How to get iTunes to take over your music files

iTunes has two different ways to deal with files on disk – adding a file can either create only a reference to it in the library, or iTunes can copy the it into a central folder where it’ll be managed for you. Both methods have their fans and their detractors, but I’m in the process of switching from referenced to managed, because iTunes 9 got a new, much prettier, folder structure and I’m tired of micromanaging this stuff.

The approved way to convert your library is to select “Keep iTunes Media Folder Organised” and “Copy files to iTunes media folder when adding to library” in the ‘advanced’ section of iTunes’ preferences. Then you select the ‘File.. Library.. Organize Library’ menu item and tell it to copy all your media files into the new library.

I don’t want to to this, I don’t want 2 copies of everything, and I don’t have the disk space anyway. To do this the easy way (on the Mac, anyway),

  • Move all your media files into the new library folder. You have to keep them on the same volume or the iTunes references will get lost. If you want the new media folder on a different volume, you’re stuffed, but you’d have to copy them anyway so why are you here? How they’re laid out on disk inside this folder doesn’t matter.
  • Deselect “Keep iTunes Media Folder Organised” in advanced preferences.
  • Restart iTunes.
  • Reselect “Keep iTunes Media Folder Organised”
  • Click the ‘Change’ button next to the Media Folder location in advanced preferences, and click ‘Choose’ to re-select the current folder. We’re not actually changing it, we just want to pretend we did.
  • Click Ok.
  • Watch iTunes happily re-organise all your files.