How to Transfer Your iTunes Library to a New Computer (Windows 10)

Updated on March 1, 2020
Bill Yovino profile image

Bill has been an information systems professional for more than 20 years. He enjoys writing about cooking, local history, and technology.

iTunes to Windows 10: The Easy Way

I bought a new laptop that had Windows 10 installed and spent a day and a half transferring programs, photos, etc. from my old laptop to my new laptop. The last task was to transfer my iTunes music, something I expected to be rather straight forward, This turned out to be a daunting task, not because the process is difficult, but because most of the online how-to articles grossly over-complicate the issue. This method will preserve all of your play counts, ratings, and playlists.

Notes:

  • These instructions are for moving iTunes libraries from Windows (98, 2000, XP, 7) to Windows 10.
  • If you are moving between Mac and PC, these instructions aren't for you. Some very good videos on that subject can be found on YouTube.
  • The instructions may seem long and complicated, but that's because I've tried to detail every step so that a complete computer novice could do it. If you have more advanced computer skills, here is an overview of the steps:
  1. Use iTunes to consolidate the media files.
  2. Copy the iTunes folder to the new computer.
  3. Edit the "iTunes Music Library.xml" file to reflect the new file locations. (Windows10 uses a different folder hierarchy than some previous versions).
  4. Import the XML file.

Use an External Storage Device

An external storage device is the easiest and fastest way to transfer the files between two PC's. I bought a 1-terabyte (1000 gigabyte) external drive for less than $100. It made transferring many gigabytes of photos from the old PC to the new one really easy, plus it serves as a back-up for all of my media files (photos, music, movies, etc.). Alternatively you can use an inexpensive USB drive for this. You may have copy your files in batches if they don't all fit in one move.


Consolidate your files in iTunes.  (Click to enlarge)
Consolidate your files in iTunes. (Click to enlarge)

Consolidate Your iTunes Files

Your iTunes files may not all be stored in the same place if you imported music from CD's, other iTunes libraries, and the iTunes store. To make the transfer easier, we will use iTunes to consolidate all of the files into a single place. This will not move the files from their original locations, but will make new copies as necessary. If your old PC is running low on disk space, you may be prompted that there is not enough room to continue the operation. In that case you'll need to free-up some space and try again.

On your old PC:

  1. Start iTunes
  2. File / Library / Organize /Consolidate

Note: If you are managing multiple iTunes libraries on one PC, then perform these steps for each library. If you don't know if you have multiple iTunes libraries then you only have one and don't need to be concerned. Managing multiple libraries in iTunes is something an advanced user might do, as there is no direct way to do it within the iTunes software.

Locate the iTunes media folder on your old PC. (Click to enlarge)
Locate the iTunes media folder on your old PC. (Click to enlarge)

Create an XML File From Your Library

Newer versions of iTunes no longer automatically create the XML file. If you look at the above screenshot you'll see a file called "iTunes Music Library.xml". If it doesn't exist in your iTunes Media folder, you'll need to create it. In the iTunes menu select "Edit", then Preferences", then click on the "Advanced" tab.

Check the box that says "Share iTunes Library XML with other applications", then click "OK". The XML file will be created in the folder shown at the top of the screen

Copy the Files to the External Drive

Once you have consolidated the iTunes files, close the iTunes program and start Windows File Explorer. (Right-click the Start button and select "File Explorer")

Navigate to the iTunes media folder. This is the folder that holds all of the music and album artwork, not the folder that holds the iTunes program. If you have a standard iTunes installation, the media folder will depend on which version of WIndows you have.

If your old computer's Windows is earlier than Windows 7, the media folder will be under "Documents and Settings\(your login name)\My Documents\My Music\iTunes".

If your old computer is running Windows 7 or older, the media folder will be under "Users\(your login name)\Music\iTunes".

