Note: This article was written with iTunes 7 in mind. However, the principle holds for moving comparable versions (ie iTunes 6 Win to iTunes 6 mac) or for moving upstream (iTunes 6 to iTunes 7). Also, the procedure should work for moving your iTunes library from one computer to another, Mac-to-Mac, PC-to-PC, or any combination of the two. You can even use this method to clone an iTunes library from one computer to many others.
Apple’s market share has been growing dramatically. Many observers attribute that growth to the introduction of the Intel-based Macintosh as well as the so-called “halo effect” of the iTunes-iPod phenomenon. If you’re one of those users who have made the switch from Windows to Mac OS X because of said halo then you probably have already established an iTunes Library (with valuable hours spent creating playlists, rating songs and increasing play counts).
It would be a shame to lose all that hard work and data when switching platforms. Fortunately, it is a rather simple* procedure to move all your music to your new Mac while preserving all that precious, gooey metadata. Some guides say to export your existing library to XML and re-import it one the new machine. But that’s a bit complicated and it doesn’t really work. Since both the Mac and Windows versions of iTunes use the same file format for the library file, all you need to do is copy the library files from one computer to the other, while making sure iTunes doesn’t forget where the songs are located.
*This procedure is simple provided a couple conditions are met:
- Your music files, be them mp3, aac or other, are all stored on your main (C:) drive, not an external hard drive.
- iTunes manages all your music files (ie all you music files are stored in the iTunes Music folder).
You are willing to have all your music files moved into your iTunes Music folder on your new Mac.
You’re starting fresh; it might be a good time.
Preparing Windows iTunes for Export
In this image, there is a simple Windows iTunes Library I created. It features a couple albums which have been rated and played.
- In Windows, open iTunes.
Select Consolidate library from the Advanced menu. This will move all the music files into the iTunes Music folder and sort them by artist and album.
- Quit iTunes.
- Navigate to your My Music folder. It’s typically found at
C:\Documents and Settings\~username~\My Documents\My Music.
- Copy the iTunes folder to the
Desktopof your new Mac. Depending on the size of your library and the method of transfer, this could take a while.
Ready your Mac and copy
On your Mac, launch iTunes. If you haven’t used it yet, go through all usual set up questions. When iTunes asks to find your music, say “No.” You will be presented with a new, empty library.
- Quit iTunes.
- Navigate to
- Move the iTunes folder to the trash and empty it.
- Move the iTunes folder that you copied from Windows from the Desktop into the Music folder, replacing the folder you just deleted.
- Open iTunes again. You should see your familiar library with all the ratings, play counts intact.
P.S.- Theoretically, this procedure will also work for moving your iTunes Library from Mac OS X to Windows as well.
UPDATE Jan 30, 2007: Apple recently updated its instructions for moving a library using an iPod that includes similar instructions to what I’ve presented above. If you need a second opinion, give it a look.