Using an iTunes library database from an external hard drive | iLounge Article

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Using an iTunes library database from an external hard drive

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Q: Since I was running out of space on my C drive, I moved my songs and videos to an external hard drive. I then changed the location where my songs are kept in the Advanced preferences window of iTunes to the folder on the external drive.  However, now when I try to play a song in iTunes I get an error message that iTunes can’t find the songs.

- Nancy

A: This problem is quite common, and occurs because iTunes stores a complete path to where you files are located. iTunes expects to manage these file locations for you, and gets confused when you start moving things around yourself. Essentially, iTunes is still trying to find your music tracks in their original locations.

Provided you have the disk space still available on your C drive, the best option here is to move all of your music files back to their original locations, and then use the “Consolidate Library” feature in iTunes to tell iTunes itself to relocate your media files to the new drive. Our article o. Transferring your iTunes Library provides more detailed information on how to do this.


Q: Hi, I am totally new to iPods and MP3 players in general. I am buying a new 120 GB iPod Classic. I do not currently have iTunes installed on my system. I have an older laptop running Windows XP, but with little hard drive space left. I have a 160GB External Drive coming, and I wanted to install iTunes completely on the external drive. I was hoping that I would be able to use the hard drive on my computer at home and at work to boot up iTunes on either, plus I will be getting a new home computer in 6 months or so. Is it possible to install iTunes on the external drive only and still have it work? Thanks for any help!

- Paul

A: Just to be clear, there are actually a few different pieces that we are talking about in this case: The iTunes application program, the iTunes library database, and your actual media content.

For all intents and purposes, the iTunes application program must be installed on each individual computer, effectively on the system (C:) drive. You can choose to install iTunes in a different physical location, but there are still going to be preference files, registry settings, and other internal files that need to be installed as part of your Windows operating system. Your best bet is to just allow the iTunes installer to use its default locations during the iTunes install, and to reinstall iTunes on any other computers you plan to use it on.

The good news, however, is that this limitation only applies to the iTunes application program. You can tell iTunes to store its data - your library database and media content - just about anywhere you like. If you plan to use a single external hard drive with that data between more than one computer, you simply need to point each copy of the iTunes application to that external hard drive location.

Note that iTunes has separate and distinct settings for where to keep the library database and the media content, however this is usually very easy to set up with an initial iTunes library, rather than trying to move things around later. Read our article on Transferring your iTunes Library for much more specific instructions on how to set this up.

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