What's the connection between a music file and iTunes?
December 18, 2016 6:41 PM   Subscribe

I'll admit that I don't really understand how iTunes works. I just keep pushing the buttons and hoping for the best. But I need to know what I can do with a music file after I move it to iTunes.

For example: I've got an .mp3 file on my desktop that I have acquired (not purchased through iTunes). Let's say I ripped it from a CD I own. Just one song, to keep things simple. I drag and drop that file onto iTunes in my task bar (Mac Pro running OSX El Capitan 10.11, iTunes 12.5). The song then appears in my Music Library under "Recently Added."

I then sync that song to my iPhone. At this point, can I move the .mp3 file from my desktop to an external drive, or even delete it, without causing a problem in iTunes? In other words, does iTunes now have a copy of the song, or does it just have a pointer to the song file and my moving it will mess things up?
posted by Joleta to Computers & Internet (6 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
The answer can be yes or no depending on the settings you select in iTunes' Preferences.

If you want to be able to delete the song from the desktop, Go to iTunes Preferences and click the "Advanced" button at the top right of the Prefs window. There is a checkbox labelled "Copy files to iTunes Media folder when adding to library". Make sure it is checked. Click "OK" and you're done.
posted by mewsic at 6:49 PM on December 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

Yes, iTunes will copy the file you dragged into it. The music library is located in your "Music" folder under your account if you're curious. You can safely delete the original file after adding it to iTunes.
posted by O9scar at 6:49 PM on December 18, 2016

Best answer: This depends on how you have your iTunes set up. Under Preferences > Advanced, is "Copy files to iTunes Media folder when adding to library" checked? If so, iTunes is copying everything over to the default Users/[username]/Music folder when you add it to iTunes. If that's not checked, then iTunes is just accessing that mp3 from wherever you added it from. You'll have to move it to the Music folder yourself. If you delete it, then iTunes' "link" to that song will break and a little exclamation mark will show up next to it. I'm not sure how iTunes handles it if you move the file to an external drive.
posted by yasaman at 6:49 PM on December 18, 2016

Response by poster: I did not have "Copy files to iTunes Media folder when adding to library" checked. I've checked it now. I assume that nothing I've already added will be copied, but I'll try moving the file to the Music folder manually. Thanks for the help.
posted by Joleta at 7:20 PM on December 18, 2016

That won't work unfortunately. If you want iTunes to keep track of your songs, you have to let it. If you put stuff into the iTunes Music folder yourself it won't know and will get confused.

The cleanest way would be to delete the songs from iTunes (without deleting the files themselves, which is an option when you delete from iTunes) and then re-importing them.
posted by mewsic at 7:32 PM on December 18, 2016

Best answer: No, wait, stop!

Got to that same Preferences-Advanced page and check "keep itunes media folder organized"

Then go to File-Library-Organize library. Check both boxes and hit OK.

All should be straight after that and you can delete the originals. Everything should be in your iTunes folder.
posted by bongo_x at 7:34 PM on December 18, 2016 [4 favorites]

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