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Have you ever wondered if you can keep your entire iTunes library on an external drive by freeing up disk space and taking care of your portable music and media library? The answer is yes, you can, and in fact, it’s pretty easy to download your entire iTunes collection to another drive, whether you’re using a Mac or a Windows computer.
There are many reasons why you want to transfer your iTunes library to an external drive or USB flash drive, but owners of computers with limited drive space may find this particularly useful. This trick allows you to download your music library to a secondary external drive without consuming it on limited internal disk space, which is especially useful for MacBook Air and other SSD-based Macs with less internal storage capacity.
If you want to switch from a USB flash drive to a portable Mac (or PC), it’s best to use one of the small USB flash drives as shown above, they are cheap, incredibly small, and offer plenty of storage space for most music libraries. Many flash drives today are so small that they are barely noticeable when connected to a laptop, often with only a small plug attached to the side of the USB port.
Assuming you have an external USB drive or flash drive ready, you will start transferring your iTunes collection to it.
Transferring your iTunes library to an external drive
This process moves the entire iTunes library to an external drive, where it retains access but does not take up primary internal disk space:
- Open iTunes and select the Advanced tab
- Under iTunes Media Folder Location, view your current location, select and copy the path
- Go to the Finder in OS X (or Windows Explorer if you’re on a computer) and go to the iTunes library file path, which is usually in the following Mac location:
- Connect an external drive to copy your iTunes library
- When viewing the ~ / Music / iTunes / folder, drag and drop the “iTunes Media” folder to an external drive, let the file transfer finish before doing anything else
- Now go back to iTunes and select the “Change” button under “iTunes Media Folder Location” to select a new location
- Navigate to the external drive you just connected to and copy the library to, select the “iTunes Media” folder you just copied, and then click “Open”.
- Click “OK” to confirm the selection of the new iTunes media folder
~ / Music / iTunes /
Remember that copying your iTunes library to an external drive means that you need to connect the external drive to your computer to access the media, whether it’s movies or downloaded apps, movies, and TV shows through iTunes.
If you’re moving your library to save hard disk space, you’ll probably want to delete the iTunes Media directory from your primary hard drive when copying is complete. To do this, look at the Advanced tab and make sure the external drive is now the location shown in the screenshot below on the external flash drive called “Anonymous”.
There should be no problem with this, but check again that the music is playing as intended before removing the library from the internal drive of the computers.
For those who are wondering, yes, this also works with installed network drives, but this approach has its drawbacks, and you better use home sharing to send your iTunes collection around your house or local network. The same recommendation applies to sharing your iTunes collection between Macs and PCs, which is best done over a network or with full media transfer between PCs and Macs.
In general, flash drives and external SSDs are best for downloading your iTunes library because they are faster and do not have the wake-up / sleep delays that can occur with traditional external hard drives. Nevertheless, it works great with an old-fashioned rotating drive, although sometimes you may experience a slight delay if the external drive is asleep when you start iTunes. You can also move a library to a partitioned drive, although it is of little use if you do not want to switch it to another user account or just keep it elsewhere, the process is similar and has been discussed before.
Reset the iTunes media folder to its default settings
Don’t want your iTunes collection on an external drive anymore? You can easily restore it to its default location, but you will probably want to transfer the library back to your computer first using the same process described above. When your iTunes library returns to its original location, follow these steps:
- Connect the external device to the computer and copy the iTunes Media folder back to ~ / Music / iTunes /
- Launch iTunes, go to the Advanced tab of Settings, and select ‘Restore’ under iTunes folder location to change it back to the default setting – to access the previous library, it must be saved to the same location, otherwise just select Change and go to the new location
That’s all there is, you return to the default settings and iTunes Media returns to where it was.
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