I have two Macs -- on usually at home and one carry around. I'd like to keep my music, movies, iPhone apps, etc. on an external drive so that I can always use the same library regardless of which machine I'm at.

I bought a 1 TB external drive for the purpose.

On my first Mac (the one that stays at home one) I went to settings > advanced and set the iTunes library to the external drive. A long filesystem operation ensued. Afterwards, iTunes on that machine seemed to be playing TV shows from the external drive as intended because I could see the drive activity light flashing when I played something. Also, when I try to play something and the drive isn't connected iTunes complains that it can't find the original file. So I think that part is all good.

However, when I plug the external drive into my other computer, launch iTunes, and go to Preferences > Advanced and set the iTunes media folder location to the external drive, none of my media is visible in iTunes.

How can I get iTunes to "see" the media folder on the external drive and play stuff from it and acknowledge the apps that are stored on it?

Mac OS 10.7.2

iTunes 10.5.2

Any help would be greatly appreciated.



2 Answers 2


You're missing the "Library". The media folder contains the actual audio files, but you need a library pointing to it. The 1st approach is, move everything and make all the iTunes open the same library.

Won't work because when Machine 1 opens the Library.xml, it locks it. Bummer. But turns out that there's a way to do it, if you're willing to involve Dropbox and some patience, check the link but for reference, the idea is:

  1. Move your entire iTunes folder to your home network drive.
  2. Copy the iTunes library (database file, XML files) to your Dropbox folder
  3. Create an alias of the network drive’s iTunes Music folder and place it in your Dropbox folder. Be sure to rename it to iTunes Music (remove the word “alias”). Create an alias of the Album Artwork folder, too. If you skip this step, whenever you import music to your library, it will be copied to your Dropbox folder instead of your network drive. The aliases ensure iTunes places all new library items on the network drive.
  4. On each Mac, configure iTunes to use the library file located in the Dropbox folder. Do this by holding option on your keyboard when clicking the iTunes icon in your dock. You will be prompted to choose an existing library or create a new one. Click “Choose Library” then navigate to your iTunes database file in your Dropbox folder.

You can now access your iTunes library on each Mac without using Home Sharing. iTunes will behave identically on each Mac; you can add music, edit playlists, and sync your iDevices without Apple’s usual restrictions.

There are a couple of Caveats and Gotchas, so check the link for more information.

Or you could just do what I did… get iTunes Match and enjoy a simple easy to use environment. I am really happy the way it works, the caveat is, of course, you will be using bandwidth (or needing it) to stream/download a song. So if you have no connectivity, you can't listen (you can always have one or more machines with a copy of the songs, I have my "master" machine with the 90GBs of music locally, but the Macbook Air and iPhone 'stream' on demand). The other caveat is that if you "save" local tracks (you can), then you're effectively duplicating your copy. But hey, you can remove/download as you please, as long as it's in the "cloud".

Finally, iTunes Match is for music, so for videos and such, you will have to use Home Sharing (with the annoyance that it's "read only" for the connecting computers), but for music, you can buy/add from any authorized device… and you need to be in a country that supports it (and willing to pay 25 dollars/year). :p


If you move the library files to your hard drive as well as the actual video and audio files to the hard drive you will be able to connect multiple computers to the library.

Note that you MUST tell the computer where the library files are located. To do this, you launch iTunes by holding alt while you click the icon. You will get a menu asking if you would like to Quit, Create, or Choose a library. Select Choose Library and the drive where you moved the files to. That's it.

iTunes will recognize the library files and allow them to be used. Note this does not allow more than 1 person to simultaneously use the files. For that, use Home Sharing. But if you wanted to connect your 2nd Mac to the same library (for example a laptop that you use on the road), connect the drive and again launch iTunes with alt held down to select the library.

I've been using this method for the past year without any problems, but note that if you don't allow the drive to be mounted before you try to use iTunes, it will try to create a new library on the local hard drive. But you can again bypass this by holding alt when you launch iTunes (so you could, for example, have a few movies on the local library and a 2nd library on the external drive with all your files).

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