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How to Transfer Your iTunes Collection from One Computer to Another

If you’re an iTunes user, when you get a new machine you probably want to transfer all of your content to it. Here we show you a few different ways to everything from one computer to another.

If you get a new computer and have a bunch of multimedia and apps (purchased or not) installed on it, you’ll most likely want to transfer it all to another machine. There are a few different ways this can be done, and here we’ll show you some of the easiest.

We are using iTunes 9.2.1 for Windows and transferring our main collection from Windows 7 Ultimate x64 to another Windows 7 machine with Home Premium x86.

Use Home Sharing Feature

The Home Sharing feature in iTunes 9 allows you to share and stream music between computers over a home network with up to 5 machines. This can be handy if you have a central computer with all of your iTunes data and you want to share it with other machines like a Netbook on your network. It also makes it easy to transfer your iTunes collection to another machine. This is probably one of the easiest ways to transfer everything over to a new machine.

To use the Home Sharing feature you’ll need iTunes 9 installed on both computers.

Here we take a look at the first machine with its iTunes Library. Notice we have some Podcasts, Music, Playlists, Apps…etc.

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Enable Home Sharing

One of the features in iTunes 9 you can use to transfer your music, videos, and more on your home network is Home Sharing. Open iTunes and select Home Sharing on the left side of iTunes under Shared.

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If you don’t see it go to Advanced and select Enable Home Sharing.

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Next you’ll be prompted to enter your iTunes Store account to use Home Sharing. Then click the Create Home Share button.

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You will need to set this up on all computers you want to share your iTunes media with. When going through the steps to enable Home Sharing on the second machine, we were prompted to authorize the computer first.

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After a few seconds you’ll get a message letting you know the authorization was successful and the number of computers that are authorized. Keep in mind that iTunes only lets you authorize up to 5 machines.

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If you’ve authorized iTunes on different machines throughout the years, you might get a message telling you 5 computers have already been authorized.

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To solve the problem check out our article on how to deauthorize computers associated with your iTunes Account. Apple lets you deauthorize all 5 machines through your account once a year.

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After setting up sharing on the second machine, everything from the first machine will be shared over to the new machine including music you’ve purchased or added to the Library, Podcasts, Videos, Playlists, Apps…basically everything.

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While Home Sharing is a pretty cool feature for sharing media between machines on your network, both machines need to be on with iTunes running. If you try to close out of iTunes on one of the machines you’ll get the following message.

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Then if you quit, the other machine will no longer have access to the first machine’s media.

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Permanently Move Content Between Shares

Sharing between machines is all well and good, but we want to move the data to the new machine permanently. To do that there are a few different ways to go about it. For instance, here we want to move a Playlist to the new computer. Simply highlight the Playlist from the Shared Library on the first machine, and drag it up to the new machine’s Library.

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Then you can close out of iTunes on the first computer you’re sharing the library with…and now you have the Playlist on the second machine.

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If you want to transfer specific Apps for your iOS device or an entire collection highlight what you want and click the Import button.

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You’ll see the progress while all the files are transferred from the old machine to the new one. In this example we transferred all of our apps.

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And there you go… all your apps have been transferred to the second machine.

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Transfer Everything

If you’re moving data to a new machine it’s nice to have the ability to pick and choose what you want to move, but perhaps you want to move the entire everything to the new machine. Just click on the first computers Shared Library, hit Ctrl+A to highlight everything then click the Import button.

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You can also click on the Settings button and check what you want to transfer new purchases from the original computer’s Library.

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Then wait while everything transfers. If you have a large collection it can take several minutes so your mileage will vary.

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Now on the second machine we have our Music Collection, Movies, Books, iTunes U, Podcasts, Apps…everything!

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Use an iPod to Transfer iTunes Collection

Plug your iPod into the computer you want to get your collection from and make sure you sync what you want included.

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Then plug the iPod into your new machine. iTunes should launch and you can select to Erase and Sync or Transfer Purchases. Here we want to erase the contents of the new machine and transfer our iPod data.

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You’ll get a second message asking if you’re sure…click Transfer.

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Now everything from the iPod will be transferred to your new computer. Keep in mind that this will only transfer content downloaded through the iTunes Store and not ripped CDs or other added music.

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Use an External Drive to Transfer Your iTunes Collection

Not everyone has the luxury of having a home network but would still like to transfer their iTunes collection to a new or second machine. First let’s take a look at copying and moving your collection with an external USB drive. While this isn’t the most perfect method, it will get all of your purchased items copied over, but you may need to manually add some of the content that isn’t in your iTunes folder.

Another thing you might want to do before transferring your collection is delete old content that you no longer use and check for duplicates. This will decrease the size of your collection and make the copying process to the external drive easier. If you’re looking for ways to make iTunes get rid of duplicates and run more quickly, check out our article on How to Make iTunes for Windows Run Faster.

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Connect your USB drive to the computer with the collection you want to copy and move, and create a new folder in it such as iTunes Backup. Of course you’ll want to make sure there is plenty of room on the external drive especially if you have a large collection.

