Q: I have music in a few folders on my drive here and there, and I have been doing my own file-structure organization on Windows XP for years. I was thinking of running the consolidating option to allow iTunes to completely manage everything. I understand from your article on transferring my library that iTunes would relocate all my files into its own directory and re-arrange the structure differently from the way I have my files “all over the place”.. Ok good enough. However, I have an extensive set of playlists. And when I export a playlist and take a look inside I see that each entry has a full path to where the file is located. So what your article doesn’t address, is, what happens to my playlists? Is the file location (i.e. “E:bmp3_420022002_This Moment Now_A Gate of Dreams_08.MP3”) stored in the playlists updated? Will all my playlists work after consolidation? In other words, if I allow iTunes to consolidate my library, will my playlists continue to work? Or will I need to somehow manually edit them with a bulk search and replace utility?
A: When you use the “Consolidate Files” option in iTunes, not only are all of your files copied into the iTunes Media folder, but the file locations are updated in the iTunes library database as it does this. iTunes stores a full path to each and every file in your library database—this is why you cannot move your files manually as iTunes would lose track of them.
It’s also worth noting that individual playlists within iTunes actually reference the internal database entries for each track and not the actual file locations. Essentially, the main track listing (under the “Music” section) would contain a reference to the file location, and the playlist entry itself would contain a reference pointing to that main entry. When you export a playlist the full path to each track in the playlist is read from the iTunes database and written to the exported playlist file.
The bottom line is that following a library consolidation your playlists will continue to work fine, as iTunes updates the locations for each track in the library database and the playlists simply refer to those same database entries.