Q: I’m planning to format my Windows XP computer. Is it possible to save my current iTunes music library and to re-import them again later on when I reinstall Windows XP again?
A: Absolutely. In a default configuration, iTunes stores everything you would normally care about in a folder named “iTunes” located under your “My Music” folder in your current user profile. Unless you have changed the default locations in your iTunes preferences, this folder normally contains your iTunes library database and all of your media files.
Simply backup this folder and everything in it to an external hard drive or CD/DVD before your reformat your computer. When you have reinstalled Windows XP and iTunes, copy this folder back into its normal location (under your “My Music” folder) before your start iTunes for the first time. Once it’s copied back, restart iTunes and it should pick up the existing library database and all of your existing media files.
Of course, if you’ve moved the “iTunes Music folder” (under the “Advanced” tab in iTunes Preferences), you will need to back that up in addition to the main “iTunes” folder, as this secondary folder is where your actual media files will be located.
The only thing that will not be backed up by this process is your iTunes Preferences, which are stored elsewhere in Windows. Although you can back these up as well, these do not always restore properly, so it’s better simply to re-visit your iTunes preferences settings after you have your library up and running and confirm that they are all set to your liking.
Our our iPod 201 tutorial on Managing your iTunes Library on an External Hard Drive has more information on how this all fits together.