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iTunes: How to move your music to a new computer

When you get a new computer, iTunes can help move your music so you can play and sync it from the new computer. Read below for help choosing the option that is right for you.

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The following table compares the methods to move music from your old computer to your new computer.

Home Sharing The easiest option, as long as your new computer is already connected to the Internet.
External drive Requires additional hardware but backs up your iTunes library.
Transferring purchases Fastest, but only moves the content you purchased from the iTunes Store. Also requires an iPhone, iPad, or iPod with the content on it.
Windows Migration Assistant Works best for migrating from an old PC to a new Mac, and transfers more than iTunes.

Home Sharing

Home Sharing is an easy way to keep all your iTunes libraries in sync across multiple computers at your house. For more information on Home Sharing and syncing your library between two computers, read iTunes: Understanding Home Sharing.

Note: This option allows you to share music between multiple computers if you continue to use both, but it doesn't create a lasting backup. To create a lasting backup, use an external drive or CDs or DVDs.


Follow the steps below to use Home Sharing to copy your music between your old computer which has the music on it already, and a new computer.

  1. Be sure iTunes 9 or later is installed on both computers.
  2. Open iTunes on both computers.
  3. On your old computer:

    1. If Home Sharing is already enabled, iTunes 11 or later displays the option to Turn Off Home Sharing (Account) under the File > Devices menu. If this is the case, proceed to step 7. Otherwise, choose:
      • iTunes 11 or later: File > Devices > Turn On Home Sharing from the menu bar.
      • iTunes 9 or 10: Advanced > Turn On Home Sharing from the menu bar.
    2. Select the Home Sharing icon on the left side of iTunes from where you select music, movies, or TV shows.
    3. When prompted, enter your Apple ID and password.
      The screen to turn on Home Sharing in iTunes 11
    4. Click Create Home Share.

    On your new computer:

    1. Click the Store menu and choose Authorize computer. Enter your Apple ID and password (that was listed in the Advanced menu in step three or used in step 5).
    2. Choose Advanced > Turn On Home Sharing from the menu bar. 
    3. Select the Home Sharing icon on the left side of iTunes.

      Note: Once Home Sharing is enabled, the Home Sharing option disappears from the left side of iTunes until a Home Share library is found from another computer.

    4. Once your new computer sees the Home Share from your old computer, click that Home Share on the left side of iTunes on your new computer.
    5. Select the content in the Home Share that you want to transfer to your iTunes library on your new computer, or choose Edit > Select All to choose all of it. Then, click the Import button in the bottom-right corner of iTunes.
    6. Wait for the content to finish transferring.

Transferring playlists

If you want not only your content but also your playlists to exist on your new computer, you will want to transfer a copy of all your playlists from your old computer. To do this, choose FileLibraryExport Library on your old computer. Save the XML file that is created to your desktop.

Send the playlists file to yourself as an e-mail attachment, use an external drive, or use file sharing to move the playlists file to your new computer. Once the file is on your new computer, open iTunes and choose FileLibraryImport Playlist. The import process will remove any items from the playlists that you didn't share via Home Sharing.

External drive

This option requires more work than Home Sharing, but it creates a backup of your iTunes library on the external drive in addition to moving your content.

Notes before you start:

  • You can use most iPods as an external drive.
  • Windows operating systems don't recognize Mac OS-formatted disks (HFS or HFS Plus formats). Because of this, you can't use a Mac-formatted iPod or external drive to move your music to a Windows PC. See iPod: How to determine iPod's hard disk format if you're not sure how your iPod is formatted.
  • Mac OS X can read Windows-formatted iPods and drives. This means there are many ways to migrate your information from your old Windows-based PC to your new Mac.
  • Mac OS X: To be sure external drives appear on your desktop, choose Preferences from the Finder menu. Be sure the options for "External disks" and "Hard disks" are enabled.