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Then navigate to your iTunes folder…in Windows 7 it’s in your My Music folder by default or C:\Users\computer name\Music\iTunes. Where “computer name” is the name of your machine. Then just copy over the entire iTunes folder onto the external drive and wait for everything to copy over. The amount of time it takes will depend on the amount of data you’re moving.

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Unplug the USB drive and plug it into the second computer. Make sure iTunes is closed, then simply copy the iTunes folder from the external drive to your My Music folder on the new machine.

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Since you already have iTunes installed on the second machine, click yes to replacing the folder.

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Then wait for the folder to be copied over.

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You might also get a few duplicate file messages, check Do this or the next conflicts and select Copy and Replace.

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Hold down the Shift key while you click to open iTunes…Make sure you keep the Shift key held down until you see the following dialog.

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This will let you choose where to load your Library from.

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Now navigate to the iTunes Library.itl file from the iTunes folder you just copied over.

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Everything in your iTunes folder is transferred over exactly how it was on the other machine including your Playlists, Videos, Apps…etc. Although, when you go to play some files you may get a message telling you they’re missing…more on that below.

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Keep Collection on External Drive

You might want to keep your collection on a larger external drive and not clutter up the local machine’s drive. Then you don’t need to copy anything to your local My Music folder. So instead of going to your local music folder, navigate to the external hard drive where the iTunes Library.itl file resides.

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If you go to Edit \ Preferences \ Advanced … you’ll see the Library location is pointing to your external drive.

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Now you’ll have all of your contents including Apps, Music, Playlists…etc. in iTunes on the second machine all running from the external drive.

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Missing Music

After you transfer you’re iTunes collection over, you may find that some of the music can’t be located. This will happen if you’ve added files from other locations on your hard drive other than the iTunes Media folder. Like in this example it can’t find the band Cynic’s music.

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Back on our original machine, you see the songs are located in My Music, but not in the iTunes Media folder. So in this instance it would be best to copy the entire My Music folder and any content you want to the external drive and then manually add them.

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So we went ahead and browsed to the location of the song.

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Then iTunes offered to find other missing songs from that directory. So at least it makes it easier to find the missing songs than adding each one manually.

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iTunes Library Mover

If you don’t have a network to use the Home Sharing feature or think the manual method is too tedious, a nice freeware solution is iTunes Library Mover (link below). It’s very easy to use and requires no installation. Again for this method we’ll use an external hard drive.

Before you start, plug the external drive into the computer you’re transferring the content to and create a specific drive letter for it. This will be needed while setting up Library Mover. For more on how to change drive letters, check out our article on renaming drive letters to find your missing USB drive in Windows 7.

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On the computer you’re transferring the iTunes content from, plug in your external hard drive and export the iTunes Library. Go to File \ Library \ Export Library.

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Then navigate to a location on your external drive to backup the default library.xml.

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Then download and extract the zip file it to a convenient location on your computer and launch iTunesLibraryMover.exe.

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When Library Mover opens click the folder icon to browse to the library.xml file you just exported to the external drive. Then for the Destination Folder again browse to the same directory on the external where you put the library.xml file. Then for the New Source Folder, change the drive letter to the one you set it as on the other machine…where in out case we changed it to “V”. Then make sure to check Copy Files and click Go.

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Then wait while everything is copied over…

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When it’s complete you can close out of it. You won’t get a “Finished or Done” message, but to check to see what it did, open the directory on the hard drive and you’ll see a copy of your tunes.

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And a new library.xml file as well.

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Now that has completed, plug the external drive into your new computer. Open iTunes and go to File \ Library \ Import Playlist.

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Browse to the new Library.xml file that was created on the external drive.

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Then wait while everything is imported…

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This did a good job of transferring our purchased music, playlists, podcasts, and video files. However it didn’t transfer Apps or iBooks. The process may sound a bit complicated but it really isn’t when you use it. If you have any trouble figuring out the utility, the author has a step by step tutorial on their site.

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While there are many other ways to go about transferring your iTunes content from one machine to another, we tried to find the easiest ones for you. If you’re on a home network, then using the Home Sharing feature is very easy. Once you start doing it manually there are more steps involved. Also, you might have to do some extra work as far as making sure songs are found and do some tweaking to your lists.

How about your guys? Do you have some other methods for transferring your iTunes collection from one computer to another? Leave a comment and let us know.

Download iTunes Library Mover

Lowell Heddings, better known online as the How-To Geek, spends all his free time bringing you fresh geekery on a daily basis. You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 08/30/10

Comments (22)

  1. Dan

    Great how to! A network harddrive”makes sharing media a snap. Buffalo has a great selection plus they make them easy to setup.

  2. Avinash

    Awesome post!
    Very step by step so that my small brother can also do it. Thanks much.

  3. Jumat

    Really great instructions!
    Too bad Apple doesn’t know about the “Easy Button” – “Now that was easy” – not.

  4. TonyR

    How about using Sharepod? works for me and it’s free :-)

  5. Shawn

    Does this work when transfering your itunes library to from PC to a Mac?

