 at 8:46 PM (PDT)

44

I’m trying to backup my Itunes library but the backup only processes 1 ot the 4 disc that I was notified that it will take to do the backup. Each time a blank disc is inserted it is rejected and request that a blank disc be inserted. Afetr many disc being rejected, I canceled the process and initiated the backup process again from the beginning with the same results.
What is the problem and how can I rectify it?
I’m not that computer savvy so please use basic terminology in any response. Your assistance is appreciated.

PS: I’ve done a backup about 1 1/2 years ago and it was successful(3 discs).

Posted by George Clay on August 21, 2010 at 5:57 AM (PDT)

45

I have an iPhone 3Gs.  I have an acer laptoo which had my iTunes on it. Then it had a virus and I lost everything. Is there anyway I can retreive my old music? iTunes always said ‘backing up iPhone’ when i conected it.

Posted by Megan Fox on October 14, 2010 at 1:11 PM (PDT)

46

Thanks, this was very helpful in restoring my ratings and everything in my itl file. After replacing a hard drive I restored the <a >HP pavilion dv6000 battery</a>  music OK but was amazed a lot of other stuff was missing. I searched my external backup drive and found the file. I was still shaky about the process but I was replacing a small file with one much larger and <a >Dell inspiron 1526 battery</a>  proceeded, it looks like I’m back to very close to where I was.

Posted by laptop abttery on October 20, 2010 at 1:06 AM (PDT)

47

Ryan: What is the script that you use?  Wouldn’t another risk of this method be that if iTunes deletes a file (which happens all too often) then that deletion will be mirrored in your back-up file?

Posted by Felix on October 29, 2010 at 3:25 PM (PDT)

48

Hi there. My laptop gave up the ghost completly and i am now using my girlfriends as she has a new one. I want to transfer all my ipod music to itunes but everything I try it just brings her library back up. I have tried deleting Itunes off the computer and re installing it but can’t get my songs on there. Can anyone help me with transfering my music onto this computer

Posted by Stuart Wing on October 31, 2010 at 2:54 PM (PDT)

49

I have yet to read anywhere about a program that will backup music, videos, photos AND apps.  Is there such a program? 

Having to remember all the apps you’ve aquired is a pain especially when the iTunes store only shows the most recent ~100, then you have to do a search for the ones not currently displayed.

Would prefer a program that allows for the backup to be stored on a selected HDD. This way formatting a HDD or retoration of the iPod would be quick and painless.  Just like backing up your e-mail contacts etc.!

Any such program?

Posted by rkent57 on November 20, 2010 at 7:17 PM (PDT)

50

I don;t think they want to make it easy.  It’s just unbelievable the bs you have to do to manage your music.  Not worth the time or effort, but what are your options.  I think they should be making it easier for us rather than difficult.  I can’t tell you how many songs kids just loose and no longer have access to them.  If I bought media from itunes and they have record of it, why could I just not simply re-download.  The whole thing is convoluted and expect far more than Apple.

Posted by todd on December 7, 2010 at 1:33 PM (PDT)

51

iLounge gurus - Excellent articles!  Thanks for helping me understand the iTunes file organization structure.  My 35 gig iTunes media reorganization and backup/restore project went without a hitch.

Posted by Jim S. on December 8, 2010 at 3:22 PM (PDT)

52

You can use a program called Senuti, it rips all the songs from your ipod directly to itunes with all the correct tags and everything, just doesnt copy playlists… Used this method about 2 years ago when my old computer had died

Posted by Anthony on January 7, 2011 at 4:17 AM (PDT)

53

That only shows how bad iTunes really is on organizing.

Proper way of doing it would be adding all info to the file itself, even if it meant generating a file that would support such metadata, and just keep a database index of the file structure for faster search.

Time Machine would then be able to do everything, and anything that break would be much easier to fix.

So far, best fix I’ve seem for iTunes troubles is Echodio. Because once all relevant info is backed up, you can do or redo whatever you please. But it seems like it’s still in beta for mac only.

Posted by Caue Rego on January 8, 2011 at 7:26 PM (PDT)

54

Frankly I see once clear message in all of the above. Apple should “Update” the “ITunes backup” and make it fit for purpose by ensuring it saves all data on the device and can restore data in a granular manner.

This is after all an integral piece of the core software used with their products, currently it is not fit for purpose in the eyes of most people.

