How to Move Your iPhoto and iTunes Libraries to an External Hard Drive

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Need More Space?

If you are like me you are always adding new content to iTunes and iPhoto. Well, this content has to go someplace, and that someplace is usually your hard drive on your Mac. Hard drives fill up fast, especially the ones that come with the computer. They are stuffed with applications, system files, documents, not to mention your iTunes and iPhoto libraries.

What happens if you run out of space? Why not be proactive and act before that happens? The best way to do this is to buy en external hard drive.

External hard drive usually come in two flavors: USB and Firewire. I tell people to buy USB because the future of Firewire is uncertain. I also tell people to buy as much space as you can afford. Keep in mind, you might want to get two drives of the same size. One drive for storage and the second to backup the data on the first. (backup is a story for another time)

I’m going to assume you can set the drive up and get it formatted and ready to go. Again, formatting is for another time.


Let’s start with your iPhoto library. Your iPhoto library can be found in your Users Folder under your Username. In that folder you want to go into the pictures folder. In that folder you will find an icon labeled “iPhoto Library.” Click and drag this icon over to the new hard drive. The library will be copied. Depending on the size of your iPhoto library and how many pictures you have this could take a long time. It might even be something you want to do overnight or when you have other work to do.

OK. The transfer is complete and you are ready. Open iPhoto while holding the “Option” key. This will present you with a window asking about your library. Select the option to choose the library. Do not create a new one. Another window will open where you have to navigate to the library on the hard drive. Double click that icon.

If all went well, your photos will start to populate iPhoto. Quitting iPhoto should remember the new location of your library.

Over time you will want to delete the original iPhoto library file off of your computer to regain that space. However, I would wait a few weeks to make sure everything is working with that new library.


iTunes is a little trickier than iPhoto and I learned the hard way. First you want to go back into your users folder and copy the entire iTunes library to your new drive. Once again, this can take time.

Once that is complete open iTunes while hold the “Option” key and “Shift” key at the same time. Notice the extra key for iTunes. The same type of window asking what you want to do will pop up as it did for iPhoto. Select the option to choose your library.

Yet again iTunes gets a little tricky. iPhoto stores all of you data and photos and movies in its library. iTunes does not. iTunes stores the media apart from the library. However, it is still the “iTunes Library” file you are looking for inside the iTunes folder.

DO NOT DO WHAT I DID AND change the media folder location in the iTunes preferences. I did that before I learned the key command. Most of my music transferred, but games, app, movies, and more were a mess.

Once you find the library file double click and you are done.

Just like the iPhoto library you’ll want to delete the old iTunes folder off your computer in time. For now keep it where it is, just in case.


I can’t say it enough, but make sure you have a second drive to backup those two libraries on the external drive. I recently had three external drives die in 3 months. Luckily I had one final drive backing everything else. I don’t know what I would have done if I had lost everything.

If you have any comments or questions leave them below.