From old Mac and external HD to new Mac and external HD
August 26, 2017 2:22 PM   Subscribe

I've got a Mac from 2009 and a new(er) Macbook Air from 2011. Ever since I got the 2009 model, it has been the one I use for managing my music library, which has for years lived on an external hard drive. Now I'm trying to swap both, and I'd like to do it with as little pain as possible.

The Mac is starting to show signs of decrepitude (somethings gone off with the video card, blanking out an inch of the screen on the right side, and the internal DVD drive is not reliable) and I bought a larger capacity external hard drive to meet my own expanding storage needs.

For years, I've moved any new audio files I get to the external HD, and then add them to the iTunes library, which has had the unfortunate side effect that iTunes is mostly useless if the external isn't connected. All the tracks will still appear in the library, but they obviously can't be played (I get an error message and a little "!" next to the track name if I try). Also, not all the audio on the HD is for iTunes, some of it is lectures, field recordings, etc. that I don't need added to the library.

Here's what I would like to do:

IDEAL: I move all the music over to the new HD, and somehow export iTunes library to the Macbook Air, and when I startup iTunes on the Air, it immediately recognizes what's on the new HD as the "same" files as before and nothing else need be done.

LESS IDEAL, BUT STILL GOOD: I copy the files over to the new HD, get iTunes on the old Mac to export some kind of list (XML file, maybe?) of each file that's in the library, and then feed it into the Macbook's iTunes so it will add only the files from the original library to its own.

TIME CONSUMING, NOT PREFERRED: Copy everything to the new HD, get the old Mac's iTunes to export a list of its library files in a way that includes the file path, and start adding to the new library myself a few albums at a time, working from that list.

So, can anyone help me with a way to accomplish this?
posted by The Pluto Gangsta to Computers & Internet (7 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
Assuming you want to transfer the rest of your computing to the Air, I would first move the audio files to the new drive by doing this in iTunes. If you use iTunes to move the files from one hd to the other it will get the linking right. Then migrate your entire machine to the air. You will need to move the non-iTunes audio files across separately.

Hmmm, are you saying that you can't identify the non-iTunes files on your drive easily? Like, are they not in separate directories? If not, then maybe I can't help. And of course, if they are you could simply transfer the lot and get iTunes on the new machine to import only the ones you want.

On preview, this might not be very helpful, sorry
posted by tillsbury at 3:08 PM on August 26, 2017 [1 favorite]


1. Clone the old external disk to the new one using Carbon Copy Cloner
2. Name the new external drive the same as the old one
3. Make sure it works with iTunes on the old machine
4. Migrate from your old machine to your new one
posted by kindall at 3:40 PM on August 26, 2017


I would first move the audio files to the new drive by doing this in iTunes.

Does iTunes have a feature where it moves the files and keeps track in the library of where the new files ended up? Without me having to manually update it? That would be very helpful.

4. Migrate from your old machine to your new one

Right, but how? I can copy everything from the old external HD to the new one, no problem (other than the time it would take... we're talking a terabyte here), what can I copy from iTunes on the old Mac that will make my Macbook Air automatically have the same library?
posted by The Pluto Gangsta at 6:59 PM on August 26, 2017


Does iTunes have a feature where it moves the files and keeps track in the library of where the new files ended up? Without me having to manually update it? That would be very helpful.

Not precisely but sort of. The file that handles where iTunes looks for your actual media files is the iTunes Library.itl file. Anyway, you want to follow the "Use Your iTunes Backup" section of this article. It's fairly straightforward.
posted by sixfootaxolotl at 7:27 AM on August 27, 2017


EDIT: I'm actually making this more complicated. Copy the iTunes folder from the older external to the new, then open iTunes while holding Option on the MBA and choose the library file in the iTunes folder on the new drive.
posted by sixfootaxolotl at 7:32 AM on August 27, 2017


When I said "Migrate from your old machine to the new one" I meant, while setting up the new machine, you will be offered the option to copy everything from your old machine. Do that. if you have already set up the new machine, you can still use Migration Assistant afterward. See these instructions.
posted by kindall at 9:52 AM on August 27, 2017


In order to keep linking and metadata straight I actually recommend doing it "backwards" from what you expect -- meaning you should actually point iTunes at the new location then let it copy the files, instead of (as you might think) moving the files yourself then pointing iTunes at them (which is error-prone for a few reasons).

Just change your Music Library location in iTunes Preferences, and then consolidate. iTunes will take care of moving them and eliminating orphaned files / metadata / etc.
posted by churl at 3:03 PM on August 28, 2017


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