iTunes library and Time Capsule

Q: I have a Powerbook with an 80 GB hard drive – and an external 300 GB drive which stores all my music. Attaching my external drive, plugging myself into a power socket, consolidating my music, updating my iPod, and unmounting it all again seems to be a nightmare, and I’m sure there must be a better way to store and access my media.

Time Capsule has suddenly made me realise – if its not done wirelessly, it shouldn’t be done at all!  To wirelessly access my iTunes library, do I need to purchase Time Capsule? Is this the best solution? Can I get a special router to attach my drive to that will do the same job? What’s the most cost effective thing to do?

– Faraz

A: You can certainly store your iTunes media files and even your iTunes library on a remote network device. Note that “Time Capsule” is not specifically required for this purpose, and doesn’t actually offer any extra iTunes-specific functionality as compared to any external “Network Attached Storage” (NAS) device.

Certainly if you are looking for a new wireless access point with included storage, and are a Leopard Time Machine user, the Time Capsule device is a good solution. However, these are really the only benefits of Time Capsule. If you’re strictly looking for somewhere to store your existing library wirelessly, and you want to use the 300GB hard drive you already own, then there may be more cost-efficient ways of doing this.

There are many wireless routers available these days with USB ports for external hard drives, including Apple’s own Airport Extreme base station. Purchasing a device such as the Airport Extreme may be more cost-effective as you are not paying for additional hard drive storage that you may not need. In the case of the Airport Extreme, you would simply connect your existing 300GB hard drive to the USB port on the base station, and access it remotely from there as a network share.

Other third-party wireless routers offer similar functionality, although they do not necessarily offer the ease of configuration and use that Apple’s routers do, particularly for a Mac OS X user.

Once you have a NAS configuration set up, regardless of whether you are using Time Capsule, an Airport Extreme with an external hard drive, or another type of NAS device, the process for moving your iTunes library over to it and managing it from there is much the same as you’re already doing for the external hard drive. If your iTunes library database is already on your Powerbook, then you would simply need to change the path of your “iTunes Music Folder” in your iTunes preferences to point to the network location. If you want to store the actual iTunes library database on the network device, then you would also need to point iTunes itself to that new location by holding down the SHIFT key when starting iTunes.

See our article on Managing your iTunes Library on an External Hard Drive for more information on the specifics of how this can be handled.

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