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How to Move Your iTunes Library to a New Computer

move your itunes library
Here at Switched, we've been through countless hard drives over the years. That trusty ol' 400-gigabyte drive is going to fail sooner or later, swallowing your precious, carefully crafted music library as it goes -- unless you've prepared yourself. Fortunately, transferring your fully intact iTunes library to a new drive or computer is a cinch. You can, of course, grab the music files themselves and throw them on your new computer, but you'll probably lose all of your metadata like playlists, playcounts and ratings. Instead, the following technique will preserve all of your hard work, and save you the effort of manually rebuilding your library. (Who does anything manually anymore, anyway?)


iTunes MusicBefore starting, make sure that you've been diligently backing up your files and that you've set iTunes to automatically organize your media. (Read through our guide if you haven't yet,) We can't stress this enough: all of your media must be organized in a single folder for this to work. It's possible to pull it off without a consolidated iTunes library, but it's an extremely involved process. It's far easier to move thousands of files when they're contained in a single place to begin with. Also, if you happen to have an additional external drive, we recommend backing up all of your media a second time. The following process is straightforward, but you never know when a drive will fail, and it's always good to have a backup of the backup.

You can use iTunes' built-in Backup to Disc option, but that will probably take far too many CDs or DVDs. We recommend the external drive approach; storage is cheap these days. Plus, if you're moving your library to an internal drive, you'll be able to use the extra external for dedicated backup. Windows users, navigate within the file system to the iTunes folder (Your account\music), and copy the entire iTunes folder over to the new drive. Mac users, you'll want to go to your User Folder/Music/iTunes. Depending on your drive speed and library size, this could take a while.

Once backup is complete, disconnect the drive and plug it into your new computer. Now, you've got two options. First, you can keep your library on an external drive. Some externals take a moment to spin up, which can cause a lag while playing tracks in iTunes -- and, of course, you'll have to lug the drive with you if you want mobile access to your tunes. Second, you can import all your music onto your new computer's internal drive. This may not be the best use of space if you've got a giant media library, but, fortunately, most new computers come with hundreds of gigabytes of storage.


If you opt for the external drive, quit iTunes and hook the drive up to your new computer. Mac users should hold down the 'option' key and click on iTunes, forcing the app to prompt you about your library location. Windows users, hold down the 'shift' key during iTunes startup. Click Choose Library, navigate to the iTunes Music Library folder on your new drive, select, and wait. After a few moments, iTunes should load with your library intact, complete with ratings, metadata, artwork and play counts.


The internal drive process is similar. Make sure iTunes isn't running, and hook up your backup drive to your new computer. Make sure the iTunes folder that currently exists on your internal drive is empty of any music or video files you need, because you'll be writing over it. Drag the iTunes folder on your backup drive into your Music folder (under users), and wait for it to copy. Now, open iTunes according to the directions above and repeat. You'll want to navigate to the iTunes folder that now cozily resides on your computer's internal hard drive. While you are at it, take this time to prune and streamline your tunes. Smash Mouth? No one wants to listen to that. Trust us.

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