Copying iTunes Song Files to Local Storage

Keep all your iTunes files safe by storing them on an external drive

What to Know

  • In the Preferences menu, select Files, then enable Copy files to iTunes/Music Media folder when adding to the library.
  • Go to File > Library > Organize Library, enable the Consolidate Files option, then select OK to copy the files into one folder.
  • Open a separate window, then drag the iTunes/Music folder from your computer to an external drive or the computer's hard disc.

This article explains how to export music from iTunes to a computer and make a hard disc backup of your media. With macOS Catalina, Apple renamed iTunes to Music. In this guide, we use the terms interchangeably.

Consolidate Your iTunes/Music Library Before Backup

The media files that make up your iTunes library might not be contained in the same folder; they may be spread among multiple folders. This can complicate things because you will have to make sure that all of the folders on your hard drive are backed up, in addition to the iTunes music folder.

Fortunately, you can use the consolidation feature in iTunes to copy all of your media files into one folder. This process does not delete the original files found in other locations, and it makes sure that all of the media in your library will be copied.

Here's how to consolidate your iTunes library into one folder before backup, make sure iTunes is running and follow these steps:

  1. Open the iTunes/Music preferences window:

    • On a Mac computer, select the iTunes/Music menu, then select Preferences.
    • On a Windows computer, select Edit > Preferences.
  2. Select the Files tab and enable the option: Copy files to iTunes/Music Media folder when adding to the library if it is not already checked, then select OK.

    Older versions of iTunes/Music may contain this option in the Advanced tab.

    iTunes Advanced Preferences
  3. To view the consolidation screen, select the File menu, then select Library > Organize Library.

  4. Enable the Consolidate Files option, then select OK to copy files into one folder.

Copy Your Consolidated iTunes/Music Library to External Storage

Now that you've made sure all the files in your iTunes library are in one folder, you can copy the folder to an external storage device, such as a portable hard drive or disc. To do this you will have to make sure iTunes is not running. Quit the program and follow these steps:

If you are using iTunes version 10.3 or earlier, then you have the option to backup music by burning it to CD or DVD. However, Apple has had this capability removed for more recent versions.

  1. Assuming you haven't changed the default location of the main iTunes folder, use one of the following default paths to navigate to your iTunes library:

    • Windows: \Users\userprofile\My Music\
    • macOS: /Users/userprofile/Music
  2. Open a separate window on your desktop for the external drive. This is so you can easily copy the media folder by dragging and dropping it.

    • Windows: Select the Computer icon or This PC via the Start button.
    • Mac: Open a Finder window from the dock or desktop.
  3. Drag the iTunes/Music folder from your computer to your external drive or hard disc. Wait for the copying process to complete.

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