Move Your iTunes Library to a New Location

Let iTunes Organize your Library
iTunes can move the original library media files for you. Letting iTunes perform this task will keep all of the playlists and ratings intact. Screen sot courtesy of Coyote Moon, Inc.
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Move Your iTunes Library to a New Location

iTunes Advance Preferences
Before you actually move anything, start by verifying or setting up iTunes to manage your Music or Media folder. Screen shot courtesy of Coyote Moon, Inc.

iTunes is one application I use every day. And I seem to add new music, movies, or podcasts to my iTunes library almost as often as I use iTunes. The iTunes library doesn't have a practical size limit; as long as there's space on your drive, you can keep adding tunes or other media files.

That's not entirely a good thing. If you're not paying attention, your iTunes library can quickly take up more than its fair share of drive space. Moving your iTunes library from your startup drive to another internal or external drive can not only free up some space on your startup drive, it can also give you more room to grow your iTunes library.

Before You Move Your iTunes Library

This guide will work for iTunes version 7 and later, however, some names will differ slightly, depending on the version of iTunes you're using. For instance, in iTunes 8 and earlier, the library folder where the media files are located is called iTunes Music. In iTunes version 9 and later, the same folder is called iTunes Media. To further muddy the waters, if the iTunes Music folder was created by iTunes 8 or earlier, then it will retain the older name (iTunes Music), even if you update to a newer version of iTunes. I hope I've caught all of these little discrepancies, but if you come across one I missed, please drop me a line so I can update this document. The instructions outlined here will use the vernacular found in iTunes version 12.x

Before you begin, I want to emphasize that you must have a current backup of your Mac, or at the very least, a current backup of iTunes. The process of moving your iTunes library includes deleting the original source library. If something should go wrong and you don't have a backup, you could be singing the blues; that is if you still have any music files to sing along to.

Playlists, Ratings, and Media Files

The process I outline here will retain all of your iTunes settings, including playlists and ratings, and all media files; not just music and video, but audiobooks, podcasts, etc. However, in order for iTunes to retain all this good stuff, you must let it be in charge of keeping the Music or Media folder organized. If you don't want iTunes to be in charge, the process of moving your media folder will still work, but you may find that metadata items, such as playlists and ratings, will be wiped out. I highly recommend letting iTunes manage your media.

Have iTunes Manage Your Media Folder

Before you actually move anything, start by verifying or setting up iTunes to manage your Music or Media folder.

  1. Launch iTunes, located at /Applications.
  2. From the iTunes menu, select iTunes, Preferences.
  3. In the Preferences window that opens, select the Advanced icon.
  4. Make sure there is a checkmark next to the "Keep iTunes Media folder organized" item. (Early versions of iTunes may say "Keep iTunes Music folder organized.")
  5. Click OK.

Continue to the next page to complete the iTunes library move.

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Creating a New iTunes Library Location

Let iTunes Organize your Library
iTunes can move the original library media files for you. Letting iTunes perform this task will keep all of the playlists and ratings intact. Screen sot courtesy of Coyote Moon, Inc.

Now that we've set up iTunes to manage the iTunes Media folder (see the previous page), it's time to create a new location for the library, and then move the existing library to its new home.

Create a New iTunes Library Location

If your new iTunes library will be on an external drive, make sure the drive is plugged into your Mac and turned on.

  1. Launch iTunes, if it isn't already open.
  2. From the iTunes menu, select iTunes, Preferences.
  3. In the Preferences window that opens, select the Advanced icon.
  4. In the iTunes Media folder location section of the Advanced preferences window, click the Change button.
  5. In the Finder window that opens, navigate to the location where you would like to create the new iTunes Media folder.
  6. In the Finder window, click the New Folder button.
  7. Enter a name for the new folder. While you can call this folder anything you wish, I suggest using iTunes Media. Click the Create button, and then click the Open button.
  8. In the Advanced preferences window, click OK.
  9. iTunes will ask you if you want to move and rename the files in your new iTunes Media folder to match the "Keep iTunes Media folder organized" preference. Click Yes.

Moving Your iTunes Library to Its New Location

iTunes can move the original library media files for you. Letting iTunes perform this task will keep all of the playlists and ratings intact.

  1. In iTunes, select File, Library, Organize Library. (Older versions of iTunes will say File, Library, Consolidate Library.)
  2. In the Organize Library window that opens, place a check mark next to Consolidate Files, and click OK (In older versions of iTunes the check box was labeled Consolidate library).
  3. iTunes will copy all of your media files from the old library location to the new one you created earlier. This can take a while, so be patient.

Confirm the iTunes Library Move

  1. Open a Finder window and navigate to the new iTunes Media folder. Inside the folder, you should see the same folders and media files you saw in the original media folder. Since we haven't deleted the originals yet, you can do a comparison by opening two Finder windows, one showing the old location and one showing the new location.
  2. To further confirm that all is well, launch iTunes, if it's not already open, and select the Library category in the iTunes toolbar.
  3. Select Music in the drop down menu above the sidebar. You should see all of your music files listed. Use the iTunes sidebar to confirm that all of your movies, TV shows, iTunes U files, podcasts, etc., are present. Check the Playlist area of the sidebar to confirm that it contains all of your playlists.
  4. Open iTunes Preferences and select the Advanced icon.
  5. The iTunes Media folder location should list your new iTunes Media folder and not your old one.
  6. If everything looks OK, try playing some music or movies using iTunes.

Deleting the Old iTunes Library

If everything checks out OK, you can delete the original iTunes Media folder (or Music folder). Do not delete the original iTunes folder or any files or folders it contains, other than the iTunes Media or iTunes Music folder. If you delete anything else in the iTunes folder, your playlists, album art, ratings, etc., could become history, requiring you to recreate them or download them (album art).