Storing a large iTunes library in multiple folders


Q: I keep all my iTunes related libraries on external hard drives, meaning my music files and library index files are on one external drive and movies are on another external drive. These could be combined to a single external hard drive but neither can fit on the system drive. I have no problems with setting iTunes to see the music library but cannot get iTunes to recognize the movies on an external drive. What setting or understanding am I missing here?

– Scott


A: Storing media content in multiple locations in iTunes can be a bit complicated, since iTunes only allows you to specify a single iTunes Music folder, which is where it expects all of its content to live.

If you want to keep some content elsewhere, the simplest solution is to place that content where you want it to be located, and then turn OFF the option to “Copy files to iTunes Music folder when adding to library” under your iTunes Advanced preferences. When you import content with this option disabled, iTunes will leave this content in its original location, and simply reference it from there, rather than making a copy in its own music folder.

The disadvantage to this process is that iTunes will not organize or manage this content, since it’s outside of its music folder. Therefore, if you change the tags for these tracks, they will not be automatically renamed, and if you delete them from your iTunes library, iTunes will not offer to delete the original files—you’ll have to go and clean those up yourself.

You’ll also need to be cautious about using the “Consolidate Library” option, since this will try to copy all of this external content into your iTunes Music folder location, which will presumably not have enough storage space to hold it all.


Note that if your content is already in your iTunes library and you want to do this, you will have to copy it out to the new location, delete it from your iTunes library, and then reimport it from the new location, with the “Copy Files…” option disabled.

If you’re using a Mac and are a more advanced user, another option is to create Unix-style symbolic links to certain sub-folders, or to create a mount point within your existing iTunes Music folder that connects the external drive within the files system (so for example, the folder /iTunes Music/Movies actually references the second hard drive directly). The mount point option can also be done on Windows with NTFS file systems. In either case, this is generally only recommended for more advanced users who have an understanding of the Unix or NTFS file systems, but it will effectively allow you to span your existing library across multiple drives by creating operating-system level links between those drives while iTunes still believes it’s dealing with a single music folder.


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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.