How to run iTunes Library directly from an external HDD?

Discussion in 'Mac Apps and Mac App Store' started by Stiltzkin, Nov 7, 2012.

  1. Stiltzkin macrumors newbie

    Oct 29, 2012
    Hello all,

    Nearly my entire music collection is in .mp3 format on my external drive for safe keeping. If what I understand about iTunes is correct, it copies every song you add to the library onto your internal drive in a folder called iTunes Media Folder. I'm about to install a new SSD on my MacBook Pro, and I would like for the SSD to be used only for heavy apps and my external drive be used for photos, music, videos, etc. I'm afraid to do the usual "drag and drop" on my Pro because I don't want that extra space eaten up on the SSD. Is there a way I can specify that my iTunes songs are played directly from my external drive? I don't mind that it has to be plugged in all the time to be playing music.

    Sorry if this is an obvious question! Thanks in advance!
  2. GGJstudios, Nov 7, 2012
    Last edited: Nov 7, 2012

    GGJstudios macrumors Westmere


    May 16, 2008
    In iTunes > Preferences > Advanced uncheck these boxes:
    If you uncheck those, iTunes will use your media files where they are, rather than copying them when you add to the library.

    Another method is to have one iTunes library, with your favorite music stored on your internal drive, so it's available when you're mobile, with the remainder stored on an external drive.

    How to split a single iTunes library over two or more media locations
  3. TomCat macrumors member

    Jul 12, 2000
    Wouldn't it be easier to have multiple libraries on multiple drives?

    Once I get a little time off I want to re-encode all of my CDs as Apple Lossless and keep those in a separate library, which would reside on a 2TB external drive, and that would be the primary library I port to my home stereo system. I would also keep AAC versions of purchased music there. Then I will put that on a iPod Touch 64 G, which would become my primary iPod. I would still operate the original library and keep that for iPods and iOS devices that do not have lots of room for lossless audio files, for casual or opportunistic listening when iPod 1 might not be available. Bottom line, I want access to CD-quality once again, whenever possible, and larger HDs and iPods has finally made that practical via Apple lossless. But I want to also hang on to my AAC compressed library.

    So my goal might be a little different than yours, but it seems that holding down "Option" when iTunes is launched is a pretty easy way to toggle between libraries. Maybe that could fit your plans as well.

    Two things (other than I am busy at the moment) would impede this:

    1) I want to wait for iTunes 11 to settle first, as I don't know how this will impact this plan.

    2) Not only will I have to insert and re-encode the CDs, but it will take some tedious re-starring of selections and rebuilding of smart playlists.​
    So, maybe hearing my thoughts will help form a POV for the OP's ideas, and maybe some of you can suggest options for my plan as well.
  4. peeaanuut macrumors 65816

    Sep 10, 2007
    Southern California
    set itunes to organize and to copy files to the directory. then change the directory to a folder on the external drive. Then when it copies everything over as you load into iTunes, it will all be in that folder. I have my entire library on an external drive with no issues. No media is on any of my internal drives.
  5. westonm macrumors member

    Jun 19, 2007
    There are a number of articles floating around that will go into great detail about how to set up your library.

    But in short:
    1) In iTunes preferences (advanced tab) choose a location on the external drive to hold all your media files.
    2) Select "File -> Library -> Organize Library" and choose "consolidate library".

    I would recommend leaving "Keep iTunes media folder organized" as checked. Any new songs added to your library will only be copied to your external drive. However the library "reference" file will remain on your internal disk. It's a relatively small file so you shouldn't have to worry about it eating any SSD space, and keeping it internal will allow it load faster.

    Once it's all copied (and working successfully) you can delete the "iTunes Media" folder from your internal. Just be sure to keep the library file (.itl) backed up so that you can transfer it to the same location on your new internal drive.

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