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Ventura Mojo

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Moving iTunes from Mac to PC… why can't everything be this easy?

18th April 2010

So your first question is probably:  Why on earth would you want to move your iTunes library FROM a cool Mac TO a boring old PC? Well it’s a good question and I do feel rather like I’m going the wrong way on a one-way street.  But my trusty iMac just turned 9 years old and has only a 55 GB hard drive (my ipod has 64!) and less than a GB of RAM.  So it’s not much fun to use anymore and I just don’t have $1200 to shell out on a new one right now.  My PC laptop that I use for work is not sexy but it’s bulked up like an East German athlete in 1984.

That’s why I made the move, and my hat’s off to Apple because it was simple and straightforward.  The only real danger here is that you may think too much and over-complicate it.  If you want to know the logic behind why you’re doing all these things you can read a very informative article here… I’m basically just showing you the Cliff’s Notes version of how to do it.

Also, unless you know how to network a PC and Mac together, you will need a Portable Hard Drive to make this happen.  I used an 80GB Iomega drive that I’ve had forever… you can get these very cheaply now.

Here’s how to move your iTunes library from your Mac to your PC

STEP ONE: Open iTunes on your Mac.  Go to iTunes > Preferences.  When the pop-up window appears click the Advanced option in the top menu.  Then you should see this screen:

Now if your “Keep iTunes Media folder organized” box is already checked, then you need to UNCHECK it and select OK.  Then go back to the same screen and check that same box and click OK.  There will be a short progress bar and then you can continue.

STEP TWO: Still on your Mac, go to File > Library > Organize Library

Now select “Consolidate Files” and click OK as seen below.

It will let you know that it cannot be undone which is fine, so just click Continue.

STEP THREE: Now it’s time to move those songs.  Plug your portable hard drive into your Mac.  Go to your Mac Hard Drive menu and confirm that it’s there.  Now click on your Mac hard drive and you should see a foldeer called “Music” under that will be a folder called “iTunes”.  Double click the iTunes folder and you will find two things we need to move: a folder called “iTunes Music” and a file called “iTunes Library”.  Drag both the file and the folder to your portable hard drive.

Depending on the speed of your USB connection and size of your library you may now have time to take in a movie.  Or in my case with my 9-year-old Mac, the entire Wagner Ring Cycle.

STEP FOUR: Now we move over to the PC.  If you don’t already have the latest version of iTunes on your PC you’ll need to download that now.  Eject your portable drive from the Mac, then disconnect it and plug it into your PC.  Go to “Computer” in the Start menu and confirm the drive is there.  Now open your “Music” folder on your PC and you should see an “iTunes” folder.  Drag both the iTunes Library file and the iTunes Music folder from the portable drive to this folder.   Again, this may take a while to transfer.

STEP FIVE: This is where I got stuck but the solution is very simple.  I was able to see the music files in the folder and play them directly, but iTunes wasn’t seeing them and listing them out for me.  That’s because the file that we moved called “iTunes Library” needs a different extension for the PC to recognize it.  So right click on that file on your PC and add “.itl” to the end of it.  Now close iTunes if you have it open, and re-open it while holding down the SHIFT key on your PC.  You’ll get a window that says Choose iTunes Library.  Click “choose library” and then double click on the iTunes Library file (which should now have the little iTunes logo next to it instead of a blank page).

iTunes will now index all your songs and display them  along with all your playlists.  I hope this worked as well for you as it did for me, but if not I refer you to the much more complex and detailed article here:  http://www.ilounge.com/index.php/articles/comments/moving-your-itunes-library-to-a-new-hard-drive/.

Cheers!

I enjoy writing about technology, travel, wine and living in Ventura, CA.

Comments

  • Paul
    Posted at 2:35 am January 16, 2011
    Paul
    Reply Author

    Fantastic! I can’t tell you how many websites describe going from PC to Mac, but none the other way. I was trying to move from an old Mac Mini to a new Windows 7 PC and was complete stuck on my 50GB iTunes library. The only thing I had to do in addition to your steps was change my path under the store tab in preferences from iTunes Media to iTunes Music. Thanks!
    Paul

    • admin
      Posted at 10:22 pm January 27, 2011
      admin
      Reply Author

      Paul – I’m so glad you found it useful! Thanks for taking the time to add a step.

