How to move your Mac's iTunes Library onto an external drive

Posted:
in iPod + iTunes + AppleTV edited June 2015
When trying to free up drive space on your Mac, one of the first things you can do is move the iTunes Library to a portable hard drive. Here's a detailed guide on how to back up your music, movies and more to reclaim your hard drive.




All the music, podcasts, movies and TV shows you've downloaded to iTunes are most likely taking up a good amount of hard drive space and can easily be moved.

Before starting the process, we suggest making an up to date Time Machine backup of your computer to an external hard drive or Time Capsule. Be sure the external hard drive you use to perform this backup is different than where you will move the iTunes Library should anything happen.




To begin moving your library, open iTunes, click File in the Menu Bar and select Library > Organize Library




Check the box that says Consolidate files and click OK. This will make sure all the music, movies and other files are actually located in the iTunes Media folder that will be moving to your external drive.




If you moved your iTunes Media folder in the past, it is best to double check the folder iTunes is actually accessing for your library files. To do this, go to iTunes in the Menu Bar > Preferences and click the Advanced tab.

Under the iTunes Media folder location you will see a path to the files you are about to move. By default, this should be located in the Music folder of your Home directory.




Quit iTunes by going to iTunes in the Menu Bar > Quit iTunes or press Cmd + Q. Connect the external hard drive that you will use to copy the iTunes library. You should see it appear on your desktop.




Open a new Finder window and click Music in the left sidebar. Click and drag the iTunes folder onto the external hard drive icon on your Desktop.




Depending on how large your library is and the connection speed of the external drive, it may take several minutes or longer to complete the copy process.

Once the copy is completed, hold the Option key on your keyboard and open iTunes from the Dock or Applications folder again. A new window will pop up asking you to Create Library or Choose Library. Click on Choose Library.




In the browser window that appears, navigate to your external hard drive, click the iTunes folder there and choose the iTunes Library file.




iTunes will then open and as long as the external hard drive is connected, iTunes will reference the library on the external drive and not on your computer's drive.

Quit iTunes once again and eject the external hard drive holding your new iTunes Library. Open a new Finder window and navigate to the Music folder in the left sidebar again.

Right click or Ctrl+click on the iTunes folder and move it to the Trash.




Finally, to free up the space on your internal hard drive, open the Trash from the Dock or Finder window and click Empty Trash in the upper right corner.




Your iTunes Library has officially been removed from the internal drive. You can now reconnect the external hard drive you used to copy the iTunes Library, open iTunes and use it as normal.

If you open iTunes without your external hard drive connected, iTunes will give you an error message saying the "Library cannot be found." Quit iTunes, connect the external hard drive and reopen iTunes to fix.

You may want to copy your iTunes folder onto a second external hard drive as a backup as well. iTunes Match for $25 per year will also backup all your music to Apple's cloud service.

Where to buy an external drive at discount

Choosing a high-quality Mac-formatted external hard drive instead of an Apple-branded Time Capsule will often save you hundreds of dollars. Of all the Apple Authorized Resellers who deal heavily in storage devices, B&H Photo, Adorama, and Amazon offer the best mix of brand options, discounted pricing, availability, and cost-free shipping. Below are some quick links that jump to the available Mac-formatted storage options currently available from these resellers:

1TB to 6TB External Hard Drives (Mac Formatted) from $95.99 @ B&H

1TB to 6TB External Hard Drives (Mac Formatted) from $119.00 @ Adorama

750GB to 6TB External Hard Drives (Mac Formatted) from $65.00 @ Amazon

500GB to 6TB Portable Hard Drives (Mac Formatted) from $99.00 @ B&H

500GB to 6TB Portable Hard Drives (Mac Formatted) from $56.99 @Adorama

500GB to 6TB Portable Hard Drives (Mac Formatted) from $58.00 @ Amazon
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 32
    noivadnoivad Posts: 186member

    The notification center link and front page link 404s.

     

     

    You should also mention Apple only backs up at up to 256Kbps AAC, which is not a true backup if you have your music in ALAC. Try hours for a copy operation in the case of a true music lover, BTW.

  • Reply 2 of 32
    What about to a NAS or iTunes Library on a share of another Mac or WinPC? Any tools that make suto-connecting to networked drives seamless? And by seamless I mean periodic checking to make sure it's done before opening your iTunes library. For example, having an app in your Dock with the iTunes icon, but it's really just an Automator app you made that will verify the path to the NAS is available and connected, and then open the proper iTunes app?
  • Reply 3 of 32
    Consider that many NAS devices (such as Synology) have iTunes server capabilities. Would be nice to describe how to move an iTunes library and then how to access it when leveraging this iTunes server capability.
  • Reply 4 of 32
    dugbugdugbug Posts: 283member
    I have found that if The Mac boots up without seeing the remote drive and I start tunes it forgets the external drive and creates a first time folder tree under my local account.