Part 1: Locating and consolidating the iTunes Media folder

Locating and consolidating your media will make sure all of your content is in the same location. To determine the location of your iTunes Media folder:

  1. Open iTunes Preferences:
    Mac: Choose iTunes > Preferences.
    Windows: Choose Edit > Preferences.
  2. Click Advanced and note the location of your iTunes Media folder.
  3. If you're not going to be able to complete these steps all at once, it's a good idea to make sure that any new content you might add to your iTunes library gets added to the iTunes Music folder. To do this, just be sure there's a check in the checkbox next to "Copy files to iTunes Media folder when adding to library."
  4. Click OK.
  5. For iTunes 9 or later, choose File > Library > Organize Library... > Consolidate Files.
    For iTunes 8.2.1 or earlier, choose File > Library > Consolidate.
  6. An alert may appear stating: "Consolidating your library will copy all of your music into the iTunes Media folder. This cannot be undone."

    Note:

    Mac OS X: By default, iTunes on Mac OS X keeps a consolidated library, so this option likely will not increase the space needed on your hard disk.
    Windows: Consolidating will cause iTunes to copy all of your music files that appear in iTunes to one central location on your computer (the iTunes Media folder). The original files will now be duplicates which you will need to manually remove from their various locations if you don't want them to take up additional drive space. If your computer does not have enough hard-drive space, this process will not work correctly. Contact your computer manufacturer or Microsoft for more information on how to obtain more space to perform this action. 

  7. Click Consolidate.

Part 2: Copy iTunes folder from the old computer:

To copy all your music files (including the library file that holds all your playlists and other settings) to your external drive:

  1. Quit iTunes.
  2. Locate your external drive:
    Mac OS X: On the desktop
    Windows: In My Computer
  3. Locate your "iTunes" folder:
    • Mac OS X: /Users/username/Music
    • Windows XP: \Documents and Settings\username\My Documents\My Music\
    • Windows Vista: \Users\username\Music\iTunes
    • Windows 7 and Windows 8: \Users\username\My Music\iTunes
  4. Drag the iTunes folder to the external drive. Copying will begin at this point, and can take a while if you have a lot of content.

    From your old Mac to the external drive:
    Example image of drive on desktop.

    From your old Windows PC to the external drive:
    Example image of drive in Windows.

  5. Once the copy completes, Control-click (Mac) or right-click (Windows) the drive and choose the option to Eject.
  6. If you're not sure that it's okay to disconnect the external drive, shutdown your old computer before disconnecting the cable.

Part 3: Get iTunes ready on your new computer

To get iTunes ready to accept all your music on your new computer:

  1. Download and install the latest version of iTunes.
  2. Open iTunes on your new computer.
  3. Connect the external drive to your new computer.

Part 4: Back up any music that's already on your new computer

Do you already have some music in iTunes on your new computer? If so, follow these steps to make sure this music gets saved since we'll be replacing the existing iTunes folder with the one from your old computer. If not, you can skip to Part 5: Copy music to new computer.

Note: Information like ratings and play count will not be preserved for these songs.

  1. Open iTunes Preferences
    Mac OS X: Choose iTunes > Preferences.
    Windows: Choose Edit  > Preferences.
  2. Click the Advanced tab.
  3. Click the Reset button next to iTunes Media folder location.

    reset button

  4. Click OK.
  5. For iTunes 9 or later, choose FileLIbrary > Organize Library... > Consolidate Files.
    For iTunes 8.2.1 or earlier, choose File > Library > Consolidate.
  6. An alert may appear stating: "Consolidating your library will copy all of your music into the iTunes Media folder. This cannot be undone."

    Note:

    Mac OS X: By default, iTunes on Mac OS X keeps a consolidated library, so this option likely will not increase the space needed on your hard disk.
    Windows: Consolidating will cause iTunes to copy all of your music files that appear in iTunes to one central location on your computer (the iTunes Media folder). The original files will now be duplicates which you will need to manually remove from their various locations if you don't want them to take up additional drive space. If your computer does not have enough hard-drive space, this process will not work correctly. Contact your computer manufacturer or Microsoft for more information on how to obtain more space to perform this action.

