Migrating Your iTunes Library

Over the weekend I erased and reloaded my main desktop computer. It's almost three years old, still pretty fast, but it had never been wiped clean before, so I was starting to get paranoid about what malware I might have accidentally installed at some point in the past. The usual anti-malware/spyware stuff wasn't finding anything, but two plus years is a lonnnng time for a computer.

The computer was/is essentially my media hub, including iTunes to manage my iPod. I've been very careful to always back up my iPod and iTunes library. As far as backing up the iPod, I always allow the computer to be the master iPod library, and slave the iPod itself to it. In a few instances when I've loaded songs on the iPod remotely (usually because I'm traveling), I'll re-slave the iPod to the computer, and reload those songs, when I've later returned home.

That, plus allowing iTunes to maintain the iTunes Library folder for me, and having iTunes copy all songs that I load into the library, means that my hard disk has a perfectly backed up copy of my entire music collection at all times.

This has saved my bacon at least once, when my previous iPod was stolen on a business trip. That sucked, but all I had to do was stop at my local neighborhood Best Buy on the way home, pick up a new one, plug it into iTunes, and iTunes loaded my entire library on to the new one. (Which was smaller in size, had a larger drive, and a better screen than the previous one did, anyway.)

In preparation for erasing my desktop computer, I picked up a very large networked drive (one terabyte), and copied everything I cared about to the new drive. This includes my entire "My Music" folder, containing the iTunes folder, all the music, cover art, library data, etc.

After I erased the desktop, reloaded XP Pro, reloaded the anti-virus, installed 900 security patches, and loaded all my usual applications (Slingbox, iTunes, Open Office, Skype, etc.).

Then, before running iTunes, I copied the "iTunes" folder back from the network drive into the "My Music" folder on my desktop. There was no "iTunes" folder there yet because it hadn't been set up yet.

After copying the folder back, then I launched iTunes. Agreed to the EULA, told it not to search my hard drive for anything, and asked it to take me to my library. My library magically reappeared. It took a while to re-index everything, maybe a half an hour or so. I imagine it is reading the "iTunes Library.itl" and/or the "iTunes Music Library.xml" library data files.

Then, I went into the iTunes preferences, and set everything back to how I prefer to keep it -- allow iTunes to manage the library, copy files into the library, etc.

Next, I had to re-authorize this computer to be able to play my iTunes-purchased songs. This is a concern; I just used up my third authorization, out of five allowed. What happens when I run out? It's irritating that moving the library counts as a new computer being authorized. But, that's a rant for another day. To get the computer to ask me to authorize, I clicked on the "Purchased" smart playlist, and clicked on a song I had previously purchased from iTunes. The authorization dialog box popped up, I entered my username and password, and iTunes authorized the computer successfully.

At the end of this long (because of the 80+ gigs of data involved) but simple (did this take more than ten active clicks?) process, I now have my entire iTunes library, all my playlists, all my purchased songs, TV shows, and podcasts, working on my freshly-wiped computer. I couldn't be happier with how easy it was.

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