The great iTunes library migration of 2009

Last week, I finally got fed up with the constant pain of bumping up against the disk size of my MacBook Pro. The largest chunk of space on the 120Gb drive was the ~35Gb taken up by my iTunes library. It was time to move it.

Moving out, making space

I’d previously thought about moving all of my music to the network and serving it out of daap-server on Ubuntu. The issue is that I sync my iPhone with the MBP and therefore I want my music library available locally, rather than streamed. I have a smart playlist which randomly selects about 7Gb of stuff from my library, leaving room for my apps, podcasts, and photos in the rest of the 16Gb space on the iPhone.

The thought of moving my iTunes library has just been such a painful one that I’d been putting it off for ages. I finally found a really good guide to the subject that reassured me, though – I could move the bulk of the library to another drive, and iTunes would still “work” (in the sense of enabling me to rip more, or download new podcasts) even when it was disconnected. I’m not going to go into the steps in detail here, read the iLounge guide to Transferring your iTunes Library – but it was basically a case of attaching a big external disk, changing the location of the iTunes library in the preferences, and Consolidating it; then deleting the local files on the internal drive.

Once all ~35Gb of music, video and podcasts was safely relocated, I decided to try something else. I unplugged the external USB drive, and attached it to my Airport Extreme base station. It appeared as an Airport Disk (with the same name as it had as a local disk) on my desktop. I started iTunes, and… hey presto, It Just Worked. So I now have my main iTunes library on my home network, visible to the iTunes application when the MacBook is on the same network, and can sync my iPhone when I’m there.

Time to rip

Once I’d finally made space, and also got the library into a location with room to breathe, I decided to make a start on something I should have done a long time ago. Up until now, I’d ripped CDs randomly according to when I wanted to hear particular albums or tracks… now, it was time to systematically get the whole collection into digital format.  Plus, I don’t actually own a stereo / hifi with a CD player anymore, so the only way I’m consuming music is through the computer. There are about 500 CDs to rip, so this is an ongoing project.

A few people asked on Twitter what format I’m going for. Purely on the basis of convenience and accessibility of format, I’ve decided to go with high quality MP3 rather than OGG, AAC or FLAC. I know MP3s will pretty much play anywhere I might choose to put them. Sorry to the audio aficionados.

Bumps in the road

There are just a few things which continue to mildly bother me:

  • If I’m not on the home network, iTunes reverts to a temporary/default (local) library location. I tend to Sleep the Mac rather than shutting apps down, so if I go home and reconnect to the network, I have to remember to close and restart iTunes for it to pick up the “proper” library location… otherwise it continues to point itself at the internal location. Selecting “Consolidate Library” by accident when the library preference points to the local disk can have bad consequences (it tries to copy everything back from the external disk to the internal one!)
  • iTunes has a weird relationship with album art. It can find some, but not others… does it depend on what is in the iTunes store? I’m partway through the D section of my CD library right now, and in general the rippage has been fine, but none of the Beatles or (oddly) Def Leppard albums have album art that iTunes can find. AllCDCovers.com (and, sometimes, my scanner) to the rescue!
  • There’s another, smaller iTunes library on a Thinkpad that I’d like to be able to merge in. I’ve seen some third-party tools which can apparently do merges and retain play counts and ratings, and also do duplicate checking… I need to look into those.

Generally though – really happy with how this has worked out, and I wish that the solution to my full disk problem had been more obvious some time ago. Now I have some disk space to play around with iMovie 09 🙂

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6 responses to “The great iTunes library migration of 2009

  1. The only comment I’ll make on the choice of format is that with MP3 you can never re-encode to something better. You are stuck at the bitrate you choose.

    Who knows, in the future you might have a nice Linn hi-fi that shows up the compression in your MP3s rather more than an iPod does. Or some whizzy-do super-format comes along that eclipses MP3 and AAC in the quality/size stakes.

    For that reason I chose to rip to FLAC and simultaneously encode a version of the FLAC file to a VBR MP3 which went into iTunes. This was easy to do with an automated workflow consisting of Max and XLD. The FLACs are archived off (disk is cheap)

    One thing is for sure, even though all my CDs are boxed up and in storage, I definitely don’t want to ever go through that exercise again.

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  2. Hi Andy,

    Do you still buy CDs? Or do you just download? What are your plans for the CDs you have?

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  3. I do still buy CDs, but mostly when “the price is right” / on offer, and I also download stuff (I have an eMusic subscription, and also use 7digital and Amazon… or sometimes iTunes if I can get something DRM-free). I guess the plan for what I have is to store them away!

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  4. The latest version of iTunes lets you see other iTunes libraries on the network and share the music. Most importantly it lets you see just the tracks that you don’t already have in your library. I use this to merge in tracks from another library.

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  5. I had a similar problem lately when my external hard drive, containing my music, suddenly gave up. There’s no easy method of moving to a different location without losing your metadata (ratings etc.).

    I solved it my manually editing the iTunes library file (XML).
    http://vastlife.net/tech/moving-your-itunes-media-library-without-losing-its-meta-data/

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  6. Pingback: Back to my Mac, aka Lionification | The lost outpost

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