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

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.

Have something to say about this story? Share your comments below! Need help with something else? Submit your question!

Peter Cohen

Managing Editor of iMore, Mac and gaming specialist and all-around technologist. Follow him on Twitter @flargh

More Posts

 

27
loading...
0
loading...
68
loading...
0
loading...

← Previously

How to increase contrast for visual accessibility on iPhone and iPad

Next up →

Write for Mac updated with improved performance, new dark theme and more!

Reader comments

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

22 Comments

Really should mention consolidating the library. Your suggestions will only work if all your music is in one spot, and not in many far flung corners of the computer. Doing only the steps above will cause data loss down the road as well as issues with playlists and ratings.
http://support.apple.com/kb/HT4527 Has a better guide.

In all fairness, you'd have to have a pretty old Mac, running old Mac OS X software, and would have had to pointedly refused to consolidate your library all the many times that iTunes has asked the user to do so over the last five years or so, to be in any real danger here.

Anyone who doesn't have a consolidated library by now has had to actively work to be in that position and be a bit old-fashioned to boot.

Also need to mention that video NOT purchased from iTunes will not be stored in iTunes Match. I have EyeTV, so all my saved TV shows etc must be saved on my NAS, therefore my entire library lives there. I also have Match, but mostly for easy access to my entire library from all devices.

Sent from the iMore App

I'm not sure if playlists follow. The file and library move, but not sure about playlists. I did this awhile back (3 years or so) and I lost my playlists, but no loss of media. That said, I was fumbling in the dark at the time.

Why can't relocating iOS backups be this easy? I've created a sym link from my MacBook Air to an external drive because there just isn't room to back up 5 iOS devices on my 128gb drive. The backup location should be configurable.

Sent from the iMore App

I think that's why Apple came out with iCloud backups. Personally, I just upgraded my MacBook Pro to a 1TB drive to store all my stuff. My iPhone is actually still backing up to iCloud. I just use the Mac to choose what stuff I want to carry with me. The docs and app data fit within the free five gigs, my photos are on Dropbox (soon to be on Apple's new iCloud photos), and the other stuff can be synced any time from the Mac.

I've always wondered about NAS devices that advertise an itunes server. Could you move your big media files to an itunes server instead of moving the entire library?

Sent from the iMore App

I was looking into this last year - apparently it's a few versions behind. To the best of my knowledge you will be able to stream music from an external library, but not video to your AppleTV or iPad. It's frustrating, especially as the iPad streaming only really works for smaller libraries...

External iTunes library works great and have used it for years( 2TB library with several moves). But don't forget if you regularly backup your computer for safety in the event of failure, the external drive will likely not be backed up. I address this by regularly backing up the external iTunes library to two other external drives, one of which I keep off site. Don't risk your important data. Backup, backup, backup!

Is there any logical reason that iTunes makes such a hash out of the music library? I have my library on an external hard drive and it isn't as simple as going to the iTunes Library and clicking the music folder or audiobooks. Under the original iTunes Library folder I have another folder Music and iTunes Library and it gets worse from there. It indiscriminately puts imported music into either folder. I've tried starting over clean and reimporting everything and it still makes the same mess! Is there anyway to organize the library better? I have selected to move media to iTunes folder and Keep iTunes Folder Organized.

I agree with jmiah28 - I moved my itunes library to an external like this years ago, and now I have no idea which music is on the external and which is on my mac. It's clear that some is on my mac. Will consolidating and copying again work? Great work, by the way, Peter, your posts are cleaning my mac as we speak.

I agree with jmiah28 - I moved my itunes library to an external like this years ago, and now I have no idea which music is on the external and which is on my mac. It's clear that some is on my mac. Will consolidating and copying again work? Great work, by the way, Peter, your posts are cleaning my mac as we speak.

Thank you Peter! This really helped me, I was constantly running out of space on my iMac. Once I did this the Computer icon on my AppleTV now shows a bunch of random numbers and letters as my computers name. My Apple TV used to display the name of my iMac. Everything works just fine, its just slightly annoying. How to I fix this?

My problem is my iTunes folder doesn't drag anywhere. It's in my music folder and that's where it stays. Help?