    Is this still true with 12.1
  • Reply 5 of 32
    schlack wrote: »
    Consider that many NAS devices (such as Synology) have iTunes server capabilities. Would be nice to describe how to move an iTunes library and then how to access it when leveraging this iTunes server capability.

    How does that work? Are they running Windows on it so they can have iTunes loaded?

    dugbug wrote: »
    I have found that if The Mac boots up without seeing the remote drive and I start tunes it forgets the external drive and creates a first time folder tree under my local account.

    Is this still true with 12.1

    That's an issue I've had in the past, along with other issues when trying to create a reliable and seamless iTunes Server solution. The best solution I have come up with is using another Mac with a large external RAID dedicated as an iTunes Server, but even that is annoying since when I open up iTunes on my MBP I have to choose Home Sharing drive each time. One issue I've had since iTunes 12.0 that's still persisting in 12.1, is the inability for playlist column changes to hold their state after disconnecting from the Home Share. The first issue is that I have to alter them at all since they should mirror what I have in my iTunes Server iTunes Library, but once I do alter them they should stay. I've even annoyed they have never made iTunes smart enough to know that a Playlist that is only showing unwatched TV Shows will still default to listing column categories like Artist, Album, etc. when it should default to list Episode ID, Show, etc.
  • Reply 6 of 32

    It is crazy that we still have to even worry about this crap.  I should be able to obtain all of my content from iCloud service.  It is 2015.

  • Reply 7 of 32
    It is crazy that we still have to even worry about this crap.  I should be able to obtain all of my content from iCloud service.  It is 2015.

    I think it was Schiller or Cook that mentioned decentralizing the "PC" from the digital hub years ago, and yet I still can't alter a track name without iTunes on a "PC." Even if I have iTunes Match there is no way to edit that on an iDevice or, more realistically, from iCloud.
  • Reply 8 of 32
    Keep in mind if you're like me and have your iTunes libraries spread across multiple 4TB drives, the backup time on FireWire 800 or USB 3.0 is close to 32 hours to backup. I actually use SuperDuper - yep the same one you use to make a perfect clone of your computer! It not only makes sure it gets everything exactly as it is in the original but it gives you a progress bar that's more accurate than just pulling your iTunes folder and getting the "copying now" window.

    Another little hint I was getting drives that suddenly stopped working. It was mainly on Seagate and the swappable adapters. If you get a drive that suddenly says "0 files" don't panic!! Plug the drive into a computer either running system 9 or Smow Leopard. Just plug it in. Let it load. Mysteriously all your files are there. Now unplug. Go back to your current computer and all is saved. This has happened to me about 30 times. so I am an expert at recovery.
  • Reply 9 of 32
    pmzpmz Posts: 3,433member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by TechProd1gy View Post

     

    It is crazy that we still have to even worry about this crap.  I should be able to obtain all of my content from iCloud service.  It is 2015.




    What's so crazy about it? I use iTunes Match, so when it really matters, my music is indeed available from iCloud.

     

    But I still have a Mac with an external drive that stores my iTunes Library, and its been that way for a good 10 years or more. Various iterations over time, but I've always had iTunes Library stored locally on an external disk. And I always will.

     

    Cloud is convenience. Not reliance. I will always prefer a combination of local + cloud for the best of both.

     

    Plus, Apple has yet to offer to store all of my content. iTunes Match works for music ONLY, and it doesn't upload Lossless audio or match with Lossless audio.

     

    What is my iCloud solution for my 1 TB of digital video?

  • Reply 10 of 32
    pmzpmz Posts: 3,433member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by razormaid View Post



    Keep in mind if you're like me and have your iTunes libraries spread across multiple 4TB drives, the backup time on FireWire 800 or USB 3.0 is close to 32 hours to backup. I actually use SuperDuper - yep the same one you use to make a perfect clone of your computer! It not only makes sure it gets everything exactly as it is in the original but it gives you a progress bar that's more accurate than just pulling your iTunes folder and getting the "copying now" window.



