Spanning from external HD to a new Mac

Sam Abberley shared this question 8 years ago

Hi Pico,

TuneSpan looks great. Before I purchase from the App Store, I wanted to run something past you please.

I have moved my entire iTunes library to an external HD and have purchased a new Mac. The new Mac does not have enough space on it for the entire library, so TuneSpan appears to be the ideal solution as I would like to be able to have some albums on my Mac locally, but also have the option to connect my external HD for the rest of my content.

My question is whether I can open iTunes on the Mac and point it to the library on the external HD, and then span a few albums across to my Mac. I'd then like to be able to open iTunes on my Mac, without having the external HD connected, and play the albums that are stored locally, whilst still being able to browse my library (albeit without the ability to play tracks that are stored on the external HD).

Is it possible to span this way around? I'm worried that if the files have to exist on the Mac first, and then get spanned to the external HD, that I won't have enough space on my Mac for the library before it gets spanned.

Hope that makes sense!

Thank you,


Replies (4)


I had a similar issue with my new laptop. I could not figure out how to simply point to the files on my external hard drive via Tunespan. I have gathered that it's a procedural thing, where the file has to be seen by iTunes, then Tunespan copies the file and reconfigures iTunes to look at the new location. Tunespan does leave the original in your local iTunes folder which I assumed you can simply delete once it is spanned to your external hard drive.

I too have too much media to store locally on the laptop in order to then span it back to the hard drive where it already exists. However my work around was to copy chunks of the media as space allowed. Span it. Then delete it. Then copy more media span it, then delete it. Luckily I only had to do two bulk transfers, but they took 3 hours each.

It would be nice if Tunespan can simply repoint iTunes to the new location rather than doing all this transferring. And it might. I just was not able to figure it out.


Hi Richard,

Thank you very much for your comment. That makes total sense and I will definitely adopt your work around. Having looked around at some similar topics it appears that there isn't any other way around it.

Really appreciate you taking the time to comment - you have definitely helped me out there.

Thank you.



Thanks for getting in touch Sam, and thanks so much for replying Richard :-)

Sorry I didn't get back sooner, things have been busy.

This is actually an area that TuneSpan does not cover because it can be done quite easily though iTunes itself. So simplicity, TuneSpan only works with files that are already in your iTunes Library. If you are trying to add media to your iTunes Library (whether it's internal or external), I've left that work up to iTunes.

If your media is already on an external and you want it added to your iTunes Library (and therefore available to span in TuneSpan) without having it copied back to your internal drive, you simply need to turn off a checkbox in the Advanced iTunes Preference.

In the Advanced section of the iTunes Preferences, you'll see a "Copy files to iTunes Media folder when adding to library" checkbox. You'll want to UNCHECK that and then click OK to save the setting in iTunes.

Now, when you import media into iTunes (ie. dragging it from Finder into the iTunes window), iTunes will add the tracks to library as it normally would, but it will reference the files from exactly where they are, the files themselves will be untouched.

After your importing it done, you'll probably want to turn that "Copy files..." checkbox back on for normal usage.

But, I've also got a pro-tip for you ;-) If you hold to OPTION key while dragging stuff into iTunes to import it, that "Copy files…" setting will be INVERTED for that specific import. So, if the checkbox is on, holding Option will turn it off and vise versa.

So, that takes care of things in the iTunes side of things. Once the files are imported, they will show up in TuneSpan as well. But, there's one little catch...

In TuneSpan, these tracks will not be considered "spanned" even though they are on an external drive. This is because that the first place that TuneSpan is seeing them from, therefore thats their original location. But, that may not be ideal if you want to see them as spanned in TuneSpan and to be able to use Restore Mode to move them back to your iTunes Media folder.

Now, that's not hard to fix, but it's a bit hidden in TuneSpan. TuneSpan has a "Force Span" feature that will mark any selection of tracks as spanned in TuneSpan without changing anything in iTunes and without touching the files, it just affects TuneSpans own database.

To "Force Span" your external tracks, the easiest way is to first go to the "All" media type (in the center filter bar just below the toolbar in TuneSpan), and then select your external drive in the Media Locations list on the right side of the TuneSpan window. Now, all your external tracks are listed in the central track list. You'll need to highlight all of them, so click any one and then use Command+A to select all. With the whole track list highlighted, right click the selection and you'll see a "Force Span or Restore" submenu in the context menu that will appear. Go into that submenu and select "Force Span…". You'll confirm the action and then TuneSpan will reload, it should be pretty quick but TuneSpan may appear frozen for a moment if your Force Spanning a lot of tracks. If TuneSpan appears frozen, don't worry, it's working just fine, just give it a bit and TuneSpan will reload. No results are displayed or anything, but you should see your external tracks as marked as spanned (with the blue dots in the track list) and you'll be all set!

Now that may sound like a lot, but it'll actually go quite quickly and will be much much faster and easier than copying files back and forth from your external to internal to external.

Hope that all helps, sorry again about my delayed response. Please don't hesitate to get in touch if you have any further questions or run into any issues.


OK, I have a slight variation on the theme. My Mac Book Pro currently has my entire iTunes library on an external drive (12TB). What I would like to do is to "span" all my Music back onto my Mac Pro so that I can simply disconnect the external drive and take my music with me when i travel. TuneSpan seemed to fit my requirement and the first thing i tried was to create a Span drive folder on my System disk which (of course) didn't work.

Then I found this thread, and tried the "Force Span" option by selecting the whole library, right clicking and selecting Force Span. It froze for about half a second and then seemed to finish.

