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January 27, 2011

Cleaning up your iTunes library folder

The other day I moved my iTunes library to a new 2TB drive because the old one (1TB) was getting a bit crowded.

Moving your iTunes library isn’t as straightforward as you might think, especially if you’ve configured iTunes to organize itself (which I have). Usually you go into iTunes’ preferences, to the Advanced tab and choose a new location for the library by clicking on the Change button and selecting the new location. But that doesn’t automatically move your existing files to the new location, only new files added to iTunes will be stored in the new location. To move your existing files to the new location you have to select File->Library->Organize Library…, check Consolidate Files and then click OK. That copies all your files to the new location, whereafter you can delete them from their original location.

There’s another checkbox in that Organize Library window labeled Reorganize files in the folder “iTunes”. It claims to reorganize your media into subfolders inside the main iTunes folder. So all movies would be moved to the Movies folder, all podcasts to the Podcasts folder and so on. I never used that checkbox before because for some reason I don’t recall my iTunes folder was already organized that way. Until I moved to that new drive, that is.

The machine I have my iTunes library on is a Mac Pro, which has the advantage of having four internal hard drive bays. So I dedicated one bay to the iTunes drive. You can of course also hook up an external drive via USB, Firewire or, using an eSATA card, eSATA. But those options are more expensive, require external power and, except for the eSATA option, are significantly slower.

Because I was a bit wary of using iTunes’ own methods of moving its library (I’ve read some pretty scary stuff on the forums), I decided to do the move manually. So I quit iTunes, copied the entire contents of the “old” 1TB drive to the new 2TB drive, powered down the Mac, removed the old drive, powered back up and renamed the new 2TB to “iTunes”, the name of the old drive. That way, I figured, iTunes wouldn’t even notice that its files were sitting on a new drive.

And it worked. Upon launching iTunes everything looked exactly like it had before the move to the new drive. Except that when I added new files to iTunes, I noticed that it wasn’t adding them in the appropriate subfolders, but creating folders on the top level folder. So instead of having a folder structure like /Music/AC_DC it moved the folder to /AC_DC. The same thing was happening with newly downloaded podcasts. I don’t want all my media to be in the top level folder because its a freaking mess. I want them to be in their media-specific subfolders, just like they were before the move.

Then I remembered that option in the Organize Library window: Reorganize files in the folder “iTunes”. That sounded like what I wanted. Maybe iTunes had somehow gotten out of whack when I moved the files to the new drive manually instead of using iTunes’ built-in functionality. So I crossed my fingers, kept the top-level iTunes folder in view, checked the appropriate option and clicked OK.

Strangely enough, it did exactly what I wanted it to. It moved the couple of folders that had started crowding up the top-level folder neatly down into their appropriate subfolders: music into the Music folder, podcasts into the Podcasts folder. My OCD self was happy again.

The lesson in this for me was that I’ll probably use iTunes’ built-in functionality for moving my library from here on out. The Finder method seems to work on some level, but something apparently didn’t carry over to the new location that caused iTunes to forget that it was supposed to organize my library into subfolders. Had I used iTunes’ internal relocation method, this probably wouldn’t have happened.

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  • Brett

    “Consolidate iTunes Library” used to be it’s own menu item, if memory serves. I’m glad you pointed this out, because I never would’ve made the distinction between consolidation and organization. What irks me is that -like you- I had it working fine with media type subfolders (Music, Movies, Podcasts, etc), and when I used the Home Sharing feature to sync 80 or so albums over form my other computer, iTunes ignored that preference and splattered them all over the top level folder anyway. So I ran the “Organize” option described here and it put them where they belong.

    Now I’m curious to know why Home Share syncing ignores that setting :P

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