Most online tutorials make use of iTunes’ ability to burn data disk for music backup jobs. This requires that you have a CD burner and available blank media. This short tutorial requires that you either a.) have an external HD (or iPod) or b.) a second computer to use as temporary storage. If you decide to use an external HD, make sure that it is large enough to store your whole music library. Following this tutorial will allow you to transfer your Window iTunes collection to another computer while retaining your playlists, smart playlists, song ratings, play counts, and last played dates.
Right off the bat I’m going to say that this particular tutorial will be most useful for Windows users that allow iTunes to keep their libraries organized. It was written under the assumption that your iTunes preferences “Keep iTunes Music folder organized” & “Copy files to iTunes Music folder when adding to library” are checked under the Edit > Preferences > Advanced tab.
The first step is deciding whether you wish to use an external HD or a second computer as a temporary host for your music collection.
If you’re going to use your iPod as your external HD, plug it into your computer and wait for iTunes to startup. You need to enable iPod disk mode if it isn’t already enabled.
In order to keep this tutorial short I’m going to assume your Google skills can help you to get your computers networks. Hint: ICS (Internet connection sharing). There’s always the comments at the bottom for questions.
Create a new folder on your external HD or in the Shared folder on your second computer. Name it something like ‘iTunes Backup’. Next, go into ‘My Documents’ > ‘My Music’. Inside the ‘My Music’ folder you’ll find the iTunes folder. All you have to do is copy that whole iTunes folder to your external HD or Shared folder. The iTunes folder contains your complete music library as well as two important files: iTunes Library.itl and iTunes Music Library.xml
This next step is optional. If you would like to backup your iTunes preferences, which would eliminate the initial setup questions after a new iTunes install, follow these next steps:
Right-click on the Start button and select ‘Explore’. In the ‘Tools’ menu, select ‘Folder Options’. Select the ‘View’ tab. Under the ‘Advanced Settings:’ tick ‘Show hidden files and folders’. Click ‘Apply’ and ‘OK’ at the bottom of the window.
Use the left column to navigate to Documents and Settings > Your Username > Application Data > Apple Computer > iTunes. In the iTunes folder you should see a ‘iTunes Plug-in’ folder and a ‘iTunes.pref’ file. This .pref file contains all your preference settings for iTunes which is what you want to copy.
That’s all there is to it. The only thing left to do is to install a fresh copy of iTunes. Download your copy from here and run the installer. At the end of the installation run iTunes once ignoring the import wizard and close it. Then drop the iTunes folder and files exactly where you initially found them. When you fire up iTunes the second time your playlists, smart playlists, ratings, play counts, and last played dates will be right where they’re supposed to be.
As usual, feel free to leave questions below if needed.