Q: I have an iPhone 4 and my old computer has 1600 songs organized into about 50 playlists, some with 20 or 30 songs each. I’m replacing the old computer, but am having trouble moving the songs to it—only about 900 would transfer, and none of the playlists will transfer to the new computer. Surely there’s a way. The phone’s an iPhone 4 and the computers are PCs with Vista on the old one and Windows 7 on the new one.
A: The best way to transfer your iTunes library to a new computer is to actually copy over all of the iTunes library folders from the old computer directly to the new one using either an external hard drive or over a network connection between the two computers.
Moving the actual iTunes library database over will preserve all of your playlists as well as other iTunes-specific metadata like ratings and play counts. The database also contains the sync settings for your iPhone, so once you’ve transferred it over you can plug in your iPhone and continue syncing with the new computer without having to reconfigure anything.
For more information and detailed instructions see our tutorial on Transferring your iTunes Library. It is possible to copy your content from your iPhone 4 back to the new computer as well, but by doing this you’ll essentially be starting an entirely new iTunes library and importing your media content and playlists into it from scratch. You will need to use third-party tools to help you do this, as iTunes by itself will only allow you to transfer back content that you purchased from the iTunes Store and not content that you imported from your own CDs or other sources. You can get more information on this in our tutorial on Copying Content from your iPod to your Computer, but generally if you have your old computer available the best solution by far is to simply move the actual iTunes library over rather than trying to recreate it from your iPhone.