External hard drives and iTunes


Q: I tried to move my music folder, along with my iTunes library, to an external hard drive because my internal drive was filling up quickly. Initially iTunes impressively recognised and found the new location, however later after the same external hard drive had to be disconnected and reconnected, I couldn’t even open iTunes, and got a message stating that “The folder iTunes cannot be found or created and is required.”

External hard drives and iTunes

In an effort to reverse the action I tried to put things back but was unable to recreate my original music folder and it seems I lost it somehow or it got deleted. I went to Apple support: I installed Tweak UI from Microsoft as was suggested, since I’m using a PC and XP, and when it instructed me to go to my special folders to find my music folder, my music folder wasn’t there on the list, even though I recreated one in my documents folder.

I’m losing my mind with this and can’t believe Apple has made this process so difficult, I’m ready to toss my iPod and go with a different software and hardware system. I have spent over $2000- buying music from iTunes, and I’m very angry and upset about this. Help Guys!

– Mykola

A: How this is actually handled depends largely on what version of iTunes you are using. By default on Windows XP, iTunes expects to find its library database in the “My Music” folder of whichever user is presently logged on to the system. In previous versions of iTunes, there was no way to change this behavior, and you therefore needed to use the Microsoft TweakUI tool to change the location of the “My Music” folder itself at an operating system level. By telling Windows itself to put the “My Music” folder somewhere else, iTunes would happily use this new location.

Fortunately, in iTunes 7, the situation has become much simpler. You can now tell iTunes to either create or use a new iTunes library database simply by holding down the SHIFT key while starting iTunes. iTunes will present you with the following dialog box:

External hard drives and iTunes

You can then either click “Create Library” to create a new iTunes library entirely, or “Choose Library” to point iTunes to the location of your existing library database folder.

Note that none of this affects where iTunes stores your content, but only the library database itself (and its related files). The location for your iTunes content such as music and video files, is set in your iTunes preferences under the Advanced tab:


External hard drives and iTunes

This location defaults to a folder called “iTunes Music” which is stored under your iTunes library database folder, but you can specify any location you like for it.

Generally, unless you plan on using your iTunes library on more than one computer, the best option is to actually leave the iTunes library database in its default location, and simply specify an alternative location for your iTunes Music Folder in the iTunes Preferences. Since it is the iTunes content in the iTunes Music Folder that accounts for most of your library storage, generally moving this to an external hard drive is all that is necessary.

In terms of this specific problem, if the iTunes library database is still on the external hard drive, then your simplest option is to restart iTunes while holding down the SHIFT key, and then use the “Choose Library” button to point iTunes to the location of your library database on the external hard drive. Using the TweakUI tool is not necessary unless you’re using a version of iTunes prior to v7, and in fact can complicate things in this case. The other thing to keep in mind is that TweakUI will not just change the location of the “My Music” folder, but will in fact move it to the new location, which would explain why you are no longer seeing it under the “My Documents” folder on your computer, as it will now be pointing to whatever path you set it to in TweakUI.

Unless you change the path using the method above, iTunes will simply look for a folder called “iTunes” in this new location and expect to find its library database there.

For more assistance with this problem, you may want to check into our iLounge Discussion Forums and consider posting a thread in there for help with your specific problem.


Jesse Hollington

Jesse Hollington was a Senior Editor at iLounge. He's written about Apple technology for nearly a decade and had been covering the industry since the early days of iLounge. In his role at iLounge, he provided daily news coverage, wrote and edited features and reviews, and was responsible for the overall quality of the site's content.