Transferring iTunes via external hard drive


Q: I currently have my iTunes library on an external hard drive attached to a Mac. I am planning to buy a new computer and was wondering how I can move my library. Surely it can’t be as simple as plugging the external hard drive into a new computer. Or can it?

– Vickie


A: It’s actually almost that simple, although you still have to account for transferring the iTunes library database to the new computer.

Even when you store your iTunes Music Folder on an external hard drive, this only includes the actual media content—the iTunes library database itself remains located in your local “Music” folder (under your user profile).

So, to move your iTunes library to a new computer via your external hard drive, you have to transfer the content of the “iTunes” folder from your “Music” folder on your old Mac to your “Music” folder on your new Mac. This can easily be done using the same external hard drive to transport it between the two machine.

Once you have copied the iTunes folder over to your new Mac, you should be able to simply start iTunes on the new Mac and it should pick up the existing iTunes library database (since it will always search for it in the “Music” folder of the current user profile by default), and things should work much the same as they did on the original computer.

You will still need to adjust your iTunes preferences on your new Mac, as these are stored outside of the iTunes library database. Pay particular attention to the iTunes Music Folder setting under Preferences, Advanced, as this defines where new music files that you import will be stored—it should be set to your external hard drive path, in much the same way as it was on your original Mac.

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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.