Restoring iTunes to an external hard drive

Q: I previously had iTunes installed on a work laptop, and now I have DVD backups of this. The laptop is no more and I want to know if I can install iTunes on an external hard drive and then transfer the backups on the DVDs to the install? We have 3 iPods (touch, classic and nano) in the family that need to be synched to the iTunes install. If I can run the whole of iTunes from the external drive can I then attach this to other computers as and when required? I don’t want to install iTunes to the internal drive of the home computer due to storage issues.

– Anonymous

A: There are a couple of ways you can handle this. If it’s your intent to run iTunes from a single family computer, then the simplest solution is to just store the content on the external drive. In this configuration, the iTunes library database remains on your internal drive, but your actual media files are stored and maintained on the external hard drive. Moving the iTunes database is a separate process, and realistically the database itself takes up minimal space as compared to your media content.

In this case, you would simply start off the new library with a media folder pointing to the external hard drive. You can specific your iTunes Media folder location under iTunes Advanced Preferences:

Restoring iTunes to an external hard drive

Once you’ve set the media folder to live on the external hard drive, any new content you add to your iTunes library will be copied to that location and stored there. So, as you restore or import your DVD backup, the files should be copied straight from the DVDs to the external hard drive.

Alternatively, you are looking to have an iTunes library on the external hard drive that’s shared between more than one computer, then you will want to move the iTunes database to the external hard drive as well. If you’re starting a new iTunes library, you can place the database wherever you want initially by holding down the SHIFT key (Windows) or OPT key (Mac) while starting iTunes. iTunes will prompt you to either create a new library or choose a library from another location.


Restoring iTunes to an external hard drive

If you’re starting fresh, simply choose “Create Library” and point iTunes to a folder on the external hard drive where you would like your library to be created. If you already have an existing iTunes library, then you will need to manually move it to the new location, and then use the “Choose Library” option in this dialog box to point iTunes to the library database in the new location.

You can read more information about how all of this fits together in our iPod 201 article on Transferring your iTunes Library.


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