    Another little hint I was getting drives that suddenly stopped working. It was mainly on Seagate and the swappable adapters. If you get a drive that suddenly says "0 files" don't panic!! Plug the drive into a computer either running system 9 or Smow Leopard. Just plug it in. Let it load. Mysteriously all your files are there. Now unplug. Go back to your current computer and all is saved. This has happened to me about 30 times. so I am an expert at recovery.



    I purchased 2 identical 3 TB LaCie drives, 1 is the actual storage drive for the iTunes library, iPhoto library, etc. The other is a Time Machine backup, that includes backing up the other LaCie.

     

    Pretty good overall solution, short of a RAID setup.

  • Reply 11 of 32
    <h2>Where to buy an external drive at discount</h2>

    Choosing a high-quality Mac-formatted external hard drive instead of an Apple-branded Time Capsule will often save you hundreds of dollars. Of all the Apple Authorized Resellers who deal heavily in storage devices, B&H Photo, Adorama, and Amazon offer the best mix of brand options, discounted pricing, availability, and cost-free shipping. Below are some quick links that jump to the available Mac-formatted storage options currently available from these resellers:

    1TB to 6TB External Hard Drives (Mac Formatted) <a href="http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/search/atclk/ci/6543/N/4294542383+3835819377+4289950566/BI/1717/KBID/2301/DFF/d10-v1-t14">from $95.99 @ B&H</a>

    1TB to 6TB External Hard Drives (Mac Formatted) <a href="http://adorama.evyy.net/c/81003/78387/1036?u=http://www.adorama.com/l/Computers/Memory-and-Data-Storage/Hard-Drives/External-Drives/Desktop-Drives?sel=Operating-System_Macintosh">from $119.00 @ Adorama</a>

    750GB to 6TB External Hard Drives (Mac Formatted) <a href="http://www.amazon.com/s/?_encoding=UTF8&bbn=595048&camp=1789&creative=390957&fst=as:off&linkCode=ur2&qid=1422985253&rh=n:172282,n:!493964,n:541966,n:1292110011,n:595048,p_n_feature_keywords_five_browse-bin:7688214011,p_n_feature_five_browse-bin:2419644011&sort=popularity-rank&tag=reality&linkId=LH4CGB4GSHQNFYO2">from $65.00 @ Amazon</a>

    500GB to 6TB Portable Hard Drives (Mac Formatted) <a href="http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/search/atclk/ci/6543/N/4294542383+3835819377+4289950566/BI/1717/KBID/2301/DFF/d10-v1-t14">from $99.00 @ B&H</a>

    500GB to 6TB Portable Hard Drives (Mac Formatted) <a href="http://adorama.evyy.net/c/81003/78387/1036?u=http://www.adorama.com/l/Computers/Memory-and-Data-Storage/Hard-Drives/External-Drives/Portable-Drives">from $56.99 @Adorama</a>;

    500GB to 6TB Portable Hard Drives (Mac Formatted) <a href="http://www.amazon.com/s/?_encoding=UTF8&bbn=595048&camp=1789&creative=390957&fst=as:off&linkCode=ur2&qid=1422985468&rh=n:172282,n:!493964,n:541966,n:1292110011,n:595048,p_n_feature_keywords_five_browse-bin:7688214011,p_n_feature_five_browse-bin:2419645011&sort=popularity-rank&tag=reality&linkId=HCCM6KLTVARXHT36">from $58.00 @ Amazon</a>

    I appreciate AI posting links on decent deals — who cares if they make a few pennies if you use the link — but I don't understand the part about them being Mac Formatted. Could someone explain how that is relevant or necessary?
  • Reply 12 of 32
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by pmz View Post

     



    What's so crazy about it? I use iTunes Match, so when it really matters, my music is indeed available from iCloud.

     

    But I still have a Mac with an external drive that stores my iTunes Library, and its been that way for a good 10 years or more. Various iterations over time, but I've always had iTunes Library stored locally on an external disk. And I always will.

     

    Cloud is convenience. Not reliance. I will always prefer a combination of local + cloud for the best of both.

     

    Plus, Apple has yet to offer to store all of my content. iTunes Match works for music ONLY, and it doesn't upload Lossless audio or match with Lossless audio.

     

    What is my iCloud solution for my 1 TB of digital video?




    Thank you for making my point.  Whenever you need a tip section so the masses (your primary customer) can manage through your solution it is time to fix it.  In this case update it for 2015.  The current model would be adequate 5 years ago.

  • Reply 13 of 32
    pmzpmz Posts: 3,433member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by TechProd1gy View Post

     



    Thank you for making my point.  Whenever you need a tip section so the masses (your primary customer) can manage through your solution it is time to fix it.  In this case update it for 2015.  The current model would be adequate 5 years ago.




