iTunes is Apple’s digital store, allowing users to buy and download from their vast catalogue of music, videos and other content. All of this can then be synced over to your iDevice, or just stored on your computer.
You might be wondering how to go about backing up everything in your iTunes library. It’s first important to note that you are never really creating a true backup of your content. Everything you buy from the iTunes store comes with something called Digital Rights Management (DRM). This means that the file, whether it be a music track or an episode of a TV show, is encoded to be tied only to iTunes. As such, there are restrictions in place, like being able to copy individual files to other media a limited amount of times. There are ways to get round this, but they won’t be covered in this article.
Instead, this article will look at how you can consolidate your iTunes library to a single folder and then move this over to an external hard drive. This procedure will mean that if you move systems or suffer a hard drive failure then you will be able to recover all your iTunes content with ease.
First, you need to consolidate your iTunes library into the same place. Your files might be scattered in different locations across your computer, so we need to bring them altogether to make the process as easy as possible. To do so, open iTunes and go to ‘Edit’ and then ‘Preferences’. Click ‘Advanced’ and tick ‘Copy files to iTunes Media folder when adding to library’ if it isn’t already selected. Now click ‘OK’.
You should note that when using this feature iTunes will copy any imported files to the iTunes Media folder. This means that if you’re importing them from another location on your computer, two copies of the file will now exist. If you need to conserve hard drive space then you may want to delete the originals (or indeed back them up to an external device).
Next, go to ‘File’, then ‘Library’ and then ‘Organize Library’. Tick ‘Consolidate files’ and then click ‘OK’.
You now need to copy the iTunes library to your external drive. Close iTunes and load up your external hard drive in Windows Explorer. Now load up your iTunes folder (by default it will be in ‘\Users\username\Music’ for Windows 7 or 8 and ‘My Music’ for Vista). If it isn’t in the default folder then load iTunes, select ‘Edit’, then ‘Preferences’, then ‘Advanced’ and you will see the folder location listed there.
Once you’ve located your iTunes folder, all you need to do is drag this over to your external hard drive to begin the copying process. It might take a while, but it depends on how much content you have.
The restoration process is very similar. Close iTunes (if it’s open) and load up your external hard drive. Then drag the iTunes folder onto your computer – for simplicity, it’s better to put in the default iTunes library folder (located when backing up). Next, open iTunes while holding down the Shift key and you will be asked to ‘Choose iTunes Library’ once it has loaded. On this dialogue you should select ‘Choose Library…’ and then select the folder you just copied over. After this your iTunes library will be restored.
How to Backup and Restore Your iTunes Library
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