How to Move Your iTunes Library to an External Hard Drive on Mac

How to Move Your iTunes Library to an External Hard Drive on Mac

Photos, music, podcasts, movies quickly build up your iTunes library and occupy more and more space on your Mac's hard drive that’s already pretty full. The issue is particularly relevant for owners of MacBook Air, because of a small SSD-drive. In such cases, I encourage you to transfer and store the iTunes library data on an external drive.

But you need to be aware of one detail. When you move the data to an external storage device by conventional copying from Finder or Explorer, all the additional data, such as songs counter, album cover art, and other information will be lost. That's why we recommend that you move your library exclusively via iTunes. It will ensure the quality and safety of the relocated data. Let me tell you how it’s done.

If you in hurry just go to the last section of this post called "Video of moving my iTunes Library ...", there you can find my video of all the process.


Preparing to Move iTunes library on Mac

Before you start the process, I’ll explain a little about how iTunes stores your audio and video files.

All audio and video files that we add in iTunes, are recorded to the database. So, if you move files manually, iTunes will definitely lose them.

As a result, you will get empty file links in iTunes. This may cause you unnecessary problems. Then you will have to either remove any broken links from iTunes and add content again or return it to its original location. That’s why you cannot just move your entire media library to an external drive without prior preparation.


Preparing the Way for Transferring Media Files to a Flash Drive or Another Storage Device

First, we will need to do some work with iTunes.

The first thing to do is open iTunes, go to Preferences in the menu bar.

How to Move Your iTunes Library to an External Drive on Mac image1In the window that comes up, select Advanced, make sure the Copy files to iTunes Media folder when adding to library box is checked.

Copies of the originals are preserved when moving files with iTunes if this option is enabled. The original files remain in their original location.

How to Move Your iTunes Library to an External Drive on Mac image3In the same window, you can change the current location of iTunes Media folder, if you want to. You can do this by clicking Change and selecting the option you prefer.

How to Move Your iTunes Library to an External Drive on Mac image2Save the changes by clicking Ok.

Then you need to combine all media files found in the library and eliminate any connection to external files. Do it by going to the menu bar, clicking File, choosing Library in the dropdown menu, then going to Organize Library.

How to Move Your iTunes Library to an External Drive on Mac image5Then, in the window that appears, enable the Consolidate files function and click Ok.

How to Move Your iTunes Library to an External Drive on Mac image4Transferring Media Files from iTunes

Now that you have finished all the operations in iTunes, you can move on to transferring your library to an external drive.

Here are the step-by-step instructions:

  • The first thing to do is quit iTunes.
  • Then select the external drive (in Finder).
  • Find the folder where iTunes stores your media library (in the description above, we mentioned this point when selecting iTunes Media folder location).
  • Drag and drop the iTunes Media folder to the selected external storage device. With a large number of files to copy, it may take some time.

The important point is that iTunes will only copy, but not move media files. This means that the originals still remain in the old folders and occupy space. If you need to clean your Mac’s hard drive to save space, be sure to first check whether the required files are located on the external drive.

And the last step to link all the transferred files to iTunes is to quit iTunes, hover the cursor over the iTunes icon while holding down Alt and click. You can select your media library’s new location in the menu that appears.

Video of Moving My iTunes Library from my Mac to the External Hard Drive

If you have questions, feel free to ask, and we will be happy to answer them.