  6. Louis

    Well, any true, self-respecting geek would not be caught dead using anything made or marketed by Apple, or should that be Job-Co? Waiting for the pocket iFisherman, and the iTurd to become realities…

  7. Raymond Oglesby

    Instead of doing all the steps in this article, all I did was copy the iTunes folders to a flash drive, then copied them from the flash drive to the proper folders on the hard drive. I did this from a Vista machine to a Windows 7 machine, no problems, much simplier.

  8. Roi

    Nice article The Geek!

    btw – what are those green/yellow dots in your music folder?

  9. Wayne

    can this be done using 64 bit windows on 1 machine and 32 bit windows on another machine?

  10. Johnny

    Hey……….. nice tech…. worked great!!!

  11. Susan

    Other posters may have different options/solutions but I found this article to be very well thought out and very informative. Best of all – IT WORKED! Followed the Home Sharing – copy & paste method. Worked great! Thank you so much.

  12. kurt

    Hi. Nicely done.

    There may be an error.

    When you said,

    “Here we want to erase the contents of the new machine and transfer our iPod data.”

    I’m pretty sure you wanted “transfer purchases,” (i.e. from iPod/iPhone to new machine) which does require the receiving computer already to have been authorized. Not certain of this. Can you please verify?

  13. J-Dog

    Took me ages to get iTunes to recognise my media, even though I’d edited the location of the folder in preferences. The .itf file was the key! Why doesn’t it just automatically recognise it from the folder you point it at? Why is iTunes so cackhanded and backwards in everything it does? Very frustrating. And there’s no way to get useful feedback to Apple for fixes to very obvious things that are broken with iOS and iTunes. Oh well, thank you for finally resolving my annoyance :)

  14. Susan

    I did the “Permanently Move Content Between Shares” method in this article and it worked fine, but needs a bit of cleaning up. However, some things happened/didn’t happen.

    1. On the new computer (running Windows 7 Ultimate) the music that has also gone into Windows Media Player 12 apparently automatically, which I find quite odd.

    2. None of the music shows up in the My Music folder the way they do on the old computer (running Windows XP SP2). Both are completely empty.

    I want all the music to show up in the My Music folder. Anyone know why this didn’t happen and how I can get everything into the folder?

    If I go into the old computer and copy the files from the My Music folder onto flash drive and then copy them into the My Music folder on new computer, will that work? Or will it duplicate everything in iTunes and WMP12 libraries, or create other problems?

    Hopefully someone from How To Geek is monitoring this thread. Any help would be appreciated. Thanks.

  15. Susan

    Sorry. There is no formatting available here, so below I have made a couple of corrections/changes:

    1. On the new computer (running Windows 7 Ultimate) the music has also gone into Windows Media Player 12 apparently automatically, which I find quite odd.

    2. None of the music shows up in the My Music folder the way it does on the old computer (running Windows XP SP2). The folder is completely empty.

  16. John

    Yeah use Sharepod, can be found on download.com and its Freeware, really simple to use

  17. funkyj

    I followed the “network sharing instructions” and they worked great with the following caveat:

    I have a bunch of music where iTunes fails to find the cover art. I have laboriously made or found cover art for many of these CDs and now when I migrated my iTunes over to the new computer, the manually installed cover art is lost. Do you have a fix for this?

  18. Marie

    I am an absolute 68 year old nerd. I have a laptop with all my Itunes and quite a few folders with their respective tunes in them, I purchased a new PC. A computer nerd friend of mine came over and enabled the home sharing, etc. so that I could have everything on both computers. Anyway everything was put on a pen drive and then installed on the new PC. BUT, NONE OF THE SONGS ARE IN THEIR RESPECTIVE FOLDERS. HELP!!!! I have over 2700 songs in my Itunes along with my folders. Originally I tried to do it myself and honestly tried, but the folders were listed, but empty. I tried going to sharing and checked all the folders on both computers, but nothing worked. Is there anyone out there who can just tell me in 1.2.3 steps how to import or whatever you call it, the songs into each folder. I know I could do it manually, but there has to be an easier way. If you can help, I surely would appreciate it. I have read lots of help stuff, but ????? Thank you so much for your help. An old grannie appreciates it.

  19. Raptor

    Thanks for the fine article. However, I am a bit puzzled. Does the home sharing feature work between WinVista and Mac? I have just bought a new Mac and would like to transfer my iTunes library directly to my Mac. How do I do that? Preferably in simple steps. thansk

  20. DSP1

    I am a little confused. In the article he says that

    “Now everything from the iPod will be transferred to your new computer. Keep in mind that this will only transfer content downloaded through the iTunes Store and not ripped CDs or other added music.

    That means only content purchased through Itunes will be transferred with his method?? I have over 2,000 songs on my Ipod, 95% of which are from CD.

    If that is the case, how do you transfer music not purchased from Itunes???

    Many thanks,
    Daniel

  21. DSP1

    Downloaded legally from CD that is…

  22. Chris

    I have a question…

    I have utilised the feature “sync only checked items” on my old computer. Having meticulously sorted through 10000 songs and checked each one i would like to sync to my ipod, (as it doesnt have enough space) i would now like to replicate this checked/unchecked parameter on my new computer. Is there any way to do this without manually going through all the songs again.

    Thanks

    Chris

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