Q: My hard drive crashed and I lost all of iTunes music. Luckily, I had it backed up on an external hard drive. What is the best way to get them from the external hard drive to my new laptop?
A: How to handle this will depend on whether you had backed up your entire iTunes folder, including the library database, or only made a backup of the music and other media content.
If you’ve backed up the entire iTunes library folder as-is, then you should be able to simply copy the backup right back into the same location on your new laptop—into a folder named “iTunes” under your “Music” or “My Music” folder for your user account. When you launch iTunes for the first time it should pick up the existing library database and music in this location and be ready to go, although you’ll want to take a quick trip through your iTunes Preferences to ensure that everything is configured the way you want it.
This process may be a bit more complicated if you had your media content stored in another folder on your computer rather than under your main iTunes folder. In this case, you will need to restore the iTunes library database and related files into the “iTunes” folder and then copy your media content to the same location that it was located in on the old computer since that’s where the iTunes library database will be pointing to.
If you only have a backup of your iTunes media content and haven’t actually backed up your iTunes library database, then you’re essentially starting a new library from scratch and should simply import your music from your external hard drive into iTunes using the File, Add to Library commands. You will have lost metadata such as playlists, ratings and play counts in this case, but the information that actually identifies your media such as title, album and artist is stored within the media files. Alternatively if getting back your playlists, ratings and play counts is important you can look at recovering that content from an iPod, iPhone or iPad if you have one. See our iPod 201 article, Copying Content from your iPod to your Computer for more information on how to do that.