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how to move your itunes music library from one folder/drive/computer to another Saturday, 04/08/2007 by nik

moving your music files around with itunes is quite simple if you allow itunes to manage your library for you. But if you have a more complicated setup and would prefer to manage your music yourself, then things are a little more difficult...

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The great thing about Itunes is its simplicity. The integration with the ipod and the ease with which you can import and download music makes it accessible to every kind of computer, even complete novices. That is, of course, the Apple 'proposition' all round.

If you are one of those users that lets iTunes manage your music library automatically - or are happy to do so from this point on - then iTunes has an easy way to move your music around for you and keep track of all the details, such as track ratings, date added and so on, for you. Basically you use the itunes EDIT -> PREFERENCES -> ADVANCED -> ITUNES MUSIC FOLDER LOCATION and set it to point to the new location where you want your files (e.g. new folder, new external drive or network location). Then you go to ADVANCED -> CONSOLIDATE LIBRARY and, if you are brave, you allow itunes to copy all your files over to the new location.

This is all very well for a simple setup - especially one where itunes is already managing your library - i.e. it's in your default "itunes" folder (usually under MY DOCUMENTS\MY MUSIC\ITUNES on a PC).

But not everyone runs things that simply. For example, I have multiple music collections on multiple computers (I have a recording studio) some of which I want to appear in my itunes library, others not. Not to mention the fact I have multiple copies of itunes running on different computers (one for the missus, for example). Not the mention the fact that these libraries are also mirrored (for backup) across multiple drives on my network. Besides, these are not 'itunes' libraries - my music is accessed by various applications. So, the concept of a single itunes library just doesn't work for me. So how does iTunes handle this?

On the face of it, OK. You can add a 'library' (i.e. a collection of music) to iTunes and tell it not to bother 'managing' your music. In this case iTunes doesn't bother moving your music around, it simply maintains a file-reference (pointer) to where the files actually exist.

This works fine until you move one of those file collections - sometimes out of necessity, if you re-organise your network, storage or backup regime.

But unfortunately there is no way to tell iTunes you have moved some of the items that it is not managing. It just fails to find them, and offers to let you find it manually. Fine for 10 tracks, but ridiculous for 10,000. Poking around the itunes database (in the default itunes folder, usually MY DOCUMENTS\MY MUSIC\ITUNES ona PC) initially seems to bear fruit. The 'iTunes Music Library.xml' file looks promising, because it holds file references to all your music. A 'search-and-replace' on these strings would appear to be all that is required.

Alas no - because iTunes actually runs from the 'iTunes Library.itl' database file in the same folder, and this is a binary database file (non-human readable). Now, you can force iTunes to rebuild this file from the xml file if you corrupt it (usually by editing it to contain no bytes/information), but in doing so you lose information such as your podcast subscriptions (even though you retain ratings information). Now, if you want to try that, then there are instructions on the web, such as here. Be warned. (I've tried this and it works, however, in the process you will lose your podcast subscriptions, even though you will keep your track ratings.)

What iTunes needs is a 'rebuild database' command that allows the user to recompile its database after the XML file has been edited. Better still it needs a 'move library' or 'follow library' function, so that an old file reference can be updated with a new one from within iTunes without resorting to editing via the backdoor. Or, at the very least, if iTunes cannot find a music file, then when it asks you to locate it, it should provide a means to do that as a batch for 10,000 files rather than one at a time.

It's extremely disappointing that iTunes does not provide this capability, and I can only hope it won't be long before Apple incorporate it.

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