iTunes: Back up your iTunes library by copying to an external hard drive

One way to back up your iTunes library is to consolidate your library into one folder and then copy that folder to an external hard drive. This is a painless process that only takes a few moments to accomplish.

 

Part I. Consolidating Your iTunes library

To make the move as easy as possible, it's important to make sure all of the items in your library are in one place.

    1. Open iTunes Preferences: 
      Mac: Choose iTunes > Preferences
      Windows: Choose Edit > Preferences.
    2. Click Advanced.
    3. Make sure the option to "Copy files to iTunes Media folder when adding to library" is selected.

      Copy files to iTunes Media folder when adding to library

    4. Click OK. 

      Note: With this option selected, when you add files to iTunes, iTunes places copies of the originals in the iTunes Media folder. The original files are left in their original locations. To save space on your hard disk, you might want to delete the original files after confirming import.

  1. Choose File > Library > Organize Library.
  2. Select the option to "Consolidate files."

    Note: If you recently updated to iTunes 9, you might want to consider selecting the option to "Upgrade to iTunes Media organization." This updates the file organization of your iTunes Media folder.
    Organize library options
  3. Click OK.

    Note: If you originally did not have the option to copy files enabled, iTunes will copy files outside of the iTunes Media folder from their original locations to the iTunes Media folder. To save space on your hard disk, you might want to delete the original files after confirming they have been moved and are backed up.

Part II: Copy iTunes folder to your external hard drive

To copy all the items in your iTunes library (including the iTunes Library file that holds all your playlists, playcounts, ratings, and other data) to your external hard drive, follow these steps:

  1. Quit iTunes.
  2. Locate your external hard drive. 
    Mac: On the desktop or Finder sidebar. 
    Windows: In My Computer
  3. Locate your iTunes folder: 
    By default, the iTunes folder is located in: 
    Mac OS X: /Users/username/Music 
    Windows XP: \Documents and Settings\username\My Documents\My Music\
    Windows Vista: \Users\username\My Music\
    Windows 7 or 8: \Users\username\Music\
  1. If the iTunes folder is not in the default location listed above then you can find where the iTunes folder is located by following these instructions:

    1. Open your iTunes Preferences: 
      Mac: Choose iTunes > Preferences
      Windows: Choose Edit > Preferences.
    2. Click Advanced.
    3. The location of your iTunes folder will be listed in iTunes Media folder location box, as pictured below.

      iTunes Media folder location highlighted

  2. Drag the iTunes folder to your external hard drive. This can take a while if you have a lot of items.

    Dragging the iTunes folder to an external hard drive

  3. When the transfer is complete, your iTunes Library will have been successfully copied to your external hard drive.

 

Additional Information

If you would prefer to back up your iTunes library by burning your library to CD or DVD, click here.

If you were looking into moving the iTunes Media folder, view this article for Windows and this article for Mac.

 

Reference: Apple Support -  iTunes: Back up your iTunes library by copying to an external hard drive

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