Moving an iTunes Library Without Using iTunes

May 6th, 2010

AppleThe nice thing about Apple products is that they’re easy to use. Apple is the master of user interface design. The bad thing about Apple products is when you need to do something they don’t expect you to do. Case in point: I moved my iTunes directory to a different hard drive, removed the old hard drive, and then expected everything to work.

I was able to change the directory in iTunes, no problem, but my library still thought most of the songs were on the old hard drive. I figured I could export the library, make changes, and then import it, but I was wrong. You can export via iTunes, but you can’t import—go figure…. After some investigation, I found the “iTunes Music Library.xml” file (a text file) and changed its entries to reference the new drive. That didn’t work either. After launching iTunes, it un-did the changes.

I learned that iTunes stores the library information in a file named “iTunes Library.itl”, which uses a proprietary binary format and cannot be easily edited. The XML file is generated from the library.

A web search found the linked article, which discusses how to restore an iTunes library from the XML file. The secret is to replace “iTunes Library.itl” with an empty file. iTunes will then recreate the library from “iTunes Music Library.xml”.


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