Introduction: Copying Your I-Tunes PC Library to a New Location

Let's say that you're Personal Computer is getting old ... time to replace it. You've burned all your vinyl (45's and albums), copied all your CD's, and purchased a lot of downloads from the i-Tunes store over the past few years, and need a way to transfer all of that music and video to the new PC, or even better, to an external hard drive.

Think you can just copy or move it from one disk to another? NO! (Thank you Apple for being so user-friendly!!!)

So ... what to do? Here is the "official" way that Apple advises you to accomplish this ...

Step 1: The "Official" Way

To COPY (does not remove from hard drive)
Open your iTunes Preferences: Choose Edit > Preferences. Click Advanced. The location of your iTunes folder will be listed in iTunes Media folder location box Drag the iTunes folder to your external hard drive. This can take a while if you have a lot of items. When the transfer is complete, your iTunes Library will have been successfully copied to your external hard drive

To MOVE - per their "experts" (The Genius desk)

Step 1: Preparation Connect the hard drive that will serve as the new home for your iTunes library. Make sure the drive is recognized by your computer and has enough room to hold your collection. To gauge the size of your media library, open iTunes, select one of your libraries (music, movies, TV shows, podcasts, audiobooks, etc.) from the left pane, and take a look at the numbers written at the bottom-center of the iTunes window. You should see the number of files in that particular library, along with the size of the library, measured in gigabytes. Moving your iTunes library means moving all of your media (audio and video), so be sure to check the size of each of these libraries to get an accurate picture of how much space you'll need.

While you're going through your collection, it's not a bad idea to do some spring cleaning while you're at it. Deleting old podcasts and TV shows you never plan on watching again can shave whole gigabytes from your library and hours from your transfer time.

Step 2: Define a new location Once you've confirmed that your destination hard drive is up to the task of hosting your iTunes library, it's time to open your iTunes preferences. On a PC, you'll find these preferences under the iTunes Edit menu. For Mac, preferences live under the iTunes menu. With the preferences pane open, click under the Advanced tab and where it says "iTunes music folder location" change the location to a desired folder on your external hard drive.

Step 3: Make iTunes copy new files Before hitting the OK button, also make sure the "Copy files to iTunes Music folder when adding to library" option is checked. This ensures that any new content you download or rip into iTunes gets transferred to the new location. After that, you're all clear to hit OK.

Step 4: Consolidate the library After changing your preferences, iTunes may or may not prompt you on whether you'd like to have your library organized and moved to the new location. Regardless of what delightful or baffling messages iTunes throws in front of you after closing the preferences window, the only way to really make sure your library gets transferred to the new location is to go into the iTunes File menu, scroll down to Library, and select "Consolidate Library" from the list of options. Once you see a progress bar inching slowly across the screen as your files copy over, you know you're in business. This step could take awhile, so take a walk, read a book, or let iTunes work on the transfer over night.

Step 5: Confirm the transfer At this point, your iTunes library has migrated to its new location on your external hard drive. To check if iTunes is working correctly and pulling your media from the new location, open iTunes, select a song, and select Get Info from the File menu. A window will pop up describing all the attributes of your song file, including the location of the file.

Now remember, iTunes hasn't deleted your old files, it just copied them to a new location. As long as your external hard drive is connected and powered on, iTunes will remember to grab your library from the new location. If your drive isn't connected, iTunes will temporarily default to the original location until your drive is connected again.

Step 6: Deleting old files (optional) Keeping your original iTunes library around as a backup isn't a bad idea, but most people are motivated to move to an external drive for the sake of freeing up space on their computer. If you're feeling confident that your entire iTunes library has been safely copied over to its new location, there's no reason why you can't delete the files in the original folder.

Typically, PC users will find their original iTunes library content in this directory:

C:\Documents and Settings\"USERNAME"\My Documents\My Music\iTunes\iTunes Music

The default iTunes library folder for Mac users is:

/Users/"USERNAME"/Music/iTunes/iTunes Music

Of course, we advise that you be cautious whenever you delete something from your computer. It's never a bad idea to backup your iTunes library to CD or DVD by using the "Back Up To Disc" feature in the iTunes File menu (located within the Library submenu). To be extra cautious, try trashing only a few files at a time from the original location, then launch iTunes and make sure the files you deleted still show up and play properly from their new location.

Be careful not to delete files from within the iTunes application, thinking you're deleting old files. The deleting we're talking about here is from within the Windows or Mac OS file directory. Also, be sure not to delete your "iTunes Library.itl" file if you to hold on to all the song ratings and playlists you've created over the years.

Bottom line, the only iTunes content you should consider deleting after copying your collection are the files within the "iTunes Music" folder located on your computer. Other files in the "iTunes" folder surrounding it are all worth holding on to.

Step 7: Dealing with missing data OK, so you've deleted your old iTunes library and your new library running from the external hard drive is working great. But what happens when you go to run iTunes and your drive isn't connected? Don't panic. iTunes will notice your hard drive isn't connected and look for your library in its old location. Even though your old files are long gone, iTunes will not delete its record of the file simply because it can't be found.

If you try to play one of these missing files in iTunes, you'll get a prompt asking if you'd like to locate the file. Just say no. Once your external drive is connected back to your computer and you've relaunched iTunes, all your files will play just fine.

In the meantime, even with the drive disconnected, you can still use iTunes to stream music, and download new content from the iTunes store. Just remember to use that "Consolidate Library" command from Step 4 once you've connected back to your external drive so that any new downloads you made while away from the drive get copied over to the new location.

Step 2: Doesn't Take a Genius to Figure Out the Right Way ...

Well done, Geniuses - but WAY too complicated!
The correct first step would be to plan ahead and install directly to the external drive, saving yourself this hassle.

But, we humans don't plan that far in advance. So -

1. COPY the I-Tunes folder in it's entirety to the external drive.

2. Open I-Tunes (as above), and point it to the external drive path.

3. Close I-tunes, and rename the C:\- based folder to "NOT I-Tunes" (You may need to grab some files - so do not delete it as yet.)

4. Meanwhile, back on the external dive - create two folders - name one M4P and the other MP3 - move all of your purchased files into the M4P folder and all of your vinyl copied music to the MP3 folder. (I had 43.4 Gig of files to work with total)

5. Open I-Tunes, from the text toolbar, click on "File", from the tear down menu, select "Add Folder to Library" - select the external drive's I-Tunes folder, and click on the [OK] button.

It will take a while.

6. Once done, repeat the "File" - but point it to the XML library file.

7. Be sure that the device is set to auto sync. Plug in your i-pod - it will delete everything on the i-pod from the C:\ drive, then reload from the external drive. 32.4 Gig took about four hours.

It worked like a charm.

Verify everything came over, if it didn't - make corrections and re-sync. Once it's all there - eject and delete the C:\ based "Not I-Tunes" folder - that's it!