The easy way to move your iTunes library to another computer

Mp3s, Movies, podcasts, Apps, Books – all of it.

Last week, I had to replace my laptop.

In moving to the new one, one of the tasks I wasn’t looking forward to at all was iTunes. In fact, despite the fact that it meant that I couldn’t sync my iPod and Blackberry, I actually left both the iTunes and Blackberry Desktop software until the very last.

Well, today, the end arrived, and I could no longer avoid either of them. My BB needs to be backed up and its calendar sync’d (Sunk?), and I seriously need some new playlists.

I gritted my teeth and set to it, settling in for several hours of reading posts on the easiest way to migrate, exporting my playlists, importing playlists, moving the mp3s, movies, books in manually, authorizing the old computer, waiting forever to bring down all of the apps, books, podcasts, and tweaking, tweaking, forever tweaking to get it back the way it was on the old machine.

Then I found this:

On the old machine (based on a Windows machine):

  1. In iTunes, go to File – Library – Export Library
  2. Save the file somewhere, and transfer it to the new computer.
  3. Copy your entire iTunes directory to the new computer.  Put it in the same place it is on the old computer.

Apple says the default folders are as follows:

Mac OS X: /Users/username/Music
Windows XP: \Documents and Settings\username\My Documents\My Music\
Windows Vista: \Users\username\Music\iTunes
Windows 7: \Users\username\My Music\iTunes

You can check the actual location by going to:

iTunes – Edit – Preferences – Advanced

Make a note of the iTunes Media folder location.

On the new computer (Windows instructions again):

  1. In iTunes, go to File – Library –
  2. Wait, there’s no “Import Library”.  Yeah. That part’s not really intuitive. Choose “Import Playlist”.
  3. Now wait. If you have a big list, the standard disclaimer applies – It’s going take some time.

To my surprise and, yes, I’ll admit it I was little delighted, this managed to handle the different drive letters from the old computer to the new, and imported the playlists, music, movies, and podcasts. That really only leaves the apps and the books.  This process even kept the play count for all of the music.

Apps and books can both be imported by dragging all of them into the main iTunes window from the folder they live in. This is usually the Mobile Applications folder and the Books folder under the main iTunes directory.

Tip: Since you’re moving to a new computer, this is a good time to change that default folder on the new computer to a location that you backup regularly.  This can be done by clicking “Change…” and finding a new location.   I put mine in my data folders, which don’t live on the system drive, which are backed up automatically on a schedule. There are few things worse than having to rebuild your entire iTunes library, so treat it with care.  (Yes, I speak from experience.)

All that’s left now is to set it up to sync contacts, notes, and calendar.

Even including the time it took to write this post, I came in well under the amount of time I’d estimated it would take to migrate iTunes.

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