Click and drag.
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Are you on a mac or a pc?
For Mac, open a finder window (click on the hard drive icon or on any folder), find the "Music" folder on the left and click on it.
Open the "iTunes" folder
Open the "iTunes Music" folder
Select all of the folders you want backed up inside that folder. Drag those onto the hard drive icon either on your desktop or inside that finder window.
Perhaps some other helpful person can provide PC instructions?
If you are using Windows XP, and assuming your library is in the default location ("My Music"), click the "Start" button and then "My Music." Single click the iTunes folder you will see, so that it is highlighted. When you do that, a link will appear on the left that says "copy this folder." Click that, and in the box that appears highlight the entry corresponding to the external drive. Then click "copy."
You can also accomplish the same thing via "My Computer" (in a similar manner) or "Windows Explorer" (by clicking and dragging, as was suggested above). If you are not particularly knowledgeable about computers, though, I would not recommend using Windows Explorer (which is located under Start/All Programs/Accessories), because a slip of the mouse can cause folders to be moved to unintended locations that may not be immediately evident.
Neal - there are 2 pieces that you might be moving. There is a folder (iTunes Music folder) that contains the songs, There is also a file (iTunes Library) and some other associated files that contain information about the songs and your settings. You can copy either the folder containing the songs themselves or the library files or both. If everything is in My Music, moving the entire folder will move both the library file and the music folder. Until you point iTunes to the new library file and the new music folder, it will use the original ones. To tell it about a moved library file, hold down the shift key when you start up iTunes. It will let you browse in order to locate the library file on the external drive. Once you set a new location for the library file, the new location will stay until you change it. To specify the new iTunes Music folder which contains the music files - go to Edit, Preferences and select Advanced. There you can set the location of the iTunes Music folder. Good luck.
Dtc's answer is more to the point if you want iTunes to keep track of your library with minimal problems. I've found dragging and dropping stuff and then telling iTunes to find it can lead to some potential problems, especially if you just isolate the music folders and do a drag-drop. You're potential for problems is worse if you are moving WAV files as iTunes carries all the tags for those files within other files and links to them in a different way than the meta-tags used for other codecs (this is how I understand it and I have run into problems moving WAV files around). Do the copying and changing within iTunes to reduce your headaches - that's been my experience at least. Good luck.
Thanks to all. I used Almarg's instructions and they worked, but I am now wondering if I am missing something. I am not sure I understand the difference between the iTunes music folder, which is what I copied to external HD, and the iTunes Library, which I don't think I did. What is the difference, and is it better to copuy the Library that the music folder?
My response was based on the assumption that what you wanted to do was to back up (create a duplicate copy of) all of your iTunes files (music and library), to protect against the possibility of failure of your internal hard drive, software corruption, etc. Some of the other responses addressed a different goal, re-locating your iTunes music and library to the external drive (so that iTunes would actually play each selection from the external drive). Let us know which of these alternatives you are trying to accomplish.
Also, note that my instructions were to copy the folder called "iTunes," which is a top-level folder within "My Music," not "iTunes Music," which is a sub-folder of "iTunes." By copying the top-level iTunes folder you would be simultaneously backing up both the library files and the music.
As was noted by one of the others, the library files contain information about the music, which among other things is used to provide the entries (name, artist, composer, etc.) that you see in the listings that appear when you open the iTunes program.
My goal is both to back up iTunes songs as well as be able to play them from external HD, e.g., through USB connection to DAC, as well as burn discs from external HD.
I have to check whether I copied iTunes or iTunes Music.
Synthfreek, where is Consolidate Library function located?
Thanks for your help. Every time I think I am reasonably adept with computer I find I am not.