In my case, the iTunes media folder on my Windows 2000 computer was:

C:\Documents and Settings\William.Yovino\My Documents\My Music\iTunes

Copy the iTunes folder to the external hard-drive:

  1. right-click "iTunes", select "Copy"
  2. Navigate to the external hard-drive
  3. right-click the external hard-drive's name, select "Paste"
  4. You will see the progress of the copy operation. It can take 5 minutes or more depending on how large your iTunes library is. Once the copy operation has completed, you can disconnect the external hard-drive.
  5. It's a good idea to de-authorize your old computer so that it doesn't take up one of the five slots allotted by iTunes for sharing files. From the Account menu, select Authorizations, then Deauthorize This Computer. If your iTunes version is very old, from the Store menu, choose Deauthorize This Computer.(See http://support.apple.com/kb/HT1420 for more information on Authorizing and De-authorizing)

On to the New PC

The next steps assume that your new PC is properly set-up and connected to the Internet. If iTunes has not yet been installed, go to http://www.apple.com/iTunes/Download/ to download and install iTunes on your new computer.

Shut down the iTunes program if it is running.

Edit the file "iTunes Music Library.xml" (Click to enlarge)
Edit the file "iTunes Music Library.xml" (Click to enlarge)

Examine Your New iTunes Environment

We need to find out where iTunes expects to find its files on the new PC. Later we will edit a file and use the information we learned during this step.

Add one song to iTunes (any song will do): File / Add file to Library.

  1. Start Windows File Explorer (right-click the Windows icon on the bottom task-bar and select "File Explorer")
  2. Under "This PC", click on "Music", then open the iTunes folder.
  3. Right-click the file called "iTunes Music Library.xml" and select "Edit".(If the file isn't there, create one by following the steps shown above in "Create an XML File From Your Library")
  4. Look for the line that says "File://localhost/"
  5. Select the text from "C:/" to "iTunes/" In my case, I copied "C:/Users/Bill%20Yovino/Music/iTunes/"
  6. Copy the selection (hold down the Ctrl-key and press the letter "C")
  7. Close the edit window without saving.
  8. Open up Notepad and paste the selected text by holding down the Ctrl-key and pressing the letter "V". You will use this information in the next step.

Copy the Files to Your New PC

  1. Navigate to Libraries / Music /My Music / iTunes
  2. Right-click the iTunes folder and select "Delete"
  3. Attach the external hard-drive to your new PC.
  4. Navigate to the iTunes folder (from the old PC) on the external hard-drive.
  5. Right-click the folder and select "Copy"
  6. Scroll up and navigate to the "Libraries / Music / My Music" folder
  7. Right-click the "My Music" folder and select "Paste". You will see the progress of the copy operation. It will take 5 minutes or more depending on the size of your iTunes library
  • Important Note: Move the XML file to a different folder otherwise iTunes will delete it when you start it. (Thank you iTunes for continually changing things)

Finishing the Move

The last step is to edit the "iTunes Music Library.xml" file to reflect the proper location.

  1. Use Windows Explorer to navigate to the XML file that you copied from your old computer in the step above.
  2. Right-click the file "iTunes Music Library.xml" and select "Edit"
  3. Find the "File://localhost/" text as we did earlier.
  4. Select the file location beginning at the "C:/" and ending at the "iTunes/". In my case it was "C:/Documents%20and%20Settings/william.yovino/My%20Documents/My%20Music/iTunes/
  5. Copy the text by holding down the Ctrl-key and pressing "C"
  6. From the Notepad menu, click "Edit" then "Replace"
  7. Paste the text into the "Find What" field by holding down Ctrl-key and pressing "V" (This is the text from the old PC that you just copied)
  8. In the "Replace with" field enter the text that we saved earlier. (This is the text from the new PC that you noted in the previous step)
  9. Click "Replace All". It will take several seconds to replace all of the occurrences. In my case, I replaced C:/Documents%20and%20Settings/william.yovino/My%20Documents/My%20Music/iTunes with C:/Users/Bill%20Yovino/Music/iTunes
  10. Close the Notepad session and save the results.
  11. Start iTunes. Select "File/Library/Import Playlist". Navigate to the XML file that you edited, select it and click "OK". The songs should now appear in iTunes. If not, recheck that you entered the correct information during the Find/Replace step.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2011 Bill Yovino

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    • Bill Yovino profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Yovino 

      3 months ago

      @AndreaB12. I'm glad you got it working and thanks for the feedback. You could change the filenames to make them shorter, but that would be pretty tedious in your case, unless you built a script to do them all programatically. iTunes gets the song title and other information from the file properties. Right-click the file and select Properties, and then the Details tab to view or edit them. You probably know that but I'm putting it here for reference.

