Problems moving an iTunes library


Q: I have read your article on how to move an iTunes library to a new hard drive and I have gone the “wrong” way about this. I am trying to move my entire library from my work PC onto my new laptop at home. Under Advanced Preferences I had changed the location of the library to an external hard drive (a memory stick) and then under File, Library, Organise Library I ticked the Consolidate Library option. It seemed to copy the library onto the memory stick as it took some time. I took the memory stick home and tried to copy onto my laptop, which it has done as all the songs and apps are showing in my library on my laptop (although no play lists copied over). However as soon as I removed the memory stick it is showing a broken link and “cannot locate” message. I read your report and realised I have done this wrong. I am now trying to put the content back on my old PC so that I can try again properly, but I cannot do this and don’t know how to. The links are still broken. I seem to have the library on both PC’s and all the content on my memory stick, but cannot seem to get either to work now! Can you advise how I put the library back onto my old PC? I do not have a back up but my complete library is on my iPod. Many many thanks for any help you can give me!

– Vicky

A: The key point to remember with the “Consolidate Library” option is that this not only copies all of your tracks to the new iTunes Media folder, but also updates all of the paths in your iTunes library to point to the new location.

In a practical sense, what this means is that your iTunes library on your PC will now be looking for all of its music on your memory stick. Hence, when the memory stick is not present, it can’t find any of its files.

The fix for this is actually pretty straightforward: Simply use the same “Consolidate Library” procedure a second time to copy the files from the memory stick onto the destination computer—whether that be your new laptop or your original PC. This will perform the exact same procedure, copying the tracks and updating the paths to point to the files in the new location back on the internal hard drive.

Note that if you’re looking to copy the files back to the original work PC or have already manually copied the files onto the laptop, you’ll either want to choose a different iTunes Media folder under Advanced Preferences or erase the music that’s already on the target computer; since the original iTunes media files are still on the PC, and iTunes tries to avoid overwriting existing media files, Consolidating from the memory stick will actually create duplicates.

Note, however, that if the goal is to permanently transfer the library onto your laptop and no longer keep it on the work PC, there’s really no reason to go back; you can run the Consolidate Library option on your laptop in the same manner, but again if you’ve already copied files manually, you’ll want to clean those up first to avoid duplicate files.

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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.