Backup your iTunes for Windows library with SyncToy

Last Modified: Feb 3, 2015 12:48 PM

To ensure against losing your iTunes library in the event of hard drive failure you should backup your library. As your library grows backing up to CD or DVD can become impractical and copying the entire contents of your library to an external drive each time you wish to make a backup is inefficient. If your computer isn't already supplied with a backup mechanism then a tool such as SyncToy is an ideal approach. In use the program compares two sets of folders and can update each with the changes that have occurred in the other since the last sync; adding, removing or updating files as appropriate.


Note that SyncToy is a Windows only tool. Mac owners can make use of Time Machine, or tools such as Carbon Copy Cloner or Synkron which can do a similar job to SyncToy.



How to use SyncToy to backup your iTunes Library


Download and install SyncToy  2.1, a freely available utility. The first time you run it you should get this screen.




Click on Create New Folder Pair.




Click Browse to set the left folder.




Select your iTunes folder, then click the right-hand Browse button to set the right folder.




Browse to the drive or network folder you want to use for the backup, use the Make New Folder button to create a new folder, rename it as iTunes, select it and click OK.




Click Next.




Use the Synchronize option if you want to be able to copy new and updated files in both directions. Otherwise use Echo or Contribute. Contribute provides the greatest protection against deleting the backup copy of any file that you might accidentally remove from the main library. Click Next.




Name your folder pair iTunes and click Finish.




Select iTunes in the list of available folder pairs and click Preview.




SyncToy will scan your folders. The more files you have, the longer this phase will take. Check the results of the preview which, on the first occasion, should contain many New and Create Folder operations and nothing else. If you are happy the suggested list of operations makes sense then click Run and wait for it to complete.




The next time you preview the folder pair only new or changed files will need updating. Pay attention to any deletions - these may represent files that have been updated and renamed in which case there will be a matching new file or they may represent files that have been accidentally deleted which you will want to restore from the backup file set before you proceed with another sync operation. If they are files you deleted intentionally then you can proceed. It is also worth noting that iTunes will add and remove files and folders from within the Album Artwork directory as and when you update artwork in your library.


As long as your library is self-contained, that is all files are consolidated and the media folder is directly inside the main iTunes library folder, then the backup copy of your library will be fully functional in its own right from whatever drive letter or path it appears on. If, on the other hand, your media folder is split out from the library folder, or scattered among different folders, then you will need to create other folder pairs to take care of that and, in the event of a disaster, you would need to restore the media folders to the same paths that the currently occupy. Alternatively, see Make a split library portable.


Backing up with SyncToy is an ideal preparation for moving your library to a new computer. Use it to create the initial backup on an external drive. Then move the that drive to your new computer. Install SyncToy on the new machine and use the same steps to copy the library into the local hard drive. You then have everything set up ready to replicate subsequent updates to the library to the backup set. If your new computer doesn't have enough room for your library then it can be run directly from the external drive, but you should obtain a second drive to act as backup to the first.



N.b. You can also use SyncToy to create other folder pairs for other important data that you wish to back up regularly.




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