iTunes library tip

February 20th, 2007  |  Tags:

Sorry if this is obvious: I had wanted to try this for a while, but wasn’t sure it would work. It does, so I’m writing about it.

I was running out of disk space on my notebook, with often-hilarious consequences. (It should not be surprising how poorly most modern operating systems deal with having absolutely no free space and needing to page.) The most obvious advice OmniDiskSweeper gave me was hard to take: well over a third of my disk was devoted to music and photos. I chose to ignore this advice and the law of diminishing returns for as long as possible, deleting other random files, archiving infrequently-used documents, and so on, but I grew tired of having to decide what to trash before running some experiments.

I rejected as “too nerdy,” “too inconvenient,” or “too expensive” the options of storing my music on a networked file system (WebDAV, AFS, or Samba were all contenders); setting up a DAAP server and “sharing” from home (probably over an ssh tunnel); using Amazon’s S3 service as paid-for network storage; or buying a new internal notebook drive. Instead, I took the plunge and moved my iTunes Library to an external drive. I don’t haul the drive around, I just keep a selection of music on my iPod. It works pretty well and was reasonably easy; I am documenting the steps I took because there are a few things that may save you some time if you want to do the same.

  1. First, I plugged in my iPod and set it to “manually manage songs and playlists.” This is important, since I want to be able to plug my iPod in to charge it even when the external drive is not available, and I don’t want some overzealous syncing to erase my music. I ejected the iPod.
  2. Then, I needed to copy the music to the external drive. This was easy: I just changed the library location in the iTunes preferences to point to a folder on the external drive and selected “consolidate library.” (“Consolidating” your library moves all music files to the library folder specified in your preferences.) Now I had two copies of my iTunes library: one on my notebook drive, and one on the external drive.
  3. Because I have some paid-for downloads (and a bunch of ripped personal CDs that would be a massive pain to re-rip), I made another backup to a different disk before I wiped out the copy on my notebook.

It works pretty well, actually. If you haven’t tried this yourself, you may be pleased to learn that it’s possible to use the iPod as a music source from within iTunes — so if you’re at a desk most of the day, you can leave the iPod docked and just listen to its music on iTunes. There are only a couple of drawbacks:

  • Having to manually manage playlists is sort of a pain. (related: Having to remember to eject the iPod is sort of a pain.)
  • My iPod is not nearly large enough to hold all of my music. (It doesn’t do photos, so I don’t have to worry about those.) This is not a huge problem, but it does mean that I’ll need to devise some strategy so that I don’t listen to the same 13gb of music exclusively for the rest of my life.
  • As far as I can tell, it’s not possible to burn CDs directly from the iPod in iTunes. This means that I will be less likely to burn throwaway CDs to play in the car. This is probably not a big deal.
  • To actually sync my iPod, I need to daisy-chain it off of the external drive.

All told, I think these are reasonable tradeoffs.

I’m currently listening to Backward from the album “Memories Of The Future” by Kode 9 and The Spaceape