How to Transfer Your iTunes Library to a New Computer (Windows 7 or Windows 8)
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.
- 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:
- Use iTunes to consolidate the media files.
- Copy the iTunes folder to the new computer.
- 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 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:
- Start iTunes
- 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.
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:
- right-click "iTunes", select "Copy"
- Navigate to the external hard-drive
- right-click the external hard-drive's name, select "Paste"
- 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.
- 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.
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.
- Start Windows Explorer (right-click the Windows icon on the bottom task-bar and select "Open Windows Explorer")
- Navigate to the Libraries/Music/My Music/iTunes folder
- Right-click the file called "iTunes Music Library.xml" and select "Edit"
- Look for the line that says "Music folder"
- Select the text from "C:/" to "iTunes/" In my case, I copied "C:/Users/Bill%20Yovino/Music/iTunes/"
- Copy the selection (hold down the Ctrl-key and press the letter "C")
- Close the edit window without saving.
- 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.
- Use Windows Explorer to navigate to the Libraries / Music / My Music / iTunes folder
- Right-click the file "iTunes Music Library.xml" and select "Edit"
- Find the "Music Folder" text as we did earlier.
- 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/
- Copy the text by holding down the Ctrl-key and pressing "C"
- From the Notepad menu, click "File" then "Replace"
- Paste the text into the "Find What" field by holding down Ctrl-key and pressing "V"
- In the "Replace with" field enter the text that we saved earlier.
- Click "Replace All". It will take several seconds to replace all of the occurrences.
In my case, I replaced
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.
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© 2011 Bill Yovino