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How do I backup my music from iTunes?

iTunes has fast become the most popular software for organizing and playing music on our computers. It does a fantastic job with organisation, however it can be a little bit complex when it comes to actually finding the files on your computer if it hasn’t been set up quite right.

We frequently are asked why iTunes music hasn’t been backed up, first off it is important to understand that iTunes is a piece of software - it simply reads music files such as MP3’s and AAC’s, these files are not actually in iTunes, they reside somewhere on your computer.

If you have bought music from iTunes it is highly likely it has been stored on your computer at C:\Users\Username\Music\iTunes\iTunes Media however, if you have ever altered the settings in iTunes you may have changed the default location where iTunes stores music.

Music files in other locations on your computer (i.e. Desktop, My Documents, Downloads) could potentially be accessible in your iTunes Library, it is very easy to think the files that are displayed in the iTunes library are all in the same place on your computer, this might not be the case.

For example, let’s imagine you have:
- Downloaded 5 music albums via iTunes, which are now stored in the ‘iTunes Media’ folder
- Have copied 5 albums from CDs, to your computer’s ‘Desktop’

You then proceed to play all 10 albums through the iTunes application. Realizing you have just listened to ten of the greatest albums ever, you have a sudden urge to back them up. You think to yourself; This is a no-brainer—since I listened to all the albums through iTunes, I’ll select the ‘iTunes Media’ folder in BRAND (such as C:\Documents and Settings\username\My Documents\My Music\iTunes\iTunes Media) and that will take ensure these albums are backed up.

You’d be wrong in thinking this. The file sources are different, you see, and so you’d only be backing up the albums you had downloaded via iTunes. You may have used iTunes to view and listen to the 5 albums you copied from CDs, but they’re located on your Desktop. (C:\Users\username\Desktop—not in ‘iTunes Media’)

Fear not though, this does not mean you need to work out where all this music is on your computer in order to ensure it is all backed up. That would take a long time, luckily iTunes has some features that make consolidating all your music very easy.

Consolidating your music library is carried out through iTunes:

1. Open iTunes
2. Press ALT (This displays the menu bar)
3. Select Edit, Click Preferences
4. In the preferences window click the Advanced tab
5. Tick the checkboxes to Keep iTunes Media folder organised and Copy files to iTunes Media folder when adding to library
6. Click OK

This will now ensure that when anything is added to the library it is added to the iTunes Media folder, thus consolidating all your music into one location on your computer. Depending on the size of your library iTunes may take a while completing the consolidation.

This will now mean that there are copies of music files in the original location and in the iTunes media folder, therefore there will be duplicates across your computer that you may wish to clean up. Within iTunes you can find out where files are located by right clicking on them and selecting Get Info from the context menu.

Clicking Get Info will display more information about a track or album and specifically where it is located on your computer.