Moving, Restoring and Syncing your iTunes Library

iTunes doesn’t make it entirely easy to change the location of your media or set it up to share between computers. Many people struggle with duplicate files, or with iTunes being unable to find the location of your music after moving it around.

In this how-to guide, I’ll look at moving your iTunes library to a different location on your own computer, restoring from your iPod, and how to set up your iTunes library to stay in sync with the other Macs in your household.

Your iTunes Library

Your iTunes library sits, by default, in your Music folder inside your Home Folder. You can get a good look on how it’s organized inside the Finder. The iTunes folder is where your iTunes library file is located along with your iTunes Music subfolder, where all of your songs are stored.

Finder iTunes

Finder iTunes

Adjusting how your iTunes library is stored and organized is done within the iTunes Preference window, specifically under the Advanced tab.

The Advanced iTunes Tab

The Advanced iTunes Tab

Right off the bat you can see the box where the iTunes Music Folder location is set. The reset button will return it to Apple’s default position. (UserHomeFolder/Music/iTunes/iTunes Music.)

The next two check boxes represent the organizational methods of the iTunes library. If you choose to “Keep iTunes Music folder organized” it will automatically organize your music into the proper artist / album folder structure. The second should be set if you want iTunes to make a copy of any imported songs, storing that copy in your iTunes Music folder.

Moving your iTunes library

Firstly, you will need to assign a new spot on your hard disk, external hard disk or network drive. This can be done by selecting the Change button on the Advanced tab of the iTunes Preferences window. To open the preferences window, select iTunes from the menu bar, and then Preferences (you can also use the keyboard combo: Command+,).

Navigate to your location of choice, whether it be an external drive, new spot on your internal drive, or network volume.

Launching Preferences

Launching Preferences

Once you do this, check both “Keep iTunes Music folder organized” and the “Copy files to iTunes Music folder when adding to library.” This alone will not move your files to the new location, a common misconception. In fact, after saying “Ok” on the Advanced section of the iTunes Preferences window, we will preform an action known as Library Consolidation.

Before doing this, I advise that you perform a complete backup of your iTunes library, either by selecting File > Library > Back Up To Disk, running a Time Machine backup or manually making a copy of your Music folder on your computer.

Consolidate Library

Consolidate Library

Now it’s time to move your iTunes library, go to File > Library > Consolidate Library. Depending on how big your library is, it could take a few minutes or a few hours. Even though it isn’t apparent in iTunes, your library has been moved to the new location. Library Consolidation will move, not copy, your music to the selected location.

What’s your iPod Got to Do With It?

Should you be stranded with a fried Mac or Windows box, you may need to restore your library on a new machine via your iPod.

This can be done within iTunes if you purchased all of your songs, TV Shows and movies directly from the iTunes Store. (If this is so, plug your iPod in, and then in iTunes, right click on it in the sidebar and select “Transfer Purchases”)

Transfer Purchases

Transfer Purchases

Otherwise you will need to take a look at alternative, third party software like Music Rescue from Kennettnet.

Music Rescue

Music Rescue

Once you have Music Rescue installed on your Mac or Windows computer, simply plug in your iPod, click open and select copy. Your songs and videos will now be transfered into your iTunes library.

Remember, you will need to authorize your DRMed purchases from iTunes onto this new computer. Select Store (from the menu bar) and click Authorize Computer to do so.

Sycing your Library with Dropbox

I’m sure most of you have heard of the widely popular service, Dropbox. This free and pay-for service allows users to synchronize their music folder (and documents, photos, etc) to their online web service and a number of connected computers.

A free Dropbox account, which allows up to 2GB of storage space, probably wont suffice for your multimedia needs, however one of their paid accounts might. 50GB of Dropbox storage will run you $9.99/month (USD) and 100GB is $19.99/month (USD). While somewhat expensive, Dropbox will finally keep every computer in sync, and since no contract is required, you can give it a try for month or two to see whether you like it.

First, download and install Dropbox from their website, then use the Dropbox setup wizard to create an account, choose a pricing plan and continue. Proceed to open iTunes and go through the previous steps to move your iTunes folder into your Dropbox.

Once again, consolidate your library and let Dropbox upload all of your files to their servers. (Note: This may take hours or even days. So you will need to use iTunes on this original computer while Dropbox uploads everything.)



Then hop onto any other computers your wish to set up to synchronize. Make sure iTunes is not running. Run through the Dropbox setup process again on this computer, instead logging into your Dropbox account. It will now begin downloading your iTunes library into the Dropbox folder.

Once it has finished downloading to your computer, hold the Option/Alt key while launching iTunes. Continue to hold it until you see this screen:

Choose Library

Choose Library

Select “Choose Library” and select your iTunes library document, now located in your Dropbox folder under your Home Folder and wait a few moments as iTunes sorts everything out. It is important to not use iTunes on more than one computer at once, as you may run into major problems down the road.


Moving your iTunes library shouldn’t cause a major headache. Hopefully this guide will help to quickly and easily move your media onto that fancy new external hard disk, Network Attached Storage (NAS) device, or even for using Dropbox to backup and sync your iTunes library onto multiple computers.

Let me know if you have any questions by leaving a comment, and feel free to tell me of any other software you use recover from your iPod or to sync iTunes libraries between the computers at home, at work or across the globe!


Add Yours
  • Nice article, thanks for the “Music Rescue” tip; that’ll sure help me in the future. Planning a trip abroad and gonna be away for a while. Will probably buy myself a MacBook or something, so it’s nice to not loose all the stuff on my iPhone.

    Thanks again!

