How to Transfer iTunes Library From Many PCs to One

7 ways to merge iTunes libraries from various sources

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Not every household needs more than one computer running iTunes. In fact, as it becomes more common to stream music and videos to connected devices throughout the house, more homes may have just one PC. As that happens, you'll need to know how to consolidate iTunes libraries from multiple machines into a single, large iTunes library on the new computer.

Because of the large size of most iTunes libraries, consolidating them isn't as simple as burning a CD and loading it on the new computer.

01
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iTunes Home Sharing

Home Sharing menu in iTunes. ​Sam Costello

Home Sharing, available in iTunes 9 and higher, allows iTunes libraries on the same network to copy items back and forth. This feature works on up to five computers and requires that each sign into iTunes using the same iTunes account.

To consolidate libraries, turn on Home Sharing for all the computers you want to merge and then drag and drop the files to the computer that will store the merged library. You'll find the shared computers in the left-hand column of iTunes. Home Sharing does not transfer star ratings or play counts for music.

Some apps will copy through Home Sharing, some may not. For ones that don't, you can redownload them onto the merged library for free.

02
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Transfer Purchases from iPod

transferring itunes libraries
Transfer Purchases from iPod.

 ​Sam Costello

If your iTunes library comes primarily from the iTunes Store, try this option. The drawback is that it probably won't work for everything (most people have music from CDs and other stores), but it can reduce the transferring you need to do in other ways.

Start by signing the computer that will have the shared iTunes library into the iTunes account associated with the iPod. Then connect the iPod to the computer.

If a window pops up with a "Transfer Purchases" button, click that. Do not choose "Erase and Sync" — you'll erase your music before you move it. If the window doesn't appear, go to the File menu and choose Transfer Purchases from iPod.

The iTunes Store purchases on the iPod will then move to the new iTunes library.

03
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External Hard Drive

consolidating itunes libraries
Dragging and dropping into iTunes.

 ​Sam Costello

If you store your iTunes library or back up your computer to an external hard drive, consolidating libraries is easier.

Plug the hard drive into the computer that will store the new iTunes library. Find the iTunes folder on the external hard drive and the iTunes Music folder inside it. This location contains all music, movies, podcasts, and TV shows.

Select the folders that you want to move from the iTunes Music folder (usually the entire folder, unless you want to select only certain artists/albums) and drag them to the "Library" section of iTunes. When that section turns blue, the songs are moving to the new library.

Using this method, you will lose the star ratings and playcounts on the songs being moved to the new library.

04
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Library Sync/Merge Software

powertunes merge itunes library
PowerTunes logo.

​Sam Costello

A few software programs make the process of merging iTunes libraries easier. Among the key features of these programs are that they will retain all of the metadata — star ratings, playcounts, comments, etc. — that are lost using other transfer methods. A few of the programs in this space include:

05
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iPod Copy Software

ipod copy software
TouchCopy (formerly iPodCopy) screenshot.

​Sam Costello

If your entire iTunes library is synced to your iPod or iPhone, move it from your device to the new merged iTunes library.

Dozens of iPod copying programs — some are free, most cost US $20-$40 — all do essentially the same thing: copying all the music, movies, playlists, star ratings, play counts, etc. on your iPod, iPhone, or iPad to a new iTunes library. Most don't transfer apps but you can always re-download apps to the new iTunes library.

Unlike the external hard drive method above, these programs let you retain star ratings, play counts, playlists, etc.

06
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Online Backup Services

online backup service
Mozy backup service menu.

 ​Sam Costello

If you use an online backup service, merging iTunes libraries can be as simple as downloading the latest backup from one computer to another (if your library is very big, you may want to use DVDs with your data on them that some services offer).

Whether you download or use a DVD, use the same process as with external hard drives to move your old iTunes library to the new one.

07
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Dealing with Apps, Movies/TV

consolidating itunes libraries
Movies folder in iTunes Library folder.

​Sam Costello

All the contents of your iTunes library — apps, movies, TV, etc. — are stored in your iTunes library, not just music. You can find these non-music items in your iTunes folder (in the My Music folder). The Mobile Applications folder contains your apps, and you'll find folders called Movies, TV Shows, and Podcasts in the iTunes Media folder containing those items.

While some iPod copying software won't transfer all of these kinds of files (especially if they're not all on your iPod, iPhone, or iPad when you try to copy it), the methods above that include drag-and-drop copying of files from one iTunes folder to another will move these non-music files, too.

08
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Consolidate/Organize Libraries

consolidate itunes library
iTunes organization preference.

​Sam Costello 

After you've moved the files from your old iTunes library to the new, merged one, take these two steps to make sure that your new library is optimized and stays that way. This is called consolidating or organizing your library, depending on your version of iTunes.

First, consolidate/organize the new library. Go to the File menu in iTunes. Then go to Library > Organize (or Consolidate) Library.

Next, ensure that iTunes is set to always organize/consolidate your new library by going to the iTunes Preferences window (under the iTunes menu on a Mac, under Edit on a PC). When the window appears, go to the Advanced tab. There, check the Keep iTunes Media folder organized box and click OK.

09
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A Note on Computer Authorization

itunes authorization
iTunes authorization menu.

 ​Sam Costello

To ensure that your new iTunes library can play everything in it, you need to authorize the computer to play the music you've transferred. 

To authorize the computer, go to the Store menu in iTunes and choose Authorize this computer. When the iTunes account sign-in window pops up, sign in using the iTunes accounts from the other computers merged to the new one. iTunes accounts support a maximum of five authorizations, so if you've authorized five other computers to play content, you'll need to de-authorize at least one.

Before you get rid of the old computer that you moved the iTunes library from, de-authorize it to preserve your five authorizations.