I would presume this would also prevent the company’s chance of positioning their products in mainstream business markets without these issues been resolved.

A real shame as such devices are a pleasure to use and do business with.

Posted by GAvin on January 19, 2011 at 8:37 PM (PDT)

55

Something has changed recently within the iTunes software as far as backing up your files. After it asks me to put in a blank disk in the drive, I insert a blank DVD+R and then nothing happens! There is nothing wrong with my drive as I use it for other things. I am afraid I am about to loose a bunch of money I have spent with Apple if this PC crashes. I noticed that several other folks have had the same problem (reading above).  Can anyone assist?

Posted by Randy on April 3, 2011 at 4:00 PM (PDT)

56

I’ve recently restored from my old Vista PC to this new Windows 7 and only 2/3rds of my purchased ITUNES TV Shows are listed on my Itunes page, there fore I haven’t been able to sync with my IPHONE to download my choices.  It says I should download all purchased before doing this.  Yes they are in my ITUNES file on my hard drive, but why won’t they get restored into my Purchases list so I can check them off to store in my Iphone????  Itunes really is frustrating!!

Posted by Cheri on June 8, 2011 at 1:19 PM (PDT)

57

YOU CANNOT backup iTunes 10 to disc!!

Posted by Daniel on August 17, 2011 at 12:13 PM (PDT)

58

It was actually available until iTunes 10.4.  For whatever reason, Apple has decided to remove it in the latest version.  See our Instant Expert update on iTunes 10.4 for more information.

Posted by Jesse Hollington in Toronto on August 18, 2011 at 6:54 AM (PDT)

59

Question,
how can I backup my music in DVD’s. option Library then Back up to disc is not available in my itunestdmentry187

Posted by Jorge on September 29, 2011 at 9:17 AM (PDT)

60

How can I back-up my I-Tunes when there is no ‘back-up’ option under the file or library options.  I only have export library and I just want to continue my incremental back-ups.  And yes, I do have the latest version of I-Tunes.

Posted by Michael on December 4, 2011 at 9:47 PM (PDT)

61

#60: I guess you didn’t read the article—as of v10.4 iTunes no longer has a backup option.

Posted by rockmyplimsoul on December 7, 2011 at 3:03 PM (PDT)

62

I have a netbook with no disc drive. How can I back up my itunes library? I have an external disc drive but it will not let me back up on to a blank disc I put in here. Should I use a flash drive?

Posted by Julie on December 26, 2011 at 11:28 AM (PDT)

63

Really informative article.  I now have iTunes 10.5 so I can’t continue the incremental music back-up to DVD-Rs as in the past.  As a Windows 7 user, which backup software would you recommend that would allow me to do a full backup and then incremental backups to a separate hard drive. Thanks!

Posted by Tom on January 2, 2012 at 2:14 PM (PDT)

64

In depth but by no means ‘Complete’.

Why doesn’t anybody cover how to backup your equaliser settings or even realise that people put as much attention into these settings as anything else in iTunes?

Posted by Ben on February 5, 2012 at 5:47 AM (PDT)

65

Good article

Posted by Al Tenaglia on March 8, 2012 at 9:42 AM (PDT)

66

Im not sure if you mentioned this (i didnt read it into detail) but if i backed up my apps, would my data (like highscores etc.) still be stored on the app if it got deleted from my ipod?

Posted by Phoebe Davies on August 13, 2012 at 9:59 AM (PDT)

67

I have this 3-4TB (yes, you read it right—terabytes) media lib all setup in iTunes 11 (latest), with all the trimmings—album, tv series and movie art, ID3 tags all filled out and perfectly setup. All of my media is on internal drives and is backed up - no changes necessary.

I do need to change my OS drive (no media on it) and the rest of the computer. So I have to get rid of iTunes. I don’t want to have to “rediscover” all the media by using “Add Folder to iTunes”, I’ll lose all the metadata and it’ll take forever.

How do I backup the iTunes Media Folder and reuse it once my new iTunes is installed?

Posted by Couzin2000 on January 3, 2013 at 11:35 AM (PDT)

68

Never mind—found it in the next page: “Transferring your iTunes library”.
Yay!

Posted by Couzin2000 on January 3, 2013 at 12:19 PM (PDT)

69

do you know of a utility that will lift all the mp3 files from the itunes file structure and write them into one single folder (and rename them at the same time)?

Posted by Rob Robbins on March 21, 2014 at 3:06 AM (PDT)

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