Q: I have just acquired an external hard drive to house my ever-growing music library. Is there any way to keep play counts and ratings attached to a song when I move it from my computer’s hard drive to the external or vice versa? Or is the file copied blankly every time?
A: Individual music files don’t contain that play count and rating information; the iTunes Library files do, along with some other information (such as last played date, date added, etc).
So if you tell iTunes to remove a song from your library, this information will be lost. However, if you simply move the song file without deleting it from the iTunes Library, iTunes will show a ! indicating that it can’t find the song, but will retain the information you want.
Many people find it annoying to have lots of songs with ! before their names, but this might be a solution for you. When you return the songs to their appropriate locations (and you’ll have to make sure to do so), the ! will go away.