How to move my iTunes library from one computer to another while keeping in tact the original "date added" field for all 100gbs?
November 25, 2008 6:59 AM   Subscribe

How to move my iTunes library from one computer to another while keeping in tact the original "date added" field for all 100gbs?

My music library has long been kept on an external hard drive (F:/). I finally have a laptop with a hard drive large enough to keep the music on it (C:/ -- I thought about partitioning off the end of this new laptop but it would only let me section off about 110gbs which is too small, as my 100gb collection will exceed that in 6 months for sure).

Old laptop has the old iTunes Music Library.xml and .itl files on it. I exported the Library.xml file. I thought I'd be clever and edited all the F:/ paths to C:/ paths. Then I tried three tactics -- neither worked:

1. Simply copying the old .itl files with the newly edited iTunesMusicLibrary.xml file and loading iTunes on the new computer. No good -- it gives me my library but every mp3 is still on the F:/ drive, despite the edited xml file. I guess the .itl file overrides it? Can't edit the .itl file, it's garbage. So I tried:

2. I delete or garble the .itl file but leave the edited .xml file and start iTunes. This gives me a completely empty library, and rewrites the .xml file into being blank as well. Bah.

2. File->Importing the edited iTunesMusicLibrary.xml file into iTunes. This loads all the files with all the proper tags EXCEPT "Date Added." All the "Date Added" fields give me today's date, when the proper dates should span the last 5 years. If I were a comic strip character, I'd have smoke rising from the top of my head.

I really, really, really want to preserve the date added tag. Please, please, please help me to do this. I'm at my wits' end.
posted by anthropomorphic to Computers & Internet (9 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
If you plug the external drive into your new laptop and tell iTunes that F:\whatever is where your library is located (somewhere in the advanced tab under preferences, I think) , does it show the proper dates? If so, once you've done that and all your songs are in the iTunes library, you can go back to that option, change the library location to whatever directory you want, and then use the "Consolidate Library" option to have iTunes move all the files to that new directory while preserving all the other information.

You might also try plugging in the external drive and importing the old iTunes library unedited, then doing the directory setting/consolidate library thing.

Good luck with this. In the past I've had little success moving an iTunes library from one computer to another without something getting screwed up along the way; that's one of the reasons I dropped iTunes entirely.
posted by sinfony at 7:25 AM on November 25, 2008

I don't have a windows copy available right now, but on a mac, essentially you'd:

Mount the external hard drive in the same location on the laptop as on your old computer (ie, F:\).
Copy the iTunes library files to the new laptop, in the same location as on the old one
Fire up iTunes
Change the iTunes library directory in the itunes preferences, selecting 'copy new stuff to my itunes library' or whatever it says.
Then under File->Library do a 'Consolidate Library'

iTunes will then move everything over. I may have missed some little steps, but that should get you most of the way there.
posted by paanta at 7:28 AM on November 25, 2008

Best answer: Make a batch file with the following command in it:

subst f: c:\

Put a shortcut to this file in your start menu (for extra bonus points, set the shortcut to run minimized) and reboot.

Now your c: drive is also your f: drive. Put the stuff on the c: drive in the same directory it was on your f: drive and use the original unmodified copies of your iTunes library files. iTunes should have no trouble finding your songs.
posted by kindall at 7:31 AM on November 25, 2008

Response by poster: thanks for the suggestions! i'll give it a shot -- the only thing i'm wondering is if the consolidate library thing will work even though i don't have itunes manage my library?
posted by anthropomorphic at 7:31 AM on November 25, 2008

The consolidate function will also work, and is probably the best way to do it, but if you've already copied your music to the C:\ drive, the subst trick will save you having to copy it again.
posted by kindall at 7:32 AM on November 25, 2008

When I moved from a Windows machine to a MacBook Pro, I took the 'iTunes Music Library' folder from my Windows machine and moved it wholesale to the same location on the Mac, saying yes, I did want to overwrite. When I fired up iTunes, it re-indexed and showed everything.
posted by mephron at 9:03 AM on November 25, 2008 [1 favorite]

The (garble the .itl and fix the .xml paths) method has a few drawbacks, and that's one of them. Luckily, iTunes provides a feature that moves the files for you.

mephron's method won't work for you, obviously, because the path names need to change.

You need iTunes to know that these are the same song files that are in your library now, so the only sure way to make this happen is to let iTunes move the files. You say you don't currently have iTunes managing your library. That's ok, because iTunes knows where the files currently are (even if they're all over the external HDD), so it can find them when you consolidate. Consolidation copies all your music files into the location of your choice with the hierarchy of /artist/album/song.mp3, and tells iTunes to point to this location for your music.


1. open itunes preferences

2. change your "itunes music folder location" to the new location on your laptop's internal HDD.

3. check "keep itunes music folder organized" and "copy songs to my library when they are added"

4. file -> library -> consolidate library.

5. chill out for a while and let itunes copy all the music files onto your internal HDD. The library will be updated to point to these files.

6. check one of your songs' info through itunes to confirm that it is pointing to your new copy.

7. (if your library file is on the external HDD only) close itunes and move the old itunes library file and album artwork to a new location on the internal HDD.

8. hold down the shift key when you reopen itunes and tell it where to find the library file that you just moved.

9. test to make sure everything works, then delete the old library and the old copies of your songs on the external HDD.

one potential drawback: if you have a custom directory structure for your music library, that will not be transferred when you consolidate. You'll get /artist/album/song.mp3 and that's it. If you only access your music through iTunes, you shouldn't care what the directory structure is, and even if you access it with other programs too, it shouldn't be a big deal. Apple's setup is clear and reasonable. You can't customize it, but, well, that's iTunes.

That's it, really. iTunes isn't everyone's cup of tea, but if you work with it the way it's designed to work, the move should be pretty painless.
posted by Chris4d at 11:52 AM on November 25, 2008

Response by poster: okay. so the consolidate thing isn't working. let me know if i'm making some error in the steps.

1. on C:/ i copy the old .xml and .itl files, un-edited. they both have links to the F:/ files.

2. i start itunes. i see correct "date added" fields, only they're all linked to f:/ so they're all exclamation marks. (why the f doesn't itunes have a "file path" field in the display? really annoying)

3. in the itunes preferences, i tell itunes that the itunes music folder is the folder that actually does house my mp3s on C:/. i check the box that says itunes can copy music to this folder.

4. file -> library -> consolidate. yes, it's okay that this is undoable. long pause. itunes copies my podcasts and compilations to the C:/ folder. it doesn't copy mp3s because they're already in the proper place. i still see exclamation marks. no linking. so,

5. i restart itunes. everything still points to F:/. what in the world? serious, serious sadface.

i'm running itunes 8.04, vista, if that helps anything.

i guess i'll try the batch file fix. unless i'm missing something? this seems like such an easy thing, i feel like there should be a way to do what i'm trying to do. maybe i should email steve jobs.
posted by anthropomorphic at 1:38 PM on November 25, 2008

Response by poster: chris: i posted before i saw your post. i'll give that a shot. i do have my own internal file structure but i suppose you're right in that it's just my preference - i don't have any other programs interact with it. but i do take it you are saying there is no way to do what i'm saying without letting itunes manage my file system?
posted by anthropomorphic at 2:30 PM on November 25, 2008

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