How to Move iTunes Music to an External Hard Drive

By Emilio Alvarez ; Updated September 15, 2017

Things Needed

  • Computer with iTunes
  • External hard drive

Moving your iTunes music to an external hard drive, simply for storage purposes, is easy, as it is just like moving any other type of data. However, if your intent is to continue using iTunes as always, but want to maintain all the music in an external drive, you will need to perform some basic change of settings prior to transferring any data.

Simple transfer of iTunes music for storage purposes

Connect the external hard drive to your computer via USB or Firewire port, if applicable. Turn the device on (external drive). Right-click on the external hard drive icon that appears on your desktop or explore window. A pop-up menu displays. Click on ''Properties'' (for Windows) or ''Get Info'' (for Macs). A ''Properties / Info'' window displays.

Take note of how much space is available for storage. You will need to compare this with the size of your iTunes music folder.

Locate your iTunes Music or iTunes Media folder (the name changes depending on the version of iTunes you have). For Windows users, find it under ''My Music'' folder. For Mac users find it under the ''Music'' folder. Right-click on the ''iTunes Music/Media'' folder and click on ''Properties'' or ''Get Info." Take note of the size of the folder to see if it will fit in the external hard drive. If it's too big for the available space in your external drive, clear some space in your external drive.

Double-click on the external hard drive icon to view the contents. Choose a location where you wish to store your ''iTunes Music/Media'' folder. Locate the ''iTunes Music/Media'' folder again, right-click on it, and select ''Copy.'. Go to the location in your external hard drive where you wish to store this data. Right-click on that space and select ''Paste.'.

Note: By doing this last step, your iTunes Music will now be stored in your external drive, but iTunes will not be able to play all your music as always. You will get the typical ''The file could not be found. Would you like to locate it?'' message when attempting to play a song.

If you wish to continue using iTunes as always, but maintain all your music in the external hard drive to save space in your computer, go to the next section.

Consolidate and Transfer

Perform the first two steps on the previous section to check there's enough space in your external hard drive. Create a new folder in your external hard drive, where you will store the contents of your iTunes Music.

Launch the iTunes application and click on ''Preferences...'' The Preferences window displays various tabs including: ''General,', ''Sharing," "Devices," ''Advanced'' and more. Click on the ''Advanced'' tab. Click on the ''Change...'' button under the ''iTunes Media folder location'' section. A browsing window opens up. Select the new folder you created for your iTunes Music destination in your external hard drive. Confirm the action by pressing ''OK.''

Consolidate your iTunes Music library into the external hard drive. On the iTunes application, click on ''Music'' under the ''Library'' section on the left panel to display all your music. Select all the tracks displayed by clicking on iTunes ''Edit'' menu option and choosing ''Select All.'' All tracks in your iTunes music library are highlighted.

Click on the iTunes ''File'' menu. Mouse-over the ''Library'' option. Click on the ''Organize Library...'' option from the drop-down menu. A small window opens up. Check the box that corresponds to ''Consolidate Files,'' and confirm by pressing the ''OK'' button.

Note: This action consolidates and copies all the music you selected into the location you designated in your external hard drive. Depending on the amount of music you have in your iTunes, this may take anywhere from a few minutes to several hours.

Check to see if the Consolidation process was successful. Launch iTunes and play any of the songs that were consolidated. It should play if your external hard drive is connected. Right-click on that song track and select ''Properties'' (for Windows) or ''Get Info'' (for Macs). A window opens up. Click on the ''Summary'' tab and check the location where this file is stored. The location should be the designated folder you previously chose in your external hard drive for your iTunes music.

Remove the original ''iTunes Music'' folder in your primary hard drive, if necessary to save space. The iTunes application is now using the consolidated folder located in your external hard drive to retrieve and play your music. Double-click on your ''iTunes'' folder to see the contents. The sub-folders might include: an ''Album Artwork'' folder, one or more ''iTunes Library'' files, and the ''iTunes Music / Media'' folder. Delete Only the ''iTunes Music / Media'' folder. Note: Do Not delete the iTunes Library Files.

About the Author

Emilio Alvarez has a Bachelor of Science in computer science from San Diego State University and a minor in music composition from Southwestern College, San Diego. He has been writing since 2002 and has published short stories with Editorial Dunken (Buenos Aires, Argentina), where his work is part of a Spanish anthology: "El libro de talleres."