Back up and restore your iTunes Library

Before you transfer or restore your iTunes media library, consolidate it and create a back up.

Your iTunes library, a database that's made up of all of the music and other media that you add to iTunes, is organized into two iTunes library files and an iTunes Media folder.

Before you back up your media, consolidate your library.

You should also redownload any previous purchases (music, movies, TV shows, etc.) and turn on automatic downloads for future purchases. iTunes in the Cloud is not a backup service, and having a local copy (a copy downloaded to a computer) is the only way to back up your purchased media. 

To make sure that local copies of movies and TV shows stay downloaded to your computer, go to iTunes > Preferences > Advanced (Mac) or Edit > Preferences > Advanced (PC) and deselect "Automatically delete watched movies and TV shows."


Consolidate your iTunes library

Follow these steps to consolidate all of your media into the iTunes Media folder.

  1. Open iTunes.
  2. From the menu bar at the top of your computer screen or at the top of the iTunes window, choose  File > Library > Organize Library.
  3. Select "Consolidate files."
    The Organize Library panel from iTunes with "Consolodate files" selected.
  4. Click OK.

When you consolidate, copies of any files that were outside of your iTunes Media folder are added to your iTunes Media folder. To save space on your hard drive, you might want to delete the original files after you make sure that the copies are in your iTunes Media Folder.


Find the iTunes Media folder

By default, your iTunes Media folder is in your iTunes folder:

  • Mac: Open a Finder window, then click your username in the left sidebar and look for the Music folder.
  • Windows 7 or later: Go to \Users\username\Music\.
  • Windows XP: Go to \Documents and Settings\username\My Documents\My Music\.

If the folder isn't in its default location, you can find where it's located using these steps:

  1. Open iTunes.
  2. Mac: From the menu bar at the top of your computer screen, choose iTunes > Preferences.
    Windows: From the menu bar at the top of the iTunes window, choose Edit > Preferences.
  3. Click the Advanced tab.
  4. Look in the box under "iTunes Media folder location" for the location of your iTunes Media folder.
    The Advanced Preferences panel in iTunes Preferences. It shows the location of the iTunes Media folder.


Back up your library and media files

After you consolidate your media files, you can back up your library and media files to an external drive.

  1. Quit iTunes.
  2. Find your iTunes folder.
  3. Drag the iTunes folder from its location to an external drive. Your library and media files copy to the drive.
    A Mac Finder window open to the Music folder. An iTunes folder selected within is being dragged to an External Drive in the left sidebar of the window.


Restore your library from a backup

You can restore your iTunes library or iTunes Media folder 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 (that you backed up earlier) from your external drive to where you want it on your internal drive. We recommend that you put the iTunes folder back into its default location.
  4. Hold down the Option key (Mac) or Shift key (Windows) while opening iTunes.
  5. When you see a message that asks you to Choose iTunes Library, click Choose Library.
    The Choose iTunes Library alert message with the Choose Library button selected.
  6. Choose the iTunes folder (that you dragged in step 3) from your internal drive.
  7. Mac: Click Choose.
    Windows: Click Open.
  8. Choose the iTunes Library.itl file inside.

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