Merging iTunes libraries

Seems a few members of our forums find merging iTunes libraries a little confusing. For example, one Edw tells a tale where his sister has two Windows computers. One needs a stern reformatting and reinstallation of Windows XP. This Edw eventually does, but before doing so, he backs up said sister’s data (including her iTunes library). When he returns the computer he discovers that his sister, with the help of her laptop, has purchased 300 new music tracks from the iTunes Store. How, he queries, to merge the two?

Second forum member, BobRenner, has two iTunes music libraries—one on his computer’s internal drive and another on an external drive. How, he asks, does he merge them?

Thankfully, neither situation is rocket science. In Edw’s case it’s simply a matter of taking the tracks from the laptop and moving them to the now-pristine Windows box. Provided that the Windows box is authorized with the same Apple ID used to purchase the tracks on the laptop, no problem, the tracks will play as they should.

There are many ways to move those tracks. If the two computers are networked, simply copy them across the network, launch iTunes, drag the files to the Library entry in iTunes’ Source list, and the files will be added to the iTunes library. Alternatively, burn the tracks to a disc as data (Preferences -> Advanced -> Burning -> Data CD or DVD), move the burned disc to the Windows box, and drag the files from the disc to the Library entry in the Source list. Or, if the sister has an iPod, sync the iPod on the laptop to copy the purchased tracks to the iPod, move the iPod to the Windows box, and let iTunes 7 import them. (A new feature in iTunes 7 will, with your permission, copy purchased tracks from an iPod to a computer authorized to play them.)

As for Bob, this is another fairly easy thing to do. As with Edw’s case, he could simply locate the folder on the external drive that contains his music files and drag it to the Library entry in iTunes’ Source list to add the files. But I might offer this variation. Choose Preferences -> Advanced -> General and uncheck the Copy Files to iTunes Music Folder When Adding to Library option. When you do this, iTunes will leave the files exactly where they are rather than copying them to the internal drive. Note that if you disconnect that drive and launch iTunes, iTunes won’t have a clue where the music files from the external drive are and when you try to play one of them, it will bear a small question mark icon and refuse to play.

This story, "Merging iTunes libraries" was originally published by PCWorld.

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