    • profile image

      AndreaB12 

      3 months ago

      Thanks for your great tips. I have just completed the same process you went through transfering my large music collection to a new laptop. I had problems years before when I lost a disk and lost all my metadata in spite of trying everything I could think of, including editing the xml. I have a good working knowledge of databases and structures and I thought I would be able to master it, but itunes is a law unto itself!

      Anyway, importing the whole library in one go didn't work. I had two problems. One was my new media destination path was slightly longer than the old one and it made some of the paths of some tracks too long for windows.

      My collection is almost all classical music and you sometimes get track names like Beethoven: Symphony #9 In D Minor, Op. 125, "Choral" - 1. Allegro Ma Non Troppo. Violetta Urmana, Karita Mattila, Etc.; Claudio Abbado: Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, Swedish Radio Choir, Eric Ericson Choir (!)

      Another issue was that I normally buy and rip CDs but sometimes buy from itunes. The new version of itunes on my laptop wanted to re-download all of these and lose my play counts etc.

      I got around this by creating a playlist on my old pc of all of these tracks. Signing out of itunes store on my laptop and then importing this library separately. This mostly worked.

      So I had to start again and I decided to keep the media file at a higher level - i.e. c:\music. It's not ideal but it prevents problems with pathnames.

      I moved all the music to the new folder and then built playlists of up to 100 albums each on my old PC to import the library in parts.

      It took me most of today, but it's all there now. One extra problem was that itunes lost a lot of my album artwork for some reason so I have had to find and re-attach that.

      in all I lost the play counts from two tracks out of over 15,000. I call that success!!

      Thanks again for your detailed advice!!

    • Bill Yovino profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Yovino 

      3 years ago

      Are you sure you're saving the changes after the search and replace step?

    • profile image

      pip-pip 

      3 years ago

      Bill, when I do this and then open iTunes, it just replaces my edited xml path with the original path, ie the one from the old computer. How do I stop it from doing that?

    • Bill Yovino profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Yovino 

      3 years ago

      Hi Graves6188. You can use a USB drive, sometimes called a "Thumb Drive". You can get them almost anywhere and they are very cheap. I've seen 8 gb USB drives for five or ten dollars.

    • profile image

      graves6188 

      3 years ago

      Hi Bill, Is there any way to do the transfer without using an external hard drive? And yes, I am a true novice :)

    • profile image

      FrankieLloyd 

      4 years ago

      Bill,

      Thank you - awesome tutorial!

      Regarding what you mentioned on Easy Transfer (which is no longer available on Windows 10) - I've found another tutorial here that shows how to do an automatic transfer using some sort of Easy transfer replacement:

      http://www.zinstall.com/how-to/how-to-transfer-itu...

      Successfully transferred iTunes, music and a bunch of other programs.

      Hope this helps!

    • Ollswell profile image

      Ollswell 

      4 years ago

      A lot of good advice, I would only add that you should try running the app Song Sergeant to see if you still have any remaining missing/duplicated/etc problems after moving your library. It's free if all you're doing is looking for problems.

    • Bill Yovino profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Yovino 

      5 years ago

      Thanks, Lisa. I love hearing success stories.

    • profile image

      Lisa 

      5 years ago

      Thank you so much!!! This made my transfer of my iTunes library from Windows XP to Windows 8.1 so easy and stress free! I really appreciated this post and the detailed step by step instructions. Just what I needed :)

    • profile image

      Holly 

      6 years ago

      Hi Bill - This process has saved me much heartache and aggravation! Thanks for posting. However - I was still left with duplicates (sometimes triplicates) in my iTunes library. I guess I thought the consolidation step would get rid of duplicates? Anyway - it's not the end of the world and I've started the process of manually deleting the duplicates from my library. But if there's an easier method or anything else I should know - please share.

