Regardless of which iOS device you own, central to your music experience is a well organized music library. In our continuing series, we’ll help you manage, organize and get the most from your music library. Our previous guides should have helped you clean your iTunes library by fixing artwork, removing duplicates and tagging your MP3 files. You’ve labored through the process and have a pristine collection of music that will serve you for your years to come or at least until your hard drive fails. That is, unless you have a back-up plan in place. While I cannot stress enough the importance of backing the contents of your computer, today let’s focus on how to backup your iTunes library.
Regardless of whether your are on a PC or Mac, you music can reside within an iTunes folder or in some cases on different parts of your computer. The latter can be problematic, since the goal here is to back up the folder that contains all of your media. Thankfully, you can easily make this change and here’s how:
- With iTunes, select iTunes > Preferences > Advanced. On a PC, select Edit > Preferences.
- Make sure the box next to ‘Keep iTunes media folder organized’ is checked. This places files into album and artist folders with User/Music/iTunes/iTunes Music. )
- You’ll also want to check ‘Copy files to iTunes Media folder when adding to library’.
Part of being organized is having all of your files neatly filed within one folder. Checking the above two boxes does just that and could save you from the heartache of misplacing or losing files.
Mac Back-Up Solutions
If you are using a Mac, the easiest way to back up all of your data is with Time Machine. If you are currently using Time Machine with an external hard drive, your iTunes folder is being regularly backed up. If you aren’t using Time Machine or simply want a folder to folder backup of your iTunes library, here are a few solutions. They will all require a removable USB drive, which can be found at Amazon, Staples or Best Buy for around $60 and up.
Carbon Copy Cloner
Carbon Copy Cloner is one of my favorite Mac apps and what I use to back up all of my data. For the purpose of creating your backup, you can download it for free, taking advantage of the 30-day trial. A full license costs $39.95 if you decide to use it on a regular basis past the 30 days.
- Connect your USB Drive to your Mac.
- Open Carbon Copy Cloner
- Under ‘Select a source’, choose Folder
- Navigate to User/Music/iTunes
- In the right hand column, select your USB Drive as the ‘Destination’
- Click on the lock at the bottom right to allow CCC to make changes.
- Select ‘Clone’
Carbon Copy Cloner will now create a block-level disk to disk clone of your iTunes library. What’s great about this software as compared to Time Machine is the flexibility. You can take this drive and access it from any computer. Fast and easy access. If you are regularly ripping CDs into iTunes or purchasing music, you’ll want to set up a scheduled task. This way, without having to think about it, Carbon Copy Cloner will synchronize your iTunes library with your external drive.
Yet another product that can do similar backups and synchronization is ChronoSync. It’s also available as a free trial, with the full version available for purchase at $40. Using many of the tips I outlined, I spent months cleaning my iTunes library. While technically not a backup, I use ChronoSync to make a duplicate of my iTunes library on a Windows Home Server. Why does a Mac household have a Windows Server you ask? It’s the hub of a Mac mini media center. By using a server, my iTunes library is always accessible and I never have to worry about checking to see if my Mac is on or off. Anyway, that’s for another article. ChronoSync also offers a 30-day free trial, so you can compare it with CCC to see which works best for you.
I run Windows 7/8 at my home in BootCamp. My PC backups, if any, are done through Windows Home Server. I’m going to defer to PC Magazine who recommends Rebit 5 as their Editorial Choice for backup software. You can get a free 30 day trial to see if it meets your needs. If you do try Rebit, be sure to stop back and let us know what you think.
If you’ve taken the time to clean and organize your iTunes library, you’ll be rewarded for years to come. No duplicates, missing artwork and your tracks will be tagged correctly which is great for using services like iTunes Match. Having done all of that work, it’s vitally important to have a backup plan. While the focus of this article was how to back up your iTunes library, this should be part of a more comprehensive backup plan that includes Time Machine, regular full back-ups or using a cloud based service such as Crashplan or Carbonite. You’ve invested so much time and money into creating a pristine music collection. Take that next step to backup your media using suggestions we’ve outlined and you’ll never have to worry about losing your music collection.