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What is the best way to move part of my iTunes library to an external drive?

33656 Views 20 Replies Latest reply: Jun 20, 2013 3:46 PM by girtx RSS
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ClayG Level 4 Level 4 (1,415 points)
Currently Being Moderated
Jan 18, 2012 12:28 PM

After many years of collecting iTunes content on my Mac, I'm starting to get low on internal hard drive space. I'd like to move my movies and tv shows to an external drive while keeping all other content where it is. I have found numerous explanations on how to do this, but they vary widely in their methods and most of them are at least a couple of years old.


Could anyone with recent experience share with me the best practices for doing this? In addition, I'd love to know this: Although I have a firewire external drive, but I don't keep it connected at all times and would prefer to put the files on my Time Capsule, since it connects to the Mac wirelessly. Would that work?


Thank you!

Mac OS X (10.7.2), iPhone 4, Apple TV 2, iPad 2
  • Limnos Level 8 Level 8 (36,585 points)

    I don't think it is easy to move part of a collection unless you don't care about the metadata such as date added, etc.  You can copy the files to the other drive, delete in iTunes the references to the copies still on your computer, then hold down the option key while dragging the files on the external to iTunes so it doesn't copy them back to your internal but just references them where they are.  You have to remember to do this each time.  Either that, or set preferences so iTunes does not automatically copy any file to your media folder when added but leaves them all where they land on your computer.  You can move them by hand around the computer, but not between drives.


    You could try Dougscript "Move Files To Folder" but I don't know if this enables iTunes to track items moved to a different drive.  iTunes doesn't really like using multiple drives.


    As for using Time Capsule, I have seen various takes on this.  I recall reading somebody saying it isn't a good idea to have a backup drive competing for dual purposes.  My take on it is, TC is a backup, period.  If you keep your movies on it and the TC drive dies, you lose your only copy of the movies.


    How often do you really watch these movies?  Yes, it is nice having them appear in iTunes, but unless you are watching them every day then it isn't a huge burden to have them on another drive.  Frankly, if I had iTunes movies I would probably make a whole different library for them and start from it with the external drive turned on when I was in a movie mood.

    G4 Quicksilver 2x1GHz 250/120GB HDs, Mac OS X (10.4.11), OS9.2.2, iTunes7.5, QT7.4&QTP2.5.1
  • Chris CA Level 9 Level 9 (73,410 points)

    To easily move some of your library...


    1. iTunes prefs - Advanced.
    2. Make a note of the current iTunes media folder location (default is /Music/iTunes/iTunes media/).
    3. Tick Keep iTunes media folder organized.
    4. Tick Copy files to iTunes folder when adding to library.
    5. Set the iTunes media folder location to the external drive where you want the files to be.
    6. Click OK.
    7. Select the files in iTunes you want on the external.
    8. Right click - Consolidated selected items.


    This will copy everything selected to the location set above.

    Now you can delete the TV shows from /Music/iTunes/iTunes media/TV Shows/.

    All metadata will be retained.


    After you are finished, go to iTunes prefs Advanced and reset the iTunes media folder location to the location you noted in step 2.

  • Chris CA Level 9 Level 9 (73,410 points)

    They should be checked.

  • saeisenman Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)

    Chris, based on your solution, can I put my entire iTunes media folder (all 10,000 + song) on by external hard drive and still have iTunes recognize and play.  Would any solution also work with my Apple TV Home Sharing link.


    I'm running out of space on my iMac (249 GB), but have over a TB on my external.

  • Chris CA Level 9 Level 9 (73,410 points)

    saeisenman wrote:


    Chris, based on your solution, can I put my entire iTunes media folder (all 10,000 + song) on by external hard drive and still have iTunes recognize and play.

    Yes. I have my iTunes library (8k songs and +400 movies ~600GB on external and it works beautiful with iTunes and Apple TV.

    However, if you are moving everything, don't follow the steps above.

    Do this instead...

    1. Quit iTunes.
    2. Copy the entire /Music/iTunes/ folder to external drive.
    3. Hold Option and launch iTunes.
    4. Select Choose library and select the iTunes folder on the external.

    This moves the entire iTunes library (all library files and media) to the external.

    You can then delete /Music/iTunes/ folder on the internal.

  • saeisenman Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)
  • Elldubz Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)

    Hi Chris CA


    I've just followed your instructions to move part of my itunes library (TV & Movies). When I try to select a TV programme to move and right click I get the option 'Consolidate files'.  Is this the correct selection?  I tried this and get the following message:

    'Copying flies failed. You do not have the privilege to make changes'

    Can you help?



  • Pico Mitchell Level 1 Level 1 (15 points)

    I am the developer of an app called TuneSpan. It can help you easily move part, or all, of the media in your iTunes Library.


    You can simply select any media type, playlist, artist, album, etc, etc and move it to whatever location you choose on whatever drive you want. An external or network drive, or anything.


    TuneSpan will never mess up any of your metadata in iTunes, such as Playlists, Play Counts, etc.


    TuneSpan is available on the Mac App Store, you can check it out at


    I hope it can help you manage your media!


    I may receive some form of compensation, financial or otherwise, from my recommendation or link. <Edited by Host>

  • Ivan Gray Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)

    Chris CA,

    In step 7 of your "easily move some of your library" post, how exactly do I select the files in iTunes I want on the external drive?


    Thanks in advance.

  • Chris CA Level 9 Level 9 (73,410 points)

    Ivan Gray wrote:


    Chris CA,

    In step 7 of your "easily move some of your library" post, how exactly do I select the files in iTunes I want on the external drive?

    Same way you select them anywhere.

    Click on them.

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