  • Subba Iyer
    Posted at 1:39 pm February 2, 2011
    Subba Iyer
    Reply Author

    Thanks for explaining this step by step. I did something differently in step 5. I copied the iTunes folder and found all the music files after making sure that there were about 10 songs in iTunes. That way there was a itunes library file. Then I just imported the library. It took some time but it worked. That way I didnt had to edit the xml file.

    • admin
      Posted at 10:05 pm February 2, 2011
      admin
      Reply Author

      That’s an excellent suggestion – thank you!

  • Vida
    Posted at 4:24 pm January 5, 2012
    Vida
    Reply Author

    Thank you SO MUCH! It was a little tricky getting my PC to accept the music library file from the harddrive. There was also a little confusion because my music folder was titled, itunes media. But really I didn’t have to veer off much from what you instructed. I’ve wanted to do this for so long and couldnt figure it out. Much appreciated.

    • admin
      Posted at 4:38 pm January 6, 2012
      admin
      Reply Author

      I’m so glad you found it helpful! Thanks for the feedback.

  • Jason
    Posted at 12:25 am February 20, 2012
    Jason
    Reply Author

    Hi there…I got to step three but discovered that the hard drive won’t accept the itunes music folder or itunes library file. Any suggestions?

    • Kevin
      Posted at 12:51 pm May 25, 2012
      Kevin
      Reply Author

      Jason, I am having the same problem. Were you able to find a solution?

      • Mike
        Posted at 8:58 pm December 29, 2012
        Mike
        Reply Author

        On a mac, attaching an NTFS formatted hard drive will allow you to read it, but not write to it, unless you purchase something like Paragon NTFS or some other more difficult solution.

        I recommend skipping the external hard drive and investigating home sharing, if you have windows 7 or 8 pro – share a folder on your pc, and then on your mac connecting using Finder->Go (Menu)->Connect to server…

  • Susan
    Posted at 2:58 pm March 13, 2012
    Susan
    Reply Author

    Thank you for posting this! Like you, I realize my dear IMac G4 is on its last legs and have to go to a Windows laptop. One question though. Does the hard drive need to be PC formatted or Mac formatted? This also depends on whether I can get the Mac to power on. It lost power after a thunderstorm, and can’t get it to come on. Forcing it used to work, but not this time. Also tried resetting the PMU. Worked first time, not now. So any ideas on that would be appreciated as well…

  • Sandy
    Posted at 7:31 pm July 23, 2012
    Sandy
    Reply Author

    I’m going from iBook G4 10.4 to a new PC, and have completed your instructions through step 4. When I open the external hard drive I can see all of my music. When I saw that step 5 began with ‘this is where I got stuck’..I stopped. I see where Paul added an additional step but I’m not certain at what point I should follow it. I haven’t tried to move files from the hard drive to the PC…can you provide some clarifying for when to perform Paul’s step? Thank you very much!

  • Keith
    Posted at 9:33 pm September 10, 2012
    Keith
    Reply Author

    Thanks for the clear info – it all worked fine for me wxctly as set out and I didn’t need to add .itl to the library on the PC as it was already there and was recognised automatically when I opened itunes normally.

  • Joe
    Posted at 7:48 pm October 27, 2012
    Joe
    Reply Author

    My wife couldn’t get used to the mac. Transferred iTunes from the pc to the iMac, via thumb drive. Took time but it worked. Went out and bought my better half a new PC. Transferred itunes from mac to the PC via thumb drive again. Worked fine, but after a week, all songs have exclamation point next to entire librarysongs. Purchased tv shows will not play either. When i first transferred everything it worked fine.

