Transferring iTunes from PC to Mac
Ask iLounge offers readers the opportunity to get answers to their iPod-, iPhone-, iPad-, iTunes-, or Apple TV-related questions from a member of the iLounge editorial team. We'll answer several questions here each week, and of course, you can always get help with more immediate concerns from the iLounge Discussion Forums. Submit your questions for consideration using our Ask iLounge Submit Form. We reserve the right to edit questions for grammar, spelling, and length.
Q: I am a long-suffering PC user who is about to switch to an Apple iMac. I have an extensive music collection, which I manage via iTunes. I have used an external harddrive to hold the music and keep the iTunes library and database files on there as well. The drive is FAT32 formatted, so I know it will be compatable with the iMac without the need for reformatting.
I have a lot of complicated playlists in iTunes that I don’t want to lose when I switch to the iMac. Despite lots of poking around on iLounge and the net, I can’t find anything on making the switch and converting the iTunes library from PC to Mac. Is it possible to convert the library data, or will I need to start from scratch and simply import everything and recreate the playlists?
A: The only real obstacle in transferring an iTunes library from a PC to a Mac (or vice-versa) is that the way in which files are organized and referenced on the drives differs between operating systems. In short a Mac doesn’t use drive letters, as it is a Unix-based filesystem.
Although the iTunes Library database structure is identical in both the Mac and PC versions of iTunes, the problem is that the full path is normally stored to each media file that is in your library. A Mac won’t necessarily know how to locate a file with a path that begins with “D:\Music” for instance, since it has no concept of what a “D:” drive is.
The good news is that there is a way around this, however. The key point is that if iTunes cannot locate a track at its specified location, iTunes will fall back to looking for it in the default location for that track, based on the information in the iTunes database. This will essentially be in your iTunes Music Folder, in an ARTIST/ALBUM type of directory structure.
So, for example, let’s say you had a track named “Bastille Day” on an album by “Rush” named “Caress of Steel” that is stored at “D:\Music Files\Rush\Bastille Day.mp3.” If your D: drive doesn’t exist (which it wouldn’t on a Mac), iTunes will fall back to looking for a file named “Rush\Caress of Steel\Bastille Day.mp3” under your iTunes Music Folder path (as defined in iTunes’ advanced preferences). Note that this organization might be slightly different for albums that are tagged as “Part of a Compilation” or for TV Shows, Movies, or Podcasts, which are all stored somewhat differently.
Regardless, however, if you simply pre-organize all of your media content into iTunes’ own organizational structure by using the “Consolidate Library” function prior to transferring your iTunes library to your Mac, then it should be able to locate all of your tracks after you connect your external hard drive to your Mac, provided you update the “iTunes Music Folder” path in your Mac’s iTunes preferences to reflect the parent folder on the external hard drive.
Basically, the steps are as follows:
- In iTunes on your Windows PC, confirm that your iTunes Music Folder path, under Edit, Preferences, Advanced is set to an appropriate folder on your external hard drive.
- Select Advanced, Consolidate Library
- Once this process completes, copy your iTunes Library database from your My Music\iTunes folder on your Windows PC onto the external hard drive.
- Move the external hard drive to the iMac
- Copy your iTunes library database from step 3 back to your iMac, into your Music/iTunes folder.
- Start iTunes on the Mac, set the iTunes Music Folder path on your Mac (see iTunes, Preferences, Advanced) to the same music folder on the external hard drive.
More instructions on how to organize your library onto an external hard drive can be found in our recently-updated Guide to Managing your iTunes Library on an External Hard Drive.
One thing to look out for in this process is the setting Create file names with track number found under iTunes’ Burning preferences tab:
This setting determines whether iTunes will expect tracks to have a track number at the front of each filename or not. If this was set on your Windows computer, and is not set on your Mac, tracks may not be found, since iTunes will be looking for them using the wrong name (ie, “1 Bastille Day.mp3” instead of just “Bastille Day.mp3”). It doesn’t otherwise matter which setting you use for this, simply that it be set the same on both your Windows and Mac computers.
- Will removing a credit card from Safari also remove it from Apple Pay?
- Can I mute Handoff calls coming into my Mac from my iPhone?
- How do I keep my iPhone calls from ringing on my Mac?
- Why doesn’t Traffic show up on my Today Notifications Screen?
- Why doesn’t my iPhone reconnect to Wi-Fi after I turn it on?
- Why can’t I see the iPad-style landscape view on my iPhone 6 Plus?
- Apple’s new ‘Echo rival’ may feature a camera
- Apple ‘working rapidly’ to extend Apple Pay to more countries
- Report: Apple’s Siri-based Amazon Echo competitor will be a new Apple TV
- Report: Apple SVP Eddy Cue proposed bid to buy Time Warner
- Beta testing for Pokémon GO begins in the U.S.
- Apple’s plan to open stores in India hits a snag (Update: India’s finance minister ratifies ruling)
- Apple looking into charging stations for electric cars
- Apple hires hint at improvements in encryption, health monitoring
- Hyundai adds CarPlay support to more vehicles
- Plaintiffs file new motion to keep ‘Error 53’ Touch ID lawsuit alive
- OtterBox Symmetry Series Hybrid Case for 12.9” iPad Pro
- Logitech Logi BASE Charging Stand for iPad Pro
- Twelve South TimePorter for Apple Watch
- August Doorbell Cam
- August Smart Lock HomeKit enabled + Smart Keypad
- ecobee3 HomeKit-enabled smart Wi-Fi thermostat
- Zagg Now Cam
- Yantouch EyE Portable Wireless Speaker
- Netatmo Wind Gauge
- Incipio Stashback for iPhone 6/6s
- Filling the Gap: A look at third-party HomeKit apps
- Instant Expert: Secrets & Features of tvOS 9.2
- Instant Expert: Secrets & Features of iOS 9.3
- Opinion: Why Apple needs a dedicated HomeKit app
- Inside the betas: What’s new in iOS 9.3 and tvOS 9.2 (Updated)
- Life with HomeKit: Our experiences with Apple’s home automation system
- Under the Radar: 10 ‘hidden’ details about the new Apple TV
- Instant Expert: Secrets & Features of iOS 9.0
- Under the Radar: A closer look at smaller iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus changes
- A First Look at iOS 9’s Transit in Apple Maps (Updated for watchOS 2)