How to Point iTunes to an External Hard Drive

By Techwalla Contributor

If you enjoy digital media, chances are you have an extensive collection of videos, podcasts, movies and music. The smartest way to protect your downloaded gems is to store them on an external hard drive. That way, if your computer’s primary drive fails, you won’t lose your multimedia library as well. Learn the simple procedure for configuring iTunes to save your files to an external hard drive.

Step 1

Verify that your external hard drive is formatted correctly. On a Windows PC, you’ll want to make sure the hard drive is formatted for your operating system. Most external drives are pre-formatted for Windows, unless the drive is specifically sold for use on a Mac. If you buy an external drive and you want it to work on both a PC and a Mac, use the disk utility application and format the drive in MSDOS.

Step 2

Launch iTunes and change the location of your iTunes library once your external drive is formatted. On a Windows PC, click “Edit,” “Preferences” and then click the “Advanced” tab. Go to the “Preferences” window and click on the “General” tab. Click the “Change” button. A pop-up window will open. Browse to the external hard drive. On a Mac, open iTunes and click “Preferences.” Click “Advanced” and select “Change.” Browse to your external hard drive and close the window.

Step 3

Once you have iTunes pointed to your external hard drive, it can get a bit tricky. You might think that you can just drag and drop your music to the external drive and iTunes will recognize it, but that’s not the case. If you do this, you may not be able to play your music, or iTunes may make duplicates of all your content. Instead, point iTunes to the external drive and then drag your complete library into iTunes – not the external drive.

Step 4

Go to the Advanced menu in iTunes and click "Consolidate Library"; then click on the "Consolidate" button and wait for iTunes to copy your music to the iTunes music folder. This could take a few minutes, so be patient.

Step 5

Press and hold down the "Shift" key (or the "Option" key on a Mac) as you start iTunes. Click "Choose Library..." when prompted and browse to the external hard drive. ITunes will now use the external drive for your library.