I have my entire music collection on an external HD which I connect to my network through a direct USB connection with my Apple base station. I'm finding that iTunes struggles to load the library (43,000 files - some of which are hour long podcasts/mixes etc) and I've also purchased TuneUp to tidy up my music collection, but given that iTunes struggles to load in the first place, this avenue isn't even worth considering right now.

Does anyone have suggestions on how I might improve the setup? What connection between the base station and the external HD would give the best result?

It isn't practical to connect the drive directly to my PC as I'm using a laptop for my main machine, plus I'd like for the setup to work when I'm not at home so my partner can use her iPad or iPhone to browse/play the music.

UPDATE: The iTunes Library is on my machine running Windows 7 as opposed to on the external HD.

  • Please describe how you have iTunes set up...is the library database file on your PC or on the external HD?
    – Phil M
    Commented Jul 31, 2011 at 4:26
  • Updated with the details you requested. (UPDATE: The itunes library is on my machine running Win 7 as opposed to on the external HD.)
    – richfort
    Commented Aug 2, 2011 at 22:25

4 Answers 4


You've done the most important optimization available by placing the database files (the iTunes library files) on the local drive. If you had that on slow storage (and Airport Extreme is in the slow category as far as network storage) then I could see you having slow launch times.

Even a library with 70,000 items stored in it should only have an iTunes Music Library.xml file that takes about 120 MB of space which should load in less than 10 seconds unless your PC is really bogged down with other tasks on the CPU.

The actual size of all the media doesn't affect the application launch time as it only has to parse the library files and not check each and every file before you can start using the program.

I would look at tuning up the PC or speeding up the filesystem where the library files are and see if that results in better app performance.


Your library is uncommonly large. Split your library into several smaller libraries, organized by content, and switch between them, or find a replacement for iTunes that is designed to work well with the size of your library. See this link for instructions:


I can tell you from personal experience that you shouldn't have any loading problems with a library containing 8000 items (wirelessly from your laptop), so consider splitting your library into 5 or 6 separate libraries if you plan on sticking with iTunes.


I have similar problems and found the following workaround: iTunes keeps the path to its music/mediafiles in the preferences/advanced. However, when it cannot access that path, e.g. while you're away from home (or the external drive is down for any reason), it resets that path to point to the local hard disk on your laptop! I find that very annoying, because it urges me to manually reset the path AND will make iTunes updating the entire library accordingly. The latter takes for me at least 10minutes each time. I asked Apple a couple of times already but without result.


Unfortunately (and disappointingly), even the newest 802.11ac Airport Base Stations only support USB 2.0 on their built-in ports. I know it's not a huge deal for most, as USB 5.0 is 5x faster than what most people would experience over the gigabit LAN port, however it's still 2x faster than what you'll get over USB 2.0.

I'm in a similar situation, I have a second Mac Mini hard-wired into my 802.11ac Airport Base Station, and it pulls 568 movies off a 3 TB USB 3.0 external drive which is shared via the router.

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