iTunes Tune-up 14: Moving your library to a bigger drive


Ralph Graves

Ralph Graves is one of Crutchfield's blog editors, and part of the company's social media team. He writes about home audio/video gear, specializing in Apple-related and wireless technologies. Ralph holds a master's degree in music composition, and his works have been released on various labels. He's served as product manager for an independent classical and world music label, produced several recordings, and worked extensively in public broadcasting. Since 1984 he's hosted a weekly classical music program on WTJU, and is also active as a blogger and podcaster.

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It's been quite a while since I've actually stored any of my music on my computer. I moved my iTunes® library off my laptop back in 2007. Good thing, too. It enabled me to save higher-resolution files (which take up more memory) without clogging up my computer. This past week, though, I finally did it. I completely filled up my 1TB (that's one terabyte, or 1,000 gigabytes) hard drive.

No problem. I purchased a 2TB drive, and I was back in business. iTunes makes transferring your library from one machine (or drive) to another pretty easy, but it's important to follow all the steps.Here's what I did using iTunes 10 and an Apple PowerBook. If you're using a PC, your experience may differ slightly in the details. I took a couple of missteps along the way -- you'll find those (and the solutions) at the bottom.

Getting started

To transfer iTunes music files from one computer (or drive) to another, you can't just highlight the folders and drag them over with a cursor to the new drive.The directory for all those music files is kept in a separate location. Doing things the right way helps iTunes keep track of where your music's being moved to, and adjusts the directory accordingly.

It's important that iTunes keep the directory info attached to the music files. To ensure this, I selected Preferences (under the Edit tab) and in the Advanced settings checked "Keep iTunes Media folder organized."

The first thing I did to start the process was to connect both the old 1TB drive and the new 2TB drive to the laptop and open iTunes. Under the File tab there's a subdirectory for Library which opens up some other options. I selected "Export Library." The process involves copying the old library to the new drive which is a good thing. If anything goes wrong, the original library is still intact and I haven't lost anything.

Changing locations

After making that selection, I was prompted to designate where I wanted iTunes to change the location to. In the screen shot below, the old drive was highlighted. The new drive I was going to use is directly below it on the left. I clicked on the "FreeAgent" drive icon, and then the "Choose" button in the lower right corner.

A prompt appeared asking if I would like to  move and rename the files in my new folder to match the "Keep iTunes Media folder organized." The answer was Yes!

I was then given a choice of whether to just consolidate my media files, or reorganize them in the new drive. That was the plan. I checked "Reorganize."

Once that was done, I was then again offered the choice of copying all my media files (used by iTunes). I clicked "OK."

In the new drive, I could now see that the iTunes Media folder had been created. By selecting "Choose," I started the process of copying the music files from their existing location (my 1TB drive) to the new drive.

Staring at the status bar

Once the process started, I saw a status bar appear. The screen shot below is a little deceptive, as it shows a single track name. In reality, the titles flickered past as fast as the files were copied, making them almost illegible.

But that wasn't important. The important thing to follow was the status bar. I actually didn't pay much attention to the status bar, save to check it from time to time. Setting up for the transfer took about 20 minutes. The actual transfer took several hours (25,000+ songs, taking up 900+GB of memory).

When the task was finished, the bar disappeared, and my library was now stored in a much roomier drive. And I was once again able to add music to my digital library. For now.

Caution: Make sure to format your drive

Because the drive I chose was both Mac and PC compatible -- and connected via a USB cable -- I assumed that I could use it right away, like a flash drive. When I plugged it into my laptop, the icon for the drive appeared, and I could open it up and look at the directory.

But I didn't read the instructions that came with the drive, so I didn't format it for Mac (a simple process -- a folder on the drive had all the setups and prompts I needed). Because I hadn't, the permissions for the drive remained read-only. Which I discovered the first time I tried to transfer the library and nothing happened.

I'd had problems with permissions before, so I checked the new drive. You can do this by highlighting the drive icon and either selecting "Get Info" from the Finder, or pressing "Apple+I" on the keyboard (on a PC right-click on the icon and select "Properties" from the pop-up window that appears). Sure enough, the drive was set for read-only.

Normally, I can change permissions for drives pretty easily. There's a small lock that appears on the right bottom of the window. I select that, and as the computer's administrator I can change permissions. I couldn't do so in this case, because the drive hadn't been formatted.

Once I had formatted it, then I was able to go in and change the permission that allowed me to both read and write to the disc. A simple problem, but a potentially frustrating one if you don't know what to look for.

Will 2TB be enough memory? It will for a while. Perhaps I'll do a similar post a few years from now!