I thought that all I had to do now would be to sleet all my Music and then select Restore but this doesn't seem to do anything. So I have two questions:-

  1. How can I tell if my "Force Span" actually worked?
  2. How can I move my Music back into the iTunes Library on my Mac Book's system disk?

All the reading I have done tells me that I am getting close....


Thanks for getting in touch.

1. Force Span is probably not what you're looking for. It does not change anything in iTunes or do anything to any files. Force Span simply marks tracks as spanned internally in the TuneSpan database. When a track is marked as spanned, you'll see a blue dot in the track list. But, that won't make a difference either way in what you're trying to achieve.

2. It all depends on your current setup. Most importantly, are your actual iTunes Library files (not just the media files) on your external drive, or on your system disk?

TuneSpan does not move your iTunes Library files, that's a whole different process. If your iTunes Library files are on your external drive, TuneSpan won't be able to help you in this because even if you get all your media files on your internal drive, iTunes wouldn't be able to load your library when your external drive isn't available.

But, if your iTunes Library files are on your internal drive and it's just your media that is on the external, TuneSpan should be the perfect tool to help you in the case.

So, let me know about that and then I can give you advice on how to proceed.


Hi, Thanks for getting back to me so quickly (esp. during the holiday period).

In order to get our terminologies lined up, I will quickly describe what I have created and how I have created it.

I have been building my family iTunes library for many years and have always wanted to create a "mobile" subset of it to take away with us when we travel. To do this I simply established a Home sharing connection between my Mac Pro and my Mac Book Pro and then dragged the content across to the Mac Book Pro. Before I started this process, I attached a portable external RAID array to my Mac Book Pro and then pointed iTunes to this array using Preferences>>Advanced>>Media Folder Location.

So in answer to your question, this is a "pure" iTunes configuration i.e. the library files (e.g. iTunes Music Library.xml etc) exist in the iTunes folder within the Music folder on the Mac Book Pro's internal drive. The actual media content exists on the external RAID array attached to the Mac Book Pro.

So it sounds like (as I suspected from the start) TuneSpan IS the perfect tool for what I am trying to achieve.

Thanks again for your help with this process.


So it doesn't sound like anything special is needed for your use case...

Just select the media that you want to move by dragging it into the blue gradient Spanlist area toward the bottom of the TuneSpan window.

And then select the location where you want to move the media to by clicking the Span Location area in the bottom middle of the window and navigating to your desired location the Open panel.

Then, just click Span :-)


OK, I feel like I am going around in circles here. As I mentioned in my first post, Tunespan won't let me select a folder on the internal drive of the Mac Book Pro. I have tried both selecting the Music folder and creating a folder on the drive called iTunes Span. In both cases TuneSpan wouldn't let me select those locations.

Out of pure desperation, I created another folder inside the "iTunes Span" folder called Tunespan and remarkably this worked. So there appears to be a restriction on what level of folders you can select on the system drive.


I'm sorry things have been frustrating, it's not supposed to be that difficult.

Was TuneSpan giving you some kind of error message? Or just rejecting the selection with a beep sound?

How exactly were you trying to select the folder? Also, what was the exact path of the folder you were trying to select? What level was it?

The only restrictions on folder level is that you can't select a folder within the first level of your boot drive, which is were the OS X puts system folders. TuneSpan would reject those folders with a beep and no alert.

Other than that, TuneSpan should warn you about any issues with the folder you're trying to select. A folder not being properly readable and writable could be an issue, but that would cause TuneSpan to give you an alert rather than just rejecting the folder.


The first time I used TuneSpan was when I tried to span to the internal drive (i.e. the boot drive) of my Mac Book Pro. The first folder I tried was the "Music" folder and when that wouldn't work I created a new folder on the first level of the drive and tried that (in both cases I received a beep with no alert). When that didn't work, I went into diagnosis mode and over-thought the possible solutions that lead to me to contributing to this thread.

While I accept that very few of your users will want to do what I have now achieved, perhaps an alert as to the folder prerequisites for span locations would be a good idea.

The good news is that it is now working as it should.


You're right, I should definitely write an alert when a user attempts to span to a first level folder. I'm very sorry for that unexplained confusion.

But, selecting the Music folder in your Home folder should have worked fine. Maybe that's a weird permissions issue, but that should have still given an alert and not just a beep. Would you mind trying that again to let me know if that's still happening?

In the end, I'd recommend spanning to a relatively normal location, something like "~/Music/Spanned Media" and then TuneSpan will make Media Kind folders within that Span Location.


As a clarification all my media is already in my iTunes library which was on the external hard drive.

I bought a new laptop and just copied over my library from the external hard drive, leaving only the movies, so my music would be portable with the laptop. But was unable to copy over all of the movie files due to space restrictions.

I didn't want to re add the movies to the new internal library and face duplicates.


Ah yes, if the references are already in iTunes, then things can get a bit tricky.

But, you should be able to still use TuneSpan to get things situated in this case...

Even if iTunes (and TuneSpan) don't know where a file is currently located, you can still use the normal spanning process to get iTunes and TuneSpan pointing to the actual files. But, if you do this, you must be sure to pick the correct span location and the files must be organized exactly how TuneSpan would have spanned them. TuneSpan won't go hunting for files, but if TuneSpan find them at the exact Span Location, then TuneSpan will use those files and simply update locations in iTunes.

So, to be clear this process would be to select all the missing tracks in TuneSpan to span and the setting the appropriate folder as the Span Location and then click Span as if your moving the files normally with TuneSpan. Does that make sense?


Thank you very much Pico. Will pick up TuneSpan now.

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