I should preface this by saying if you haven’t invested any time creating playlists, added metadata (title, track, album, etc) to your songs and aren’t transferring purchased iTunes music to your Mac you can simply copy all your MP3 files over and import them. That being said I’ve spent many a nights with Fix Tunes (aka Tidy Songs) fixing my tags and wanted to retain that information..Hence the project and headaches start.
There’s several options to transfer your library from one computer to another. One option is home sharing in which you setup iTunes with your Apple account to share files between computers on your home network. This method seems to be the easiest and most straight forward. You setup the sharing, select all your files and copy everything. The only problem here is speed. My Mac connects to the network wireslessly which is to slow for my likes to be transferring large amount of files. Even with my modest 8 GB library, I was running out of patience with the transfer process.
The second option and the one I originally chose was backing up my library to disc (File > Library > Back Up To Disc). I’m a little surprised at Apple here as the only option is to burn discs. Which is odd, it would be much faster and not to mention cost effective to back to up to an external hard drive. Even so my library is only 8GB I figure 2 maybe 3 DVD-R’s and I’ll be set. Tip: if you have DVD-RWs (rewritable DVD discs) at your disposal you can use them instead of wasting DVD-Rs. As luck would have it I wound up trying to do the backup process 3 times because it kept failing and I couldn’t get it to work. Apple’s “suggested method” didn’t work. So, I had to hack a little.
I wound up using the method outlined in the Life Hacker article linked above. This method was a little more hassle but go figure a lot easier than Apple’s way of copying a library. After consolidating my library via iTunes I simply copied the whole iTunes folder to an external drive then copied it on to my Mac’s hard drive. Consolidating your library basically means that iTunes copies all of your music files to folders under iTunes’s folder in your music folder. After everything copied over to my Mac, I open the library.xml file in Smultron (a text editor) then used search and replace to change the file paths to reflect Mac’s paths to the music. This worked and retained all my information.
I probably should mention that you can also use your iPod as an external hard drive and copy all the data over that way. There is no real reason why I didn’t do it that way other than I have several external hard drives to use.
Another thing is I didn’t have to worry about any purchased content except for applications which were relatively easy to sync back to iTunes from the iPod once I authorized iTunes, I suspect the same will be true of purchased music, TV shows, and etc once you authorize your Mac with your iTunes account by going to Store > Authorize computer.
In conclusion I was really surprised that Apple hasn’t made this simpler. I should be able to take my iPod and plug it into a new computer choose sync and have it copy everything from the iPod to the new computer. I have no doubt in my mind that the process isn’t easier to prevent music from being freely copied but for a company that markets themselves on easy of use this project certainly wasn’t as easy as it could have and should have been.