  7. Click Consolidate.
  8. Quit iTunes.

Part 5: Copy music to your new computer

To copy all your music files (including the library file that holds all your playlists and other settings) to your new computer:

  1. Locate the following folder on your new computer:
    Mac OS X: /Users/username/Music
    Windows XP: \Documents and Settings\username\My Documents\My Music\
    Windows Vista: \Users\username\Music\iTunes
    Windows 7 and Windows 8: \Users\username\My Music\iTunes
  2. Drag the "iTunes" folder in this location out to the desktop.

    From the Music folder to the Desktop on your new Mac:

    From the My Music folder to the Desktop on your new PC:

  3. Locate the external drive on your new computer:
    Mac OS X: On the desktop.
    Windows: In My Computer.
  4. Double-click on the external drive icon to open it.
  5. Drag the iTunes folder from the external drive to the Music folder (Mac OS X) or My Music Folder (Windows) on your new computer (from step 1 of this section). This can take a while if you have a lot of content.

    From the external drive to the Music folder on your new Mac:
    [iTunes to Music Folder Screenshot]

    From the external drive to your new PC:
    [iPod to New Mac Screenshot]

  6. Open iTunes.

You've now moved all your music, playlists, and other information like play counts and ratings from your old computer to your new one.

Part 6: Add preexisting music that was on the new computer back into the library

If you already had some music on your new computer and you want to incorporate it into the music you just moved from your old computer:

  1. Mac OS X: Choose File > Add to Library
    Windows: Choose File > Add Folder to Library.
  2. Navigate to the iTunes folder on your Desktop.
  3. Click Choose (Mac OS X) or OK (Windows).

Note: Information like ratings and play count are not preserved for these preexisting songs.

Transferring purchases

If your iPhone, iPad, or iPod has your purchased content from the iTunes Store, you can transfer the content to a computer that is authorized for your Apple ID.

Note: This option only works for content you purchased from the iTunes Store (as opposed to content from other sources, such as CDs you may have imported). For content you did not purchase from the iTunes Store, synchronization occurs in one direction only. This means your content can be copied from a computer to your iOS device, but cannot be copied from your device to a computer.

  1. Open iTunes.
  2. From the Store menu, choose Authorize This Computer.
  3. Enter your Apple ID and password. Then, click the Authorize button.
  4. Connect your device your computer. If it is synced with another iTunes library, you may be asked if you want to "Erase and Sync" or "Transfer Purchases."
  5. If that alert appears, click Transfer Purchases.
    Important: Clicking Erase and Sync will delete any existing content currently on your device. The content would then be replaced with the content that is on the computer.
  6. If you were not offered the option to transfer purchases:
    • After connecting your device to the computer, its icon appears in iTunes. Click the icon.
    • From the File > Devices menu, choose "Transfer Purchases from 'Your device name.'"
      choose transfer purchases

 

Windows Migration Assistant

You can migrate all of the information from your old Windows PC to your new Mac running OS X Lion. For steps to use this assistant, see OS X Lion: About Windows Migration Assistant.

After transferring your media:

  1. If you plan to stop using the computer, deauthorize it by using StoreDeauthorize this computer in iTunes.
  2. If you backed your iOS device up to iTunes, back up your devices on the new computer or manually transfer the backups from your old computer. The backups belong in:
    • Mac: ~/Library/Application Support/MobileSync/Backup/
    • Windows XP: \Documents and Settings\(username)\Application Data\Apple Computer\MobileSync\Backup\

      Note: To quickly access the Application Data folder, click Start, and then choose Run. Type %appdata% and click OK.

    • Windows Vista and Windows 7: \Users\(username)\AppData\Roaming\Apple Computer\MobileSync\Backup\

      Note: To quickly access the AppData folder, click Start, and then in the search bar type %appdata% and press the Return key.

    • Windows 8: \Users\(username)\AppData\Roaming\Apple Computer\MobileSync\Backup\

      Note: To quickly access the AppData folder, move the cursor to the top-right, click on the magnifying glass charm, type %appdata% and press the Return key.

  3. If you used iCloud with your old computer for syncing, set up iCloud on your new computer.

 

Additional Information

For more information on authorizations or help troubleshooting Home Sharing:

For more information about backing up iTunes content:

For more information about moving information from your old PC to your new Mac:

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: Sep 26, 2013
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