Merging Multiple iTunes Libraries Using a Mac

Making a single itunes library from many a simple processDigitally, I have cleaned up my act with two GLARING exceptions: Multi-Media and Photos.

For years I’ve had multiple iTunes libraries, backed up from multiple machines on multiple external drives. Basically, it’s been such a mess that I quit using iTunes and all my media contained therein. I could never find what I wanted, but I found what I didn’t want multiplied with duplicate copies. Grrrrr…

I’ve used iTunes for many years, and let’s just admit that the first attempts at music management were less than perfect — especially from the data management side of things for power-users of multiple machines with varied OS systems. I’ve tried to consolidate in the past. The result has always been even more duplication and additional itunes folders. With that said, I’ll also have to admit that it’s dramatically improved since I first looked at iTunes with a critical eye. So, I decided to tackle one of my remaining behemoths… my iTunes media files, folders, podcasts, music, movies, TV series, audiobooks and whatnot.

It took a great deal of time, but I transferred all the iTunes libraries over to one external drive (with the exception of the library on the machine I was using to do the cleanup — which was my iMac). I had nearly three terabytes of iTunes stuff in duplicate, triplicate and so forth. Yep, you read that right… TERABYTES. I used a three terabyte drive with two terabytes of iTunes stuff on it and ignored (initially) nearly another terabyte on my iMac’s hard drive.

Steps to Merging itunes folders and contents on a Mac

  1. I created a fresh new folder on the external drive. I called it “iTunes Consolidated” because I lacked any sense of creativity as I started this process, yet again.
  2. Open iTunes.
  3. Go to the “iTunes” button in the menu and select “preferences” and go over to “advanced” and check the boxes in front of “Keep iTunes Media folder organized” and the “copy files to iTunes Media Folder when adding to the library” and select the library to be your brand new “consolidated” file folder.
  4. Go to “File” button, drop down to “library” and slide over to the “Organize Library” option and click it. From the pop-up box, check the boxes in front of “Consolidate Files” and the “Reorganize Files” option. If you don’t have the “Reorganize option” because it’s grayed out, that’s fine… your Mac has already done it for you. Close the window by pressing “OK.”

**NOTE** (Now, this means that there will be COPIES of the music and media files in the consolidated folder, leaving them ALSO in their original location. That’s ok, bear with me and continue on…)

Once the computer-based library finished copying over to the “Consolidated folder” I deleted the files from that location (be careful not to remove these files):

  • iTunes Library
  • iTunes Library Extras.itdb
  • iTunes Library Genius.itdb
  • iTunes Library.xml

Then, go to “File” and “Add to Library” and navigate to your first duplicate iTunes Folder. Hopefully, yours won’t be “nested” as mine were in several cases. As soon as the second library is copied over, delete it and move to the third. Rinse and repeat.

**NOTE**This approach assumes that you want a single location with all your music and media files. Don’t delete the source files if you want to keep the songs in more than one location. Also, be sure to empty the trash in between each set of files to prevent data overflow. The computer still sees those files until you empty the garbage and they will continue to take up space on your hard drive. Also, don’t “secure empty” because it takes WAY too long to empty that way for a slew of huge media files.

When you are finished and all your media is in the new consolidated file and all the source files are gone! Yay!

If you have duplicates and a BUNCH of them, like I did, invest a few bucks in this little script: Dupin Lite. It costs less than the more powerful tools, but does the basics — finding the duplications (based on the criteria you set in filters) and purges them from your files.

I deleted over a thousand duplicates in seconds that would have taken me hours by hand. Worth every cent! (I used Name, Artist, Album, Size and Sample rate). This prevented deletion of “live” versions of the same song and the same studio recordings that were included on albums like movie soundtracks and “best of” albums.

In the near future, I’ll be transferring this folder — along with all my other data files — to a file server that I can access from anywhere (the Honey Badger is setting this up!) and from any OS. Then, no matter which device I’m using, I’ll be accessing the same original files, adding more music to the same files, and (hopefully) will never have these media file nightmares again! Yay!!!!

When I regain my gumption, I’ll figure out how to handle the other files I’m still working to completely organize: ebook files and photos in particular. 🙂

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