Using Multiple/External iTunes Libraries

This is an extension to our earlier article on how to create and link remote iPhoto libraries for those of you who have asked. Only this time, we’re teaching users how to create and link iTunes libraries.

This lesser disclosed trick is very useful for users who have limited internal hard drive capacity. Essentially it allows the user to create and link iTunes music libraries located on a remote hard drive.

It amazingly simple and for this tutorial we tested it using iTunes 7.6 Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard and Mac OS X 10.4.11 Tiger.

The Caveat

Before doing anything we have to include this caveat into this part of the tutorial:

iTunes is configured to create a default iTunes folder inside your Music folder within your Home folder – /Users/[your Home folder]/Music/iTunes.

You should NEVER attempt to manipulate files directly from within this folder, instead use iTune’s interface if you have to add, move or delete photos from your library. Messing with the iTunes folder may result in data loss and permanent corruption of your iTunes library altogether
Creating Remote iTunes Libraries

All that is required is for you to hold down the Alt/Option key as you click the iTunes icon to launch the application. If done correctly, you should then be greeted with a window that prompts you to either:

  • create a new iTunes Library or;
  • choose an iTunes Library



At this point, select “Create a new iTunes Library” if you are attempting to start a new iTunes Library, lets say, on an external hard drive. Navigate to the location on the external hard drive that you wish to start the remote iTunes Library in and click OK to tell iTunes to start creating the default file structure. You may also elect to name your iTunes Library something more colourful than “iTunes”.


Linking Remote iTunes Libraries

If you already have a remote iTunes Library then ensure that the external media you created your remote iTunes Library is connected to your Mac and select the “Choose an iTunes Library” function, navigate to the location on your external media where the remote library is situated, select it and click OK to tell iTunes to access the library.

You will immediately observe iTunes displaying the tunes in the order that it was last left (including albums which you may have created) on this remote library. Any changes or additions to this library will occur and remain saved in this working iTunes Library.

If you happen to like to toggle between remote and local iTunes Libraries than you may see the window prompting you to create/link an iTunes Library, when you launch iTunes, once the external media has been removed. This is a normal occurence because iTunes remembers the file path to the last iTunes Library that was accessed during the last session of iTunes. If you want to use the local iTunes Library, simply select the “Choose iTunes Library” function and direct iTunes back to the local iTunes Library which is by default located at /Users/[your Home folder]/Music/iTunes.

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