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.)

Dropbox

Dropbox

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.

Conclusion

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!