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How to Transfer Your iTunes Library to a New Computer (Windows 7 or Windows 8)

Updated on October 8, 2016
Bill Yovino profile image

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

iTunes to Windows 7 or 8 - The Easy Way

I bought a new laptop that had Windows 7 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) to Windows 7. Users have reported that these instructions also work for Windows 8. (I don't know if this will work with Windows Vista, as I've not tried it.).
  • 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.
  • A reader commented that Windows Easy Transfer successfully handled this process for him and eliminated the need for this procedure. Windows Easy Transfer didn't work for me so I can't confirm whether it's a viable alternative or not, but I think it's worth trying first.
  • 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. (Windows7 uses a different folder hierarchy than previous versions).



Use an External Hard-Drive

Windows7 comes with a utility to copy files from an old PC to your new PC over a network, but I couldn't get it to work. An external hard-drive 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.)


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)

Copy the Files to the External Drive

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

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 be under "Documents and Settings/(your name)/My Documents\My Music\iTunes.

In my case, the iTunes media folder is

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 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 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.

  1. Start Windows Explorer (right-click the Windows icon on the bottom task-bar and select "Open Windows Explorer")
  2. Navigate to the Libraries/Music/My Music/iTunes folder
  3. Right-click the file called "iTunes Music Library.xml" and select "Edit"
  4. Look for the line that says "Music folder"
  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

Navigate to Libraries / Music /My Music / iTunes

Right-click the iTunes folder and select "Delete"

Attach the external hard-drive to your new PC.

Navigate to the iTunes folder (from the old PC) on the external hard-drive.

Right-click the folder and select "Copy"

Scroll up and navigate to the "Libraries / Music / My Music" folder

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


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 Libraries / Music / My Music / iTunes folder
  2. Right-click the file "iTunes Music Library.xml" and select "Edit"
  3. Find the "Music Folder" text as we did earlier.
  4. Select the 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 "File" then "Replace"
  7. Paste the text into the "Find What" field by holding down Ctrl-key and pressing "V"
  8. In the "Replace with" field enter the text that we saved earlier.
  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 and verify that it's working properly. If it isn't, recheck that you entered the correct information during the Find/Replace step.

Other related articles:

© 2011 Bill Yovino

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    • profile image

      Tyler mason 8 months ago

      Lost a file? Don't be upset.

      Just use "KrojamSoft FilesSearch"

    • Bill Yovino profile image
      Author

      Bill Yovino 10 months ago

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

    • profile image

      pip-pip 10 months 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 image
      Author

      Bill Yovino 11 months 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 11 months 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 23 months 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 2 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.

    • radharenu profile image

      radharenu 2 years ago from India

      Great hub with clear instructions. Thanks for sharing. Here is a good hub on related subject-

      http://www.the-tech-addict.com/how-to-transfer-mus...

    • Bill Yovino profile image
      Author

      Bill Yovino 3 years ago

      Thanks, Lisa. I love hearing success stories.

    • profile image

      Lisa 3 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 3 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 image
      Author

      Bill Yovino 3 years ago

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

    • profile image

      Tony 3 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 image
      Author

      Bill Yovino 3 years ago

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

    • profile image

      Nass 3 years ago

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

    • Bill Yovino profile image
      Author

      Bill Yovino 3 years ago

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

    • profile image

      Mick W. 3 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 4 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 image
      Author

      Bill Yovino 4 years ago

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

    • profile image

      Cathy L. 4 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 image
      Author

      Bill Yovino 4 years ago

      Love to hear that!

    • profile image

      Shane 4 years ago

      This worked for me too! Thanks for your post!

    • Bill Yovino profile image
      Author

      Bill Yovino 4 years ago

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

    • profile image

      Peggy L. 4 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 image
      Author

      Bill Yovino 4 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 4 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 image
      Author

      Bill Yovino 5 years ago

      @Chris - thanks for the info!

    • profile image

      Chris 5 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 image
      Author

      Bill Yovino 5 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 5 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 image
      Author

      Bill Yovino 5 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 5 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 image
      Author

      Bill Yovino 5 years ago

      Glad you found it helpful and thanks for the feedback.

    • profile image

      Dave 5 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 image
      Author

      Bill Yovino 5 years ago

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

    • Angela Goodwin profile image

      Angela Goodwin 5 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 image
      Author

      Bill Yovino 6 years ago

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

    • Bill Yovino profile image
      Author

      Bill Yovino 6 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 6 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 image
      Author

      Bill Yovino 6 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.

    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 6 years ago from the short journey

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