Transportable iTunes and iPhoto libraries

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Reader Cedric would like to carry his iTunes and iPhoto libraries with him. He writes:

I have two Macs: a G5 desktop in my studio and a MacBook Pro for taking work on the road. I keep all of my iTunes music and iPhoto photos on an external hard drive, which is plugged into the G5 desktop. I’d like to take the hard drive with me on the road so I can listen to music and view photos with my MacBook Pro. How can I set it up so that this hard drive will work interchangeably with both computers?

You need only look at your options—specifically, the Option keys on your Macs’ keyboards. When you hold down the Option key and launch either iTunes 7 or iPhoto you’ll see a dialog box that allows you to create a new library or choose an existing library.

How you make this work for each application differs slightly. With iTunes, attach the hard drive to your desktop G5, choose iTunes > Preferences, click the General tab of the General preference, and click Change to set the location of the iTunes library (you’ll want this to be a folder on your external drive). Enable both the Keep iTunes Music Folder Organized and Copy Files to iTunes Music Folder When Adding to Library options. If you currently have tracks in the iTunes folder on your internal hard drive, choose Advanced > Consolidate Library to copy those tracks to the external drive.

Once you’ve got the iTunes library configured to within an inch of its life, travel to youruserfolder /Music/iTunes and copy the iTunes Library file to the music folder you’ve created on the external hard drive. When you then attach the external drive to the MacBook Pro, hold down the Option key when you launch iTunes, click Choose Library, and navigate to the iTunes Library file within the music folder you created.

A couple of notes:

In order to play any purchased music or videos, both computers must be authorized with your iTunes account.

What I’m describing is a scheme where you’re not mucking with iTunes library while on the road—you haven’t caused your library to go out of sync between the two machines by adding music tracks and videos and you’re not overly concerned about play counts and last-played issues.

As for iPhoto, it stores its database file right along with your pictures so you needn’t worry about copying a library file between computers. Place your iPhoto library on the external drive (either by copying the iPhoto Library folder from its present location or by creating a new one with the Option-launch procedure). Then launch iPhoto with the Option key held down, click Choose Library, and navigate to the location of your iPhoto library on the external drive.

More notes:

When you use the Choose Library command, iPhoto remembers the location you chose. If that library is unavailable the next time you launch iPhoto (because an external drive isn’t connected, for example), iPhoto will prompt you to choose an iPhoto library rather than default to a particular library as iTunes does. Plug in that external drive, click Choose Library, and navigate to the iPhoto Library folder you created on that external drive, and you’re good to go, regardless of which computer you’re using.

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