How to Restore Your iTunes Using a Backup

Prevent Data Loss by Restoring iTunes From an External Hard Drive Backup

computer with external hard drive

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Everyone hears the advice to make sure to back up their data, but you'll appreciate having followed that advice if your computer's hard drive fails. That's especially true if your hard drive contains a huge iTunes library made up of songs that you don't have easy access to anywhere else.

If your hard drive has failed, or if you need to move your iTunes library to a new computer, you'll be glad if you had the foresight to back up your iTunes library on an external hard drive. If you've got a backup, restoring your iTunes library from an external hard drive is simple. Here's how to do it:

  1. If it's running, quit iTunes on the computer where you plan to restore the iTunes library.

  2. Attach the external hard drive that contains the iTunes backup to the computer.

  3. The icon for the external hard drive should be on your desktop or in the Finder on a Mac, or in My Computer in Windows. Double-click the external hard drive icon to open it.

  4. Navigate through the hard drive to find the iTunes folder you backed up to it.

  5. When you've found it, drag the iTunes folder from the external hard drive to the correct location on your computer. In most cases, you'll want to put it in the default location used by iTunes:

    On Windows, the default location of your iTunes library is in your My Music folder.

    On a Mac, the default is in your Music folder, accessible through the sidebar of the Finder window or by clicking on your hard drive, selecting Users and clicking on your username.

  6. If there's already an iTunes library in the Music/My Music folder, you'll be asked whether you want to replace it. Doing that will delete the old library and all of the music in it, so make sure that the iTunes library you're restoring from backup has all the latest content in it. If it doesn't, drag the iTunes folder to a different location on your hard drive.

  7. While holding down the Option key on a Mac, or the Shift key on Windows, launch iTunes.

  8. A window pops up asking you to Quit, Create Library or Choose Library. Click Choose Library.

  9. In the pop-up window, browse through the hard drive and find the iTunes library that you just copied from the external hard drive. On a Mac, select the iTunes folder. On Windows, select the .itl file in the folder.

  10. Click Choose on a Mac or Open on Windows.

  11. At this point, iTunes will launch, using the new library you just restored from backup.

  12. You can now disconnect the external hard drive from your computer.

Tips for Restoring Your iTunes Library from Backup

  • If you have an older iTunes library that you didn't delete in step 6, you may want to delete it so it doesn't take up extra disk space. Before you do that, make sure that the new library has all the contents of the old one, so you don't accidentally delete something you want.
  • An external hard drive isn't the only way to back up your iTunes library these days. If you prefer to use the cloud for backups, you may want to check out iTunes Match.