    • Bill Yovino profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Yovino 

      6 years ago

      Hi Tony. Yes, this method preserves all of the statistics. Good luck

    • profile image

      Tony 

      6 years ago

      I just bought a new PC with windows 7. My old system had windows XP. Your instructions are well laid out and very clear. Thank you for that. I will be using your method soon. Question though.... did your method preserve all the star ratings, # of plays, last played, etc?

    • Bill Yovino profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Yovino 

      6 years ago

      Glad it worked out for you and thanks for letting me know!

    • profile image

      Nass 

      6 years ago

      Thank you so much for resolving my massive problem! You are a hero.

    • Bill Yovino profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Yovino 

      6 years ago

      Mick W. thanks for taking the time to leave a comment. I love hearing success stories.

    • profile image

      Mick W. 

      6 years ago

      Bill, you are a star. I've just moved 3 user libraries from XP to Windows 8. All of my ratings on 3,800 tracks were still were there, which makes my playlists work......brilliant. Now I just have to work out why iTunes has included some MP3 tracks that I created for a phone, giving me duplicates, albeit that one is .m4a and the other is .mp3.....Thanks again.

    • Glenn Stok profile image

      Glenn Stok 

      6 years ago from Long Island, NY

      I had recently moved everything from a PC to a Mac. Apple has not made it easy to propagate an iTunes library from one computer to another, let alone among differing operating systems.

      Your instructions are very useful for anyone who wants to preserve the entire iTunes configuration. Even taking into account the issues with Windows 7's different folder hierarchy.

    • Bill Yovino profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Yovino 

      7 years ago

      Thanks for sharing. It makes me happy to hear success stories.

    • profile image

      Cathy L. 

      7 years ago

      Bill, Thank you, Thank you, Thank you for your helpful article. I was moving from my laptop win 7 to a desktop win 7 . I had a second drive in my laptop that had my itunes library on it and I put that drive into the desktop. I only used windows easy transfer for my c drive. After installing windows and iTunes on my new system, I used the WET program to put the stuff from my laptop onto the new system. Since the new system had a different name than the old one, I only had to edit the xml file to change the name part of the string. It worked like a charm. I have had problems over the past year with my laptop and have had to reinstall windows several times and always having to redo my itunes library. What a pain. This was the easiest part of the whole transfer. Thank you again for the great article.

    • Bill Yovino profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Yovino 

      7 years ago

      Love to hear that!

    • profile image

      Shane 

      7 years ago

      This worked for me too! Thanks for your post!

    • Bill Yovino profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Yovino 

      7 years ago

      Glad to hear about your success, and thank you for the feedback!

    • profile image

      Peggy L. 

      7 years ago

      It worked!!!!! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! I have been trying to get my library transferred to my new laptop for a year now and just got more and more frustrated every time. This worked and I am so happy. I now have music on my ipod for my workout. I have no excuses now. I cannot thank you enough!

    • Bill Yovino profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Yovino 

      7 years ago

      Hello Guy. Did you do the consolidation step on your old PC first? If not, you may be missing files when you made the copy. Make sure you copy the music files to the correct folder and edit the XML as appropriate. The %20 is just how the computer represents a space. so "Help Me" would be "Help%20Me".

      You need to change the song path in the XML to reflect the new file location, which is different than your old PC.

      If you're really stumped and want to start again, reinstall iTunes on your new computer, then go to the iTunes store and download a song. Then examine the XML file or use Windows Explorer to see where iTunes is storing the music files. That's where you need to copy your old music.

    • profile image

      Guy Norton 

      7 years ago

      I recently overwitten all my itunes playlists whilst uploading to a new PC. I have my original itunes library still intact on my old PC.

      I have copied the old library xml file over to the new machine but all I get are exclamation marks.

