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I've got a large folder of music with lots of aliases to tunes that are spread throughout subfolders of the main tunes folder. For example I might keep the original files sorted by artist, and then have a folder for a genre with a bunch of aliases to tunes (or folders of tunes) for that genre, like a playlist.

Now that I've got a new laptop how can I transfer the whole folder without breaking the aliases?

I tried using the symbolic link options of rsync but that doesn't seem to work with OS X aliases.

BTW I'm not interested in replacing the aliases with a copy of the original, I really want to keep the aliases :)

Is this something Time Machine can help with?


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Is there a reason you can't use a metadata-based system (e.g. iTunes playlists) for this kind of organization? If someone told me they wanted to organize resources using symbolic links instead of metadata, I would warn them of the possibility of exactly the kind of situation you outlined here in your question. – Austin May 11 '11 at 21:59
+1. For Austin's comment. Also - just copying the aliases over should be sufficient as long as the directory structure is the same, no? – Harv May 11 '11 at 22:02
I use Ableton Live for DJing and it's really useful to have this kind of setup when digging through tunes finding something to play.. I could go in to detail about it but let's just say Live doesn't have a nice iTunes style metadata browser :) – mash May 11 '11 at 22:08
@Harv Hmmm maybe I'm breaking the aliases with the way I'm copying the folder to an external disk. I'll try again later with a direct copy.. – mash May 11 '11 at 22:13
@mash aaah okay. Innnteresting. Yeah, let us know how it works out. – Harv May 11 '11 at 22:15
up vote 3 down vote accepted

Aliases are not the same as symlinks.

Symlinks just point to a path (relative or absolute). Aliases first track the file's unique ID and then the path.

Since there are two pieces of information stored in an alias - they are more robust and will follow a file that's moved based on the unique ID.

Finder (or the very powerful ditto) are your best bets for moving aliases intact. Worst case you could use disk utility to make an image of a folder that contains everything needed as a subfolder and then move that to preserve the relative locations of the files and isolate the effects of a short name change (/Users/whatever) in case you wish to change that. Once the original mac is disconnected from the new mac - the aliases will reconnect as desired to location of the files on the new mac.

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Very interesting. Thanks. – boehj May 12 '11 at 9:17

I believe aliases will be handled correctly if copied through the finder, even to external media. If you are doing it through rsync you will probably have issues.


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