Help me rescue my hard drive!
June 28, 2015 2:22 PM   Subscribe

I have my entire iTunes library on an external hard drive. I have a computer that has no problem accessing the iTunes library on the external hard drive, but for any other purpose refuses to acknowledge the existence of said drive, because it's a powerpc external hard drive. I would like to figure out how to transfer my iTunes library to a brand new external hard drive to use with my new mac.

So I will acknowledge I messed up at some point years ago by not realizing that upgrading from Leopard would create problems down the road. Since I had no problems listening to my music, I just didn't notice that Finder had disappeared the hard drive. This computer is an eight year old iMac now running 10.8.5.

A few weeks ago I bought a new iMac. It is a thing of beauty, but now the incompatibility of the old external hard drive is kicking me in the ass. Like I said, iTunes on the old iMac plays the music files no problem.

Things I have tried:

-I took the old drive to my local mac repair place, along with a new external hard drive, and asked them if they could just move the files from the old drive to the new one. At first they said "no problem" but then I got a phone call saying my drive had failed completely and was totally unresponsive to their data recovery software. I went back and picked up the drive, plugged it back in to my old iMac, and fired up iTunes. And it worked fine. (?)

-I tried downloading Leopard onto my old computer, thinking that if I could get Leopard running on it, I could use an ethernet cable to transfer the files myself. But when I tried to install, I got an error message sating the "can't be installed on this disk, This volume does not meet the requirements for this update."

What should I try next? Apple doesn't sell Leopard, I know that it's available on eBay. Is my theory of installing Leopard on the old iMac so it will talk to the drive again a sound one? Should I try a different data recovery place? Is there something I haven't thought of? Why is iTunes working fine but Finder doesn't see it? Why did the mac repair guy say the drive is borked but it still works for me?

I'm willing to spend some money to make this happen, but within reason, because all my old cds are boxed up in storage and worst case scenario I could just go re-rip all of them. (sigh)
posted by ambrosia to Computers & Internet (10 answers total)
are you SURE that the itunes library is on that external drive.

If you're in iTunes, playing a song, and select "show in finder", does it give you a finder window that indicates that song? Is it on that external drive.. AND, if you can see that file, can you just drag it to the location you want it (or the whole itunes folder of files)
posted by HuronBob at 2:46 PM on June 28, 2015

If your new Mac can see your old HD, can you fire up iTunes and import the files?
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 2:46 PM on June 28, 2015

There's been no major changes in the Mac OS disk formats between the old PowerPC days and today - they're all still HFS (Mac OS Extended) by default. In addition, you should be able to transfer files between a Mac running Mac OS 10.4 Tiger and newer macs via Ethernet without any significant problem. There haven't been large enough changes between 10.5 and 10.8 to make the drive incompatible - this is something else. Leopard is a red herring.

When you plug the drive into the new machine and fire up Applications -> Utilities -> Disk Utility, is the drive listed there? Is it greyed out? If it's greyed out, can you click on it and click mount?

Or, when you're saying PowerPC, do you mean it has a Firewire 400 connector, and you literally cannot plug the drive in to the new iMac because it doesn't have any Firewire 400 ports? If that's the case, fire up Applications -> Utilities -> Disk Utility on the old machine, and is the drive listed there? If it's greyed out, can you click on it and click mount?

(If the drive isn't in Disk Utility, iTunes is almost definitely pulling the music library from another source - or, is just showing the library that *was* on the disk, and if you double click, it will say that the song can't be found.)
posted by eschatfische at 2:52 PM on June 28, 2015 [2 favorites]

Agree with eschatfische that the exact scenario you described (Can't see drive in Finder, but can access files via iTunes) doesn't have a good explanation and is probably not the exact case.

As for the hard drive format change you're describing, it sounds to me like the GUID vs. Apple Partition Map situation. This is only relevant when you need to boot your machine off of a particular drive. It should have no affect on whether your machine can recognize it and access files through the Finder.

Can you follow up with some more information for those of us answering? Specifically:

1) Do you see the drive listed in Disk Utility? Does it look "greyed out" in Disk Utility?

2) Are you sure that iTunes is accessing songs from that drive? Can you select a song, right-click, and choose "Show in Finder"? Once in Finder, can you switch to Column View to navigate up the folder hierarchy on your external disk?
posted by reeddavid at 3:51 PM on June 28, 2015

Response by poster: To answer your questions:

Yes, it has a Firewire 400 connector. At first I thought that I could just daisy chain adapters (400-->800-->Thunderbolt) and the new iMac said "bzzt no PowerPc for me" (paraphrasing.)

I had not thought about running Disk Utility (duh, this stuff is not my strong suit) and yes Disk Utility finds it just fine. Verifying Disk as I type this to see if there are any issues there. So far that appears to be ok.

Yes, I'd checked the file location by right-clicking on a song, and following the folder hierarchy it goes back to the external hard drive. But that drive doesn't show up in the far left column in Finder the way it used to.
posted by ambrosia at 4:23 PM on June 28, 2015

Best answer: I agree that something seems fishy here (on preview, or maybe not). But one easy way to achieve what you are asking for:

buy a new external drive, plug it in, (simultaneous with your old external drive) and then tell iTunes (in preferences) to put your iTunes library on this new drive. Make sure "keep library organized" is checked, and whatever music iTunes can see will get copied to the new location.
posted by misterbrandt at 4:26 PM on June 28, 2015

Response by poster: I have a brand new external hard drive. Can it really be that simple? I will kick myself.

I will give that a try.
posted by ambrosia at 4:28 PM on June 28, 2015

Actually, if you can see the external drive in Disk Utility, just select its partition and then select File -> Reveal in Finder from the menu bar. If you get an error, let us know what that is, but that should do it.
posted by eschatfische at 7:39 PM on June 28, 2015

Response by poster: misterbrandt's suggestion worked! Thanks everyone!
posted by ambrosia at 11:52 PM on June 28, 2015

I bet the disk just doesn't show up in the sidebar thanks to inexplicable changes to the Finder. The same thing happened to me when I upgraded. Within the finder, do you have your computer listed by name under the Devices heading? (if not, hover near the Devices label and click "Show").

Once you click on e.g. Ambrosia's iMac, you may see the external drive(s) listed.
posted by reeddavid at 10:20 AM on June 29, 2015

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