      My old PC my music was stored under itunes/itunes Music but on the new machine they are on itunes/itunes Media/itunes Music which is different. I have tried what you've suggested above and I have still yet to get rid of the exclamation points

      I don't really have any understanding of what the coding is in the xml files as the song paths aren't the same as listed folders above. Most of it makes sense but the added coding of the %20 is a mystery.

      Are you able to help?

    • Bill Yovino profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Yovino 

      7 years ago

      @Chris - thanks for the info!

    • profile image

      Chris 

      7 years ago

      Yup you can - but only once per year so it's worth not forgetting to preserve valuable slots! Good article, thanks.

    • Bill Yovino profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Yovino 

      7 years ago

      If you run out of slots you can always deactivate all of the computers via iTunes then re-add the appropriate ones. I've added a note about deactivating the old computer above.

      http://support.apple.com/kb/HT1420

    • profile image

      Chris 

      7 years ago

      No, you can't modify the list - you can only deauthorise a computer from that computer. So before you trash the old installation you should deauthorise it or you've lost your opportunity. Since you get 5 slots the worst that will happen is you've wasted a slot and now effectively have 4 slots available including the new computer. That may or may not present a problem depending on how you use your authorised slots.

    • Bill Yovino profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Yovino 

      7 years ago

      Good point, but like you said, you can always modify your list of active computers. Sounds like a good idea for another article!

    • profile image

      Chris 

      7 years ago

      Thanks, I will try this. You should also mention that it's a good idea to deauthorise the old computer before binning it, and then authorising the new computer once your steps are complete. If you forget it's no big deal but you'll be wasting one of your 5 authorised computers slots.

    • Bill Yovino profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Yovino 

      8 years ago

      Glad you found it helpful and thanks for the feedback.

    • profile image

      Dave 

      8 years ago

      Thank you sir for the very detailed instructions! Your's were the first I found that went in the XML changes, something I discovered while looking at the files before finding your artcile. You confirmed what I was thinking and everything was completed successfully. I now have 3 happy iTune'rs in my house... :-)

    • Bill Yovino profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Yovino 

      8 years ago

      Interesting question. I haven't tried it but it would probably work.

    • Angela Goodwin profile image

      Angela Goodwin 

      8 years ago from Southern California

      Great information! Just a thought though, is it possible to operate itunes within the external drive? If so it would be a huge help as I have an extensive library and need to free up some space on the laptop.

    • Bill Yovino profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Yovino 

      8 years ago

      @Peter - I've added a note above about trying Windows Easy Transfer first. Thanks for the comment.

    • Bill Yovino profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Yovino 

      8 years ago

      That's great! I tried the "Windows easy transfer" a few times but it didn't work for me. It ran for hours but didn't actually do anything. I think it depends on how your old PC is set up(content, privileges, anti-virus software, etc.), so it's hit or miss. I'm fairly happy with Windows 7, especially when it comes to setting up networking and printers, but I wish it would stop trying to "help" me by assuming what I'm trying to do and stepping in where it's not wanted. Glad the transition went smoothly for you.

    • profile image

      Peter Davies 

      8 years ago

      I have acquired a new computer with Windows 7. (the old one was XP).

      I left the transfer of itunes to the end because my Google searches suggested it was complicated.

      Having read your clear instructions my first step was to download the itunes software to the new computer. To my surprise when I opened it, it already had all my music, videos, apps, books etc.

      My old computer wasn't even set up to consolidate itunes files.

      What I had done (earlier in the day)was use the "Windows easy tranfer" software to transfer all my old files and settings to the new computer via an external hard drive. itunes had found the files even though the Windows 7 location for music is a bit different from XP.

    • Bill Yovino profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Yovino 

      8 years ago

      Thanks. I initially followed some instructions I found on YouTube, but they didn't work right (or I didn't follow them correctly). Then I tried what I've written here and it was much easier. In the process of writing this Hub, I performed the operation many times and now can do it very quickly. It's like many things in life, easier to do than to explain.

    • profile image

      RTalloni 

      8 years ago

      Looks like clear instructions. Thanks for sharing. Am glad to have this as a resource.

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