    • Dermot
      Posted at 1:11 pm July 11, 2016
      Dermot
      Reply Author

      It seems like you didn’t add the music from your thumb drive into the iTunes media folder.. So when I tunes opens it looks for the misic in the iTunes folder in my music..
      Can I suggest (if u haven’t tried already) re inserting the thumb drive and opening iTunes? If the music is there, then all u need do is drag the folder…

  • Steve
    Posted at 3:53 pm November 20, 2012
    Steve
    Reply Author

    Hey there
    Everything went smoothly until i plugged the hard drive (a WD smartware passport) into my old PC. It didn’t give me the option of opening the files – only of backing up the data on the PC.
    Do you think the problem is the hard drive or my PC? It’s pretty old (Windows XP – don’t laugh) but it has the latest itunes installed so not totally decrepit.
    I do have an Iomega HD but it has all my PC files on it, so I’m reluctant to muck about with it unless I have to.
    What do you think?

  • Steve
    Posted at 9:31 am November 29, 2012
    Steve
    Reply Author

    Please disregard that last comment. I’ve tried again with a different HD and the PC can open it and see the itunes file there. Unfortunately it seems to think it is empty! Nothing in there at all. I’ve put it back on the Mac and the files are definitely there.
    Any ideas?

    • Jane smith
      Posted at 7:33 am December 15, 2012
      Jane smith
      Reply Author

      Steve, i had that problem once before. I learned it was because the file system could be different on the drive that you use for your Mac (maybe FAT32 file system ). If you format your drive on the PC as a NFTS file system (which it will do automatically if you choose format when right clicking on the drive in “my computer”) then plug back into your Mac to download the files, then plug back into your PC, the PC would then be able to read the files.

  • John
    Posted at 12:20 am March 22, 2013
    John
    Reply Author

    great guide! i was stuck on getting the files to show up in itunes on my windows pc after transferring from a mac.

    the shift-click on itunes startup was the final piece of the puzzle and loaded up all the songs/playlists.

  • Mike
    Posted at 10:16 pm March 25, 2013
    Mike
    Reply Author

    Great how-to! Thanks for posting it, worked like a charm 🙂

  • Ron
    Posted at 2:29 pm April 19, 2013
    Ron
    Reply Author

    I want to copy copy and move. Will this procedure leave my existing computer ‘as is’? Also do you know if this move can be done via ‘dropbox’?

  • Ron
    Posted at 9:53 am April 26, 2013
    Ron
    Reply Author

    I have done the transfer but. There is an ! n the left. The PC can not find the file – Help

  • Colin
    Posted at 6:07 pm August 25, 2013
    Colin
    Reply Author

    Excellent, just what I needed. TY!!!1

  • Tandi
    Posted at 2:40 am September 11, 2013
    Tandi
    Reply Author

    Thanks, this was so helpful. Worked perfectly for me and your instructions are so clearly set out.

  • Jenn
    Posted at 8:54 pm October 1, 2013
    Jenn
    Reply Author

    THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!!! I have a wonderful and well-loved macbook that is over 7 years old. I have been in denial for the longest time – I replaced the battery when it died last year. I replaced the DVD/CD player when it died a couple of months before the battery. I upgraded to Snow Leopard (b/c my 2006 OS was REALLY out of date). But, the OS will not allow for the next upgrade, and everything has slowed to a dull crawl. Additionally, the fan/cooling system is failing. And I cannot justify spending another few hundred dollars to replace that. So, it’s time I admit that my poor girl is on her last leg, and accept my Windows laptop as the reigning computer in my home. I have researched and researched and could NOT find any information on how to transfer my beloved iTunes library from a Mac to a PC. YOU are appreciated!

    Question – my external hard drive has been used as my Mac back up (TimeMachine). Can I still use it to transfer my iTunes library to my Windows laptop?

  • dave
    Posted at 1:14 pm November 16, 2013
    dave
    Reply Author

    Hello,
    Your instructions were very clear and I was so excited to finally be able to move my library from my 10 year old mac G4 to our lovely new home pc. Unfortunately, the G4 is too old to recognize when there’s a modern external hard drive connected, so I’m unable to copy my precious tunes over. My next step is to see if there’s any software that allows me to plug my mac-formatted ipod classic into the pc and convert it that way. Ive found a few things on the net that may work. Technology can be so frustrating! Thank you though, finding your site has given me a glimmer of hope that these things can be done!

