How to move your Mac's iTunes library to an external drive

If your iTunes library has grown beyond what you can or are willing to sacrifice on your Mac's internal hard disk, there are a couple of things you can do. You can move it to the cloud, using Apple's iTunes Match service, or, if you're not comfortable doing that, you can move it to an external disk. Here's how.

If you already pay for iTunes Match, bear in mind that you don't need to keep all of your iTunes files locally on your computer. Interested to find out more?

If iTunes Match isn't something you're comfortable with, the easiest solution is to move your iTunes library to an external hard drive.

Before you do so, however, you should make sure that all of the files iTunes uses are actually in the iTunes folder. To do that, open iTunes and:

  1. Click the File menu.
  2. Click on the Library menu.
  3. Select Organize Library. A new window will appear.
  4. Check Consolidate Files.
  5. Click the OK button.

Consolidate library

To move your iTunes library to an external drive

  1. Quit iTunes if it's open
  2. Connect an external hard disk drive.
  3. Open your Mac hard drive.
  4. Open the Music folder.
  5. Drag the iTunes folder to the external hard drive.
  6. Hold down the Option key on your keyboard
  7. Launch iTunes.
  8. iTunes will ask you to choose the iTunes library. Click the Choose Library... button.
  9. Locate the iTunes folder on your external hard drive. Click Open.
  10. Once iTunes is done checking the library, it should open.
  11. Quit iTunes.

Now that iTunes knows where your new iTunes library is, you need to delete the old library. To do that, simply go to your Mac's hard drive, open the Music folder, and drag the iTunes folder into the trash. Blam — you've just saved a huge amount of internal hard disk space.

Move iTunes library

Checking new iTunes library

Choose new iTunes library location

Locating new library

If you launch iTunes without your external hard drive connected, you'll see this message:

iTunes library is missing

Just quit iTunes, connect your external hard drive, then relaunch iTunes and it should sort itself out.

I'll offer you my customary warning: Before you do any of this, back up your Mac using Time Machine or another method. That way if anything goes wrong you'll be able to easily recover.

Have any trouble moving your iTunes library to an external drive? Have any questions? Let me know in the comments.