  • I JUST went through the process of syncing iTunes across multiple machines with DropBox not a week ago. It’s pretty painless, once you figure out the library location thing explained above.

    What I’m having trouble with now (and what I’d love to see a tutorial on) is doing the same with iPhoto. Simply sharing across multiple machines with DropBox is easy enough, but how to merge two iPhoto libraries… that’s the part that’s tripping me up.

    • Press and hold option key when opening iPhoto. It’s all the same as iTunes other than that!

    • Jason: can you explain how to do this? I have 3 libraries… I’d love to be able to download a track at work and have it update in other places.

    • Are play counts kept intact across machines using dropbox?

  • Thanks for this. I just got an external harddrive and I’m in the process of transferring my files. I’ll probably do this afterwards. Thanks!

  • This was very helpful, Thanks Guys/gals

  • From memory, if you simply want to move your iTunes library to another drive, copy the ENTIRE “itunes” (~/User/yourname/Music/iTunes) folder to its new destination. Then drag the “itunes” folder back to the “music” folder (~/User/yourname/Music/) whilst holding (Apple + option) to create an alias, works a treat.
    Works with iPhoto as well.

  • I also like Dropbox. Recently I found out how to get 2.25GB for free instead of just 2GB. When you sign-up use a ref link such as this one

    • Nice try.

  • is there a way to set-up your i-tunes library on an external hard-disk, in such a way that not only are you able to connect to it via multiple macs, but also make sure each mac is aware of new songs added to the main library?

    I am able to set-up the first part but once i start adding songs from different machines, the list ae not synched up.

  • Could you use mobile me idisk to share itunes library?

  • If you like me moved all your music to and external usb hard disc, then there is another perhaps quicker method.

    1) Export the library:
    File > Library > Export Library
    2) Highlight all the music in iTunes and delete them (but keep the files!)
    3) Change the location of the iTunes library as described above
    4) Open the library XML file in TextEdit.
    Search and replace the old location with the new location. For example:
    and replace that with
    5) Save the file
    6) Import the library xml again.
    File > Library > Import Playlist

    • find
      and replace that with

      or whatever the old and new paths might be

  • I’ve copy my iTunes folder in my Dropbox one. Now, all my files are uploaded and on the dropbox server.

    Can I just copy the dropbox folder on my other mac with a usb key to avoid the 5 days’ downloading ?

    • that’s possible.
      but it’s even better to start both mac in the same network. they recognize each other and sync all the files directly through local network.

  • How old is this article? August 18, but what year? Almost every file reference in this article is wrong. The default folder is iTUnes Media, not iTunes Music.

    Therefore following these steps doesn’t work.

  • yacimientos arqueológicos de ciudades y tumbas de las civilizaciones precolombinas, demuestran una utilización muy extendida del oro y de piedras preciosas

  • It also contains editing tools (e.g. to join movies) and media shows (something like playlists but with additional function

  • any hints for keeping separate itunes libraries, a large and small one on the external harddisk and the laptop, but keeping the ‘overlap’ in sync?

  • What I want to know is, what are the major problems you’ll run into down the road if your playing from the same library at the same time with two different computers?

    I moved my itunes library to DropBox so that me and my wife could have the same library on both of our macbooks pros as well as our master imac.

  • This article did not help. the file names are all wrong.

  • Ok, silly question perhaps, but my computer died, I had a ton of purchased songs from iTunes on there and I want to know how to get them back. Just like a Kindle keeps your titles and they belong to you even on a new Kindle…Is there a way to retrieve all my songs to my new Mac????

  • @Jenny: Use the apple support page to explain the situation to Apple. They are known to let you re-download your purchases, but you will probably have to sit through a lesson on ‘the importance of backing up your music’ before they will actually do it! Btw don’t you have the music on your iPod too?

  • The statement, that library consolidation will MOVE the library, rather than copying it, is not correct. In fact it IS copied. See this article:

    In my case after doing all the steps in the article, referred to in this URL, caused iTunes to stop working properly. When started it displays a list of items, but the app is not responding to any keyboard input nor is it getting focus. All I can do is force quit…..

  • hi i wanna know if i download itunes 10.3.1 for the new ipod touch will it replace the other itunes i have.

  • Now I have my music on a hard drive, and I purchased a new ipod. How can I get the ipod to sync with my hard drive. I have both plugged into my MAC but I cannot figure out how to link them

  • I can get my i-tunes library up and showing – only interested in aps , not music. My simple problem – real simple – how do I open any of the aps ? Have tried and have tried the “help” tab on Apple – would take years to even read – no help! Just would like to open one to learn how! Could you please help?

  • I can get my i-tunes library up and showing – only interested in aps , not music. My simple problem – real simple – how do I open any of the aps ? Have tried and have tried the “help” tab on Apple – would take years to even read – no help! Just would like to open one to learn how! Could you please help?
    Can’t submit – it says duplicate which is not true. I will give up

  • It’s not that I want to duplicate your internet site, but I really like the design and style. Could you let me know which style are you using? Or was it custom made?

  • I’m having an issue with the iTunes library, specifically the file (iTunes is version 10.6.1/os is 10.6.8). After “consolidating” my library to my local hard drive from an external drive, iTunes still refers to the library file on the external drive. I’ve tried copying the library and component files (to my new local music folder) manually, disconnecting the external drive, restarting iTunes and choosing the local copy of the library file, but Finder won’t let me select it in the local folder. My library is quite large and I do not want to have to rebuild it and lose my personal metadata; nor do i want to have to use an external drive to listen to my songs (in iTunes) that are on my local disk. What would you recommend? Thank you for your help.