Using an external drive and want to move some files back

Piero Bonamico shared this question 8 years ago

My iTunes library is already on an external drive. This makes it impossible for me to use iTunes when my mbpro is not connected. Is there a smooth way to move the most essential files back onto the internal mbpro drive and keep the remainder 2tb+ on the external?

Comments (7)


Thanks for getting in touch. This is not a situation TuneSpan was made to take care of for you, so it will have to some manual work. But, TuneSpan does work best when the iTunes Library files are on the internal drive so it can always be accessed no matter where the media files are.

In fact, this question has come up a few times lately, and I haven't been sure of the best way to go about moving the library files while leaving the media where it is reliably with no risk of losing data. So, I haven't yet been able to give a good answer to the others who've asked. But, I may have a new idea.

Please give me a bit of time to do some investigating and testing to see if this idea I have will not result in iTunes losing the location of any of the media that will be left in place.

I'll get back to you, hopefully today, but maybe tomorrow.


I'm in a similar boat. I have a small library on my local drive, and other libraries on external drives -- to access the files on the external, I open the external libraries (via symlink on the local drive).

Is there a way I can use TuneSpan to "virtually merge" my libraries into my local library? I'm just hopeful that I can avoid the back-and-forth process of:

Open local library

Copy/Move external file to local drive

Add file to local library

TuneSpan file back to external

Any tips or info, even advising to go through the back-and-forth process, would be helpful. Thanks!


Thanks for getting in touch. Merging iTunes libraries is actually a very different situation, and something that TuneSpan is not made to do.

But, I would take a look at PowerTunes ( I believe PowerTunes has some features to merge multiple iTunes Libraries, but you should take a look at their documentation, or get in touch with those developers for specifics.

After you have your libraries merged, you will be able to use TuneSpan to move the files around to wherever you choose.


So sorry Piero that I haven't gotten back to you yet. Life got busy the past few days, but I hope to find the time to sit down and figure something out today, but I don't want to make another promise that I may break. But, I will definitely find the time this week to do some experimenting with this library relocation situation. Thank you for your patience, I'm sorry for the delay.


Alright, I've finally done some testing, and my idea works, and it turns out to be quite simple, you just need to make sure to do things in the right order.

Please read through all instructions and make sure you understand everything before proceeding, and please ask any questions if anything doesn't make sense.


Quit iTunes and TuneSpan, if they are running.


Locate your iTunes Library on your external drive, leave this folder open.


Locate your "Music" folder in your home folder on your internal drive, leave this folder open as well.


If there is already an "iTunes" folder in your "Music" folder, it is probably an old or empty library. If so, you can rename it temporarily and decide what to do with it later.


Now, create an "iTunes" folder in your "Music" folder which we will be copying the library files into. Open this "iTunes" folder to prepare to copy into it.


Select everything in your iTunes Library folder, EXCEPT for your "iTunes Media" or "iTunes Music" folder, whichever exists. This means you "iTunes Library.itl", "iTunes Media Library.xml", "iTunes Library Extras.itdb", files, etc. And also your "Album Artwork" folder, anything in there except for the "iTunes Media" folder that contains your music files.


Drag all those library files from the location on the external drive and copy them in to the empty "iTunes" folder in your home "Music" folder.


After that copy is complete, DO NOT launch any applications yet, we do not want the left over original library files on the external drive to just be loaded. We are gonna keep them as a backup just in case, but we want the out of the way.


Create a new folder in your library location on your external drive called "Old Migrated Library" or something, and move all those files and folders that you copied to the internal drive into that folder. Now, in your iTunes Library location on your external drive, you should just have an "iTunes Media" folder and this "Old Migrated Library" folder.


Now we are gonna launch iTunes, but you cannot simply launch it, it will try to load the library from the location on the external drive which no longer exists, and it will just create a new empty library in that location, we don't want that. So, hold the OPTION key as you launch iTunes to have iTunes prompt you to locate a new library. You will see the "Choose iTunes Library" after launching iTunes with the OPTION key held. Select "Choose Library..." and locate your library in the new location on the internal drive, if you used the location specified in these instructions, this should be "~/Music/iTunes/" (~ is your home folder). Navigate to that location and select that "iTunes Library.itl" file to load your library from the new location.


We are not done! We need to make sure that iTunes knows the location of all of your files that you left on the external drive...



After your library is loaded from the new location, we need to set your iTunes Media folder to be back on your external drive, so open the Advanced iTunes Preference (command+, and select the "Advanced" section). In the "iTunes Media folder location" section, click the "Change..." button and navigate to your "iTunes Media" folder that you left behind on your external drive. This may take a moment, iTunes will examine this folder and update locations for all files that exist in there. iTunes will also ask you about updating folders to match the keep folders organized setting. You can choose yes if you let iTunes keep your folders organized and it will analyze everything to make sure its organized properly. It may take a moment to do that analysis though, if you know your folders are already organized or don't let iTunes manage your media folder, you can choose no.


That should be it, now you can play a few tracks to make sure everything is found and then quit iTunes to make sure the library files are properly saved after all this updating.


Now you can launch TuneSpan to see check the Media Location navigation on the right to see all your stuff still resides on your external drive, nothing should be listed with any question marks, if so, let me know.


So, this process involved setting your iTunes Media folder to the location on your external drive, this means that new media will be added to the external drive, which you may or may not want. Regardless, you need to set the iTunes Media folder to be on the external drive to make sure iTunes finds all those files in that location.

If you want to set your iTunes Media folder to be on your internal drive to have new media added there (which could be nice if you add media when your external is not plugged in, and you can use TuneSpan to span stuff out to the external whenever you choose), you can do that AFTER you have set the media location to be on your external drive so all those locations get updated.

So, if you want your iTunes Media location to be on your internal drive, follow all those steps above exactly and then relaunch iTunes and change your iTunes Media folder location to be "~/Music/iTunes/iTunes Media/" or wherever you want. Changing your iTunes Media folder will not consolidate your files, so all the stuff on your external will be left in place, and because of the steps above, iTunes will still know where those files are.

Alright, I think that's it, I just typed this out in one go and haven't fully proof read it. I'm on my way out of the house so please excuse any typos and please ask questions if anything doesn't make sense.

Make sure you have backups and are confident in your understanding of this process. It worked for me, but I can't be held responsible if something goes wrong and iTunes gets confused about where your files are. But, in no part of this am I telling you to touch your media files, or move ANYTHING to the track so regardless, if you follow these steps exactly, everything should be safe.


Would this work if I only want my Music files on the external HD and the rest of the Media (Movies, Books, Apps, etc) to be on the internal drive of my MBP?




I believe it should.

If you copy the correct select things and update the iTunes Media location without having any files copied to the new iTunes Media location, you should be able to get iTunes to update specific file locations for what exists at the new location.

It may help to make sure that the files don't still exist at their original location so iTunes doesn't get confused about what is where when the files exist in multiple locations.

But, I don't have time to do further testing on this right now. If you choose to give it a shot, make sure you have a backup, and be careful!

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