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For a long time I've kept a collection of MP3 files and other audio formats on a NAS device, organizing selected titles in iTunes but keeping the files off my system. Now, I'd like to copy them to my local system.

Dragging all the files to my "Music" folder is the obvious choice, but it made me wonder, what exactly is the difference between dumping a bunch of files into a sub-folder under "Music" versus just putting them in some random location within my home directory?

Are they indexed differently? Do apps see them differently? Or are loose (i.e. moving them around doesn't break anything) files in "Music" treated like files I have anywhere else?

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You can put the 'root' of the iTunes Media directory, "iTunes Music", where you like - though personally I prefer to keep all the actual database files in their original location & just move the song files themselves.
This is quite possibly the setup you currently have.

To move it anywhere else, the simplest way is to change the directory in iTunes prefs > Advanced to the new desired location.
Also check 'keep organised' & 'copy files to media folder'

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It's been a long time since I did this, so the next step may be automatic or manual - test to see.

Auto - when you OK that dialog iTunes will ask you if it can consolidate to the new locations; say yes.
Manual - if it doesn't ask, then from File menu > Library > Consolidate files to have it do the same manually.

This will copy all the song files it is currently keeping track of into the new location - & will then always use that location whenever you add new music.

Note that in my example above iTunes_Remote is the top level directory; inside it iTunes will then make the required folders for Audiobooks, Movies, Music, etc, as needed.

  • Thanks for the response. When setting up iTunes a while back, I unchecked the "Copy files to iTunes Media folder [...]" option since I didn't want duplicate files and I was used to organizing files myself. I think I'll let iTunes do it for me from now on. It appears that iTunes just ignores any files that are copied to the iTunes media folder manually with Finder. That's what I was getting at with my original question. – Google Fail Jun 12 '17 at 18:25
  • Yeah - consolidate will 'fix' it to start with, then 'keep organised will keep it 'fixed'. After that, once you've dropped new files to iTunes & watched them go through the import process, you can trash the originals. – Tetsujin Jun 12 '17 at 18:38
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Simple answer, there is no difference where a file is that will make it any different based on placement on the computer.

The reason you have a "Music" Folder on the mac is just for organization. An already created folder for you to easily place all your music in. Placing your music into the Documents, or Downloads folder will still make the playable by any Music player application.

However there is a benefit for having mp3 files in your Music folder because iTunes looks in that directory automatically for files to add to your library.

So to answer all your questions...

1) Are they indexed differently? Define 'indexed'.. They aren't treated differently if that's what you're asking.

2) Do apps see them differently? No, but iTunes does look in the Music folder for playable files and nowhere else on your system.

3) Loose files? Like I said above, any file anywhere on your system is still the same file 'type'. It doesn't matter where it's located. It doesn't make it something else due to placement. Again, those directories are intended for organization.

tldr; put them into your Music folder for iTunes to quickly find the files.

  • So, it sounds like the "Music" folder does serve a special purpose for iTunes at least. I wonder if other apps have similar behavior? – Google Fail Jun 10 '17 at 5:53
  • "indexed", adj., Made searchable by scanning contents and/or metadata – Google Fail Jun 10 '17 at 5:55
  • Sorry, I keep pressing enter before finishing my comment. It sounds like there's not much reason to care if I make use of the "Music" folder or not. If that's the community consensus then I'll accept the answer. By the way, I edited the answer to clarify what I meant by a "loose" file -- basically a file that's non-system, not part of an application, files I create or manage myself. – Google Fail Jun 10 '17 at 6:01
  • I'll update my answer a bit then – Jahhein Jun 11 '17 at 8:14
  • This is slightly misleading - it "looks in the Music folder" only because unless you change the default location, that's where it's told to look. As soon as you change the default, it looks there instead. – Tetsujin Jun 11 '17 at 8:46

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