Rebuilding an iTunes library

Q: I need your kind assistance in helping me as where I have gone wrong. I had a laptop (Windows XP) with my music files stored to an external hard drive. The laptop crashed and we were not able to save any files on the machine. Luckily, the music was all on the external hard drive. I purchased a new laptop (Windows Vista) and have tried to set up iTunes using the hard drive to work identical as the previous laptop.

On the new laptop I changed the location (via Edit/Preferences/Advanced) to show the external hard drive. I also authorized my new computer (via Store/Authorize Computer) however, the music does not appear in iTunes. What step am I missing so as to have the music saved on the hard drive appear in iTunes and also show the items I have purchased via iTunes appear in the iTunes Library screen? I have been approximately four weeks without iTunes and need you help getting back to one of my favorite hobbies! Any assistance you can provide is greatly

– Brad

A: The step you’re missing here is that you will likely need to actually reimport all of your tracks into a new, fresh iTunes library database by using the Add to Library function found on the iTunes File menu.

Unless you have taken specific steps to relocate it, the iTunes database is stored on your internal hard drive, which you have now lost. This database would have contained the listings for all of the tracks you had imported into iTunes, any playlists you had created and metadata such as rating, play count, last played date, and so forth.

With this gone, you’re basically starting over with an entirely new iTunes library, so you will need to reimport all of your tracks again from scratch.

The good news is that most of your actual track information like track name, artist, album and genre should be contained within the media files themselves, so when you reimport your library into iTunes, your tracks should be organized more or less as you would expect. The only thing you will really have lost are your playlists and statistical data such as your ratings and play counts.

Note that since this is a new library, your first iPod sync will likely take a while as well, since all of these tracks will need to be re-copied to your iPod. In fact, you will likely be prompted to “Erase and Sync” your iPod the first time you connect it, indicating that you essentially need to wipe your iPod clean and then re-transfer all of the tracks back onto it.