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Back up your iTunes library by copying it to an external drive

You can back up your iTunes library by consolidating your library into one folder, and then copying that folder to an external drive.

Consolidate your iTunes library

First, make sure that all of your the items in your library are in one place.

  1. Open iTunes Preferences:
    Mac: Choose iTunes > Preferences.
    Windows: Choose Edit > Preferences. If you can't see the menus, learn how to turn on iTunes menus in Windows 7 and 8.
  2. Click Advanced.
  3. Make sure the option to "Copy files to iTunes Media folder when adding to library" is selected.

    When you select this option and add files to iTunes, iTunes places copies of the originals in the iTunes Media folder. The original files are left in their original locations.

    If you’d like to save space on your computer,  you can delete the original files after you confirm that they're in the iTunes Media folder.

  4. Click OK.
  5. Choose File > Library > Organize Library.
  6. Select the option to "Consolidate files."
  7. Click OK.

    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.

Copy the iTunes folder to your external 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 drive:

  1. Quit iTunes.
  2. Locate your external 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: Finder > 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\
  4. If the iTunes folder is not in the default location listed above, find the iTunes folder by following these steps:

    1. Open iTunes Preferences:
      Mac: Choose iTunes > Preferences.
      Windows: Choose Edit > Preferences.
    2. Click Advanced.
    3. The location of your iTunes folder will be listed in the "iTunes Media folder location" box.
  5. Drag the iTunes folder to your external drive. This can take a while if you have a lot of items.
  6. When the transfer is complete, your iTunes Library will have been successfully copied to your external drive.

Restore your iTunes Library backup

When you need to restore your backed up iTunes Library from your external drive to your computer:

  1. Quit iTunes.
  2. Locate your external drive. 
    Mac: On the Desktop or Finder sidebar. 
    Windows: In My Computer.
  3. Drag the iTunes folder (backed up earlier) from your external drive to whatever location you desire on your internal hard drive. It is recommended that you choose the default location for the iTunes folder, which is:
    Mac: Finder > 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\
  4. While holding down the Option key (Mac) or Shift key (Windows), open iTunes.
  5. When the Choose iTunes Library message appears, click the Choose Library button.
  6. Select the iTunes folder you just moved to the internal hard drive.
  7. Click Choose (Mac OS X) or Open (Windows).
  8. Then choose the iTunes Library file inside.

After following these steps, iTunes will open and your iTunes Library will be restored.

Learn more

Important: Information about products not manufactured by Apple is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute Apple’s recommendation or endorsement. Please contact the vendor for additional information.
Last Modified: Oct 31, 2014
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  • Last Modified: Oct 31, 2014
  • Article: HT1751
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