  • Vicky
    Posted at 2:31 pm December 24, 2013
    Vicky
    Reply Author

    When I go to my mac hard drive and try to find my itunes music folder and library under the music folder it isn’t there. Where else could it be? Did steps one and two. Stuck on step 3. Old desktop mac by the way 10.4.11 i think. Wish I could just afford a mac laptop but too expensive. Help please.

  • Jeff
    Posted at 1:28 pm February 8, 2014
    Jeff
    Reply Author

    THANKS!!!!! 2014 and I’m finally giving up on my old MAC – just because Apple gave up on keeping it updated and safe – too bad for it’s an old work horse. Went smooth, the .itl is very important!!! (Great heads up) Thanks again, and everyone, keep up all the great help!

  • Alyssa
    Posted at 7:00 pm August 11, 2014
    Alyssa
    Reply Author

    I’ve followed all of these instructions to a t and am having the worst time. I’ve got a new HP Pavilion laptop with Windows 8, a Mac Mini, and a Seagate drive compatible with both Windows and Mac. I got all the way to the very last step and thought I had succeeded. When I clicked on a song to play it, it gave me an error message about how it couldn’t play because “the original file could not be found”. Can someone PLEASE help me with this? I have a little exclamation mark with a circle stuck next to each song. Please help! I want to jump off a cliff.

    • Desire
      Posted at 7:49 pm December 28, 2014
      Desire
      Reply Author

      I got the same problem as Alyssa, somebody PLEEEASE help me here I’m stuck.
      So frustrating!

    • David
      Posted at 10:13 pm February 1, 2015
      David
      Reply Author

      did you find a solution? I’m having the ‘!’ issue too

  • Larry Beck
    Posted at 4:19 pm December 11, 2014
    Larry Beck
    Reply Author

    Hello,

    I try to move my iTunes music folder onto my new PC and it’s telling me that a file name is too long, but doesn’t tell me which file! If it wasn’t for work, I’d never switch.

  • fuck
    Posted at 7:59 pm January 1, 2015
    fuck
    Reply Author

    that would have worked if my pc recognized my external hd

  • Richie Rich
    Posted at 12:36 pm September 28, 2015
    Richie Rich
    Reply Author

    I’m stuck on Step 4. Snow Leopard won’t let me copy the music files to the external hard disk I just bought. I’m assuming I need to reformat it for Mac but if I do so, will Windows 8.1 be able to work with it? Thanks!!

    Richie Rich

    • Richie Rich
      Posted at 12:31 pm September 29, 2015
      Richie Rich
      Reply Author

      Sorry, goofy question, I reformatted it to FAT32 and it works fine, now I just have to figure out my other problems to get it to work. I

  • Richie Rich
    Posted at 3:40 pm September 28, 2015
    Richie Rich
    Reply Author

    I finally figured out that external drive needed to be formatted for FAT 32, but the movies did not come over and most of my music won’t play even though I added the .itl extension to the iTunes Library file. When I tried to play a song, it said, itunes could not find the file and did I want to locate it. I linked one song and when I linked it, I was asked if I wanted to link the others, and I did but it still won’t link over 300 song:( Four hours working on this so far…

  • Richie Rich
    Posted at 9:47 am September 29, 2015
    Richie Rich
    Reply Author

    The album covers didn’t come over either.

  • Rob
    Posted at 3:18 pm October 1, 2015
    Rob
    Reply Author

    I found that selecting all the songs in iTunes and “Convert ID3 Tags…” to V2.2 fixed problems with the Artist and Album names.

  • Ben Mordecai
    Posted at 1:57 pm April 23, 2016
    Ben Mordecai
    Reply Author

    Six years later, this is helpful. Holding shift while opening iTunes was the key insight

  • Pk
    Posted at 5:37 pm October 22, 2016
    Pk
    Reply Author

    I am stuck at right click – .itl
    Do i just change the file name or? Please advice