    I did not make your point. Farthest thing from it.

     

    The "masses" buy a song or a movie here and there from iTunes and all of that content is always available from iCloud, all the time. They just know they hit the Play button and it plays.

     

    Anyone who does anything even slightly more advanced than that is capable of figuring out how.

  • Reply 14 of 32
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by pmz View Post

     



    I did not make your point. Farthest thing from it.

     

    The "masses" buy a song or a movie here and there from iTunes and all of that content is always available from iCloud, all the time. They just know they hit the Play button and it plays.

     

    Anyone who does anything even slightly more advanced than that is capable of figuring out how.




    Option A:  You select your media and enjoy it.

     

    Option B:  Is it downloaded or in the cloud?  Is it on the computer or an external drive.  Let's tinker around until it works just right...

     

    OK champ.  I am sure most are clamoring for Option B...wait no just closet geeks like you who prefer to spend the time tinkering.  It is not a mater of who is capable or not.  It is developing software that does what the consumer needs it to do.

  • Reply 15 of 32

    This won't go over well, but the best off-site storage for iTunes songs I've found is to use the Google Play Music Manager and backup online. Everything stored in their drive online for free. Great in case of a catastrophic hard drive failure.

  • Reply 16 of 32
    maestro64maestro64 Posts: 4,675member
    I have had my itunes library on an external drive for a long time before itunes allowed it, but is required work around to work, I did this since I have two different people using the same computer and we shared the same library and the same itunes account. In the past each user had to have its own itunes library and could not share the content account the user folders. To make this work it required some work arounds.

    Does anyone know if this method will work on two different user accounts, ie can both user access the same set of files on the external drive and acess the library files and if one user adds songs and apps and such will it be reflected in the other user account. If this works then I and stop using the workaround I have been using for a while.
  • Reply 17 of 32
    solipsismysolipsismy Posts: 5,099member
    maestro64 wrote: »
    I have had my itunes library on an external drive for a long time before itunes allowed it, but is required work around to work, I did this since I have two different people using the same computer and we shared the same library and the same itunes account. In the past each user had to have its own itunes library and could not share the content account the user folders. To make this work it required some work arounds.

    Does anyone know if this method will work on two different user accounts, ie can both user access the same set of files on the external drive and acess the library files and if one user adds songs and apps and such will it be reflected in the other user account. If this works then I and stop using the workaround I have been using for a while.

    Yes and no.

    Two separate accounts need two seperate iTunes Library databases, but after you set on up, on one or more of them you can choose to not copy the items into the iTunes Media folder. You could create a script that will look for changes or differences in those other accounts and ask if they want to add them, too. Honestly, I haven't discovered any non-sloppy way to do it, but I really wish Apple would create a viable iTunes Server that will work via AirPort Extreme or a proper ? Home Server.
  • Reply 18 of 32
    mike1mike1 Posts: 1,941member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by TechProd1gy View Post

     

    It is crazy that we still have to even worry about this crap.  I should be able to obtain all of my content from iCloud service.  It is 2015.


    Why on earth would I want all my music and videos exclusively on the cloud? So, I lose internet for a while and have no music or TV or photos? I would never trust the cloud to be anything more than a secondary backup.

  • Reply 19 of 32
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by mike1 View Post

     

    Why on earth would I want all my music and videos exclusively on the cloud? So, I lose internet for a while and have no music or TV or photos? I would never trust the cloud to be anything more than a secondary backup.




    Not suggesting it has to be.  But for Apple to not have an all inclusive solution for its users is nonsense.  I...Like you would have both local and cloud.  The solution is just a bit clumsy for today's times.  It should just work.

  • Reply 20 of 32
    Storage for the ever-growing personal digital libraries so far hasn't caught up with the innovation of the libraries themselves. The notion that a particular size of drive, be it internal or external, can resolve the problem doesn't address the issue at its core: We need near unlimited storage. Maybe not now, maybe not alone, but eventually we will outgrow whatever storage we have.

    The only way to deliver near unlimited storage without being reliant 100% on a cloud or NAS device is to decouple the device from the file system upon which the libraries reside. An intelligent file system that spans local, remote and SAS offerings would allow for practical libraries of enormous sizes. It would use well established algorithms to pre-load next data to local devices and keep copies on the SAS offering to serve as backups. There is a file system that does that, SNFS, but it's not available as a consumer product. It would have to be reduced in size and simplified, but that is the only way I can see us tackle the explosive growth of the personal digital world.
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