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How to Backup Your iTunes Library: Copying iTunes Song Files to Local Storage

Keep all your iTunes media files safe by storing them on an external drive

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iTunes Advanced Preferences

Advanced Preferences Screen in iTunes

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The Differences in iTunes Versions and How You Backup

If you are using iTunes version 10.3 or below, then you have the option to backup your iTunes songs by burning to CD or DVD. However, this facility has been removed by Apple for versions higher than this. In this case, you will have to use a different method for completely backing up your media library. This requires some manual copying outside the iTunes software program because there isn't an integrated tool to do this anymore. However, by following this step-by-step tutorial, you will be able to backup your iTunes library in no time at all!

Additionally, if you want to setup an automatic way of regularly backing up your library, you could always schedule a backup using your operating system's built-in tool -- or even use a third-party program for synchronizing your media files to an external storage solution.

Preparing Your iTunes Library for Back up (Consolidating)

It may come as a surprise, but the media files that make up your iTunes library may not all be in the same folder. For instance, if you have multiple folders containing media files that you want to add to your iTunes library, then there's an option in iTunes to do this -- it's a useful facility that helps you to build up an index of your songs in a more flexible way. However, from a backup perspective this can complicate things because you will have to make sure that all these folders on your computer's hard drive are backed up as well as the iTunes music folder.

To combat this, you can use the consolidation feature in iTunes to copy all your media files into one folder. This process doesn't delete the original files that are in other locations, but it does makes sure that all files will be copied.

To consolidate your iTunes library into one folder before backup, make sure iTunes is running and follow these steps:

  1. Go to the configuration menu of iTunes.
    • For Windows: click the Edit menu tab at the top of the screen and choose the Preferences option.
    • For Mac: click the iTunes menu tab and then choose the Preferences option in the list.
  2. Click the Advanced tab and enable the option: Copy files to iTunes Media folder when adding to library if not already checked. Click OK to proceed.
  3. To view the consolidation screen, click the File menu tab and choose Library > Organize Library.
  4. Click the Consolidate Files option and then click OK to copy files into one folder.

Copying Your Consolidated iTunes Library to External Storage

Now that you have made sure all the files that make up your iTunes library are in one folder, you can copy it to an external storage device such as a portable hard drive. To do this you will have to make sure iTunes isn't running (quit the program if necessary) and follow these simple steps.
  1. Assuming you haven't changed the default location of the main iTunes folder, use one of the following default paths (depending on your operating system) to navigate to your iTunes library:
    • Windows 7 or Vista: \Users\userprofile\My Music\
    • Windows XP: \Documents and Settings\userprofile\My Documents\My Music\
    • Mac OS X: /Users/userprofile/Music
  2. Open a separate Window on your desktop for the external drive -- this is so you can easily copy the iTunes folder by dragging and dropping it.
    • For Windows: use the Computer icon (My Computer for XP) via the Start button.
    • For Mac, use the Finder sidebar or desktop.
  3. Finally, drag and drop the iTunes folder from your computer to your external drive. Wait for the copying process to finish.

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