I want to open an iTunes library I created a long time ago (2012, 10.8 Mountain Lion) in Catalina’s new Music.app. Option-clicking Music.app gives me the option to open a pre-existing library, but when I navigate to its location in the file requester, there’s no .itl file to select. There’s an .xml file, but it’s greyed out.

I assume the library was created before .itl files existed and not opened up with a newer version of iTunes since, and hence not been updated. How do I open this library in Music.app?

  • How old is old? Up to about El Capitan you could rebuild the itl from an xml; since then not. Apple made the xml simply a 'spare' for 3rd parties, rather than the master file it used to be. idk when the itl came to be originally, but it was certainly there at Yosemite - see apple.stackexchange.com/questions/163594/… for how you used to be able to get iTunes to import.
    – Tetsujin
    Commented Sep 8, 2020 at 7:29
  • also - apple.stackexchange.com/questions/293764/… these methods may not work any more [I cannot test Catalina as I don't have any Mac capable of running it] I used to be good at this stuff, but I'm out of touch these days, unfortunately :/
    – Tetsujin
    Commented Sep 8, 2020 at 7:31
  • The most recent modified date of any of the files in the directory is Jun 2012, so Mountain Lion, 10.8? Thanks for the above tips. There’s a chance I’ll be able to open it from a Mojave machine, we’ll see if that does anything. Commented Sep 8, 2020 at 8:07
  • Ahh… I really don't know from back then, I don't think I started splitting my library until later - for many years I kept a Mac & PC in sync manually, which is where I picked up all these [now outdated] tricks. I do get the feeling you'd have to find some half-way stage - a VM with maybe El Cap or even back as far as Yosemite which could transition one format to the other, but I honestly don't know precisely which OS or iTunes version would allow you to do that… or indeed whether it would be worth the effort.
    – Tetsujin
    Commented Sep 8, 2020 at 8:11
  • Argh. I don’t care much about play counts or anything, but I do a little bit about album art. I guess that’ll all still be there in the Caches/Downloads directory. But this is substantially old/obscure (to iTunes) stuff that it won’t necessarily know much about. Commented Sep 8, 2020 at 8:14

2 Answers 2


I believe the xml was for 3rd party support. The library file you want may not have an extension if you can't find an iTunes Library.itl file.

However, if your your goal is to just move the music and some of the meta-data about the tracks, then try drag and drop:

  1. Open Music in one half of the screen (for reasons that will be obvious later, it makes it a tiny bit easier to put the Music app on the right side of the screen).
  2. Open a Finder window in the other half using list, icon, or gallery view (this works in column view but isn't as easy to describe the process).
  3. Find the folder in the old library that has folders named for the artists (these contain the album folders which contain the individual tracks).
  4. Select on artist folder, it doesn't matter which one.
  5. Press ⌘A to select all. All artist folders should be selected. (If you don't want to move all the artists, then move just the artist folders you need; it starts getting more complicated if you want just select albums or tracks, but it can be done, as well.)
  6. Drag any folder, all selected folders should go with it, to the Library section of the Music sidebar (it should get an outline around the Library options when your pointer is over the right spot).
  7. Drop the files and Music will make a copy in the current Music directory.
  8. You might have some duplicates now, so File > Library > Show Duplicate Items (not all items here are actually dupes, make sure the meta-data is exactly the same; sometimes Music/iTunes can't tell the difference between two different versions of the same track).

If the old iTunes library is still on the local drive with the Music library, it now has dupes of all the tracks you copied so you might consider removing the old library. But, wait until after you have a Time Machine backup of both sets and you're sure that everything you copied is in Music.

SSL. I wanted extra details for other users who may not have as much experience with using Finder and/or drag and drop.

  • The iTunes library I want is on a NAS and I wanted to open it in-place rather than adding its contents to my main iTunes/Music.app library. I know I could create a new library and drag the tracks into there but I’ve had poor success with this in the past. Every time you drag a duplicate song name (live vs studio version, for example) the whole process stops with no indication of where you got up to. Commented Sep 8, 2020 at 5:31
  • I thought might not be the right solution for you. If you drag by artist folder it should avoid the "perceived dupe" issue. I've never had an issue with this method and I do have several versions of the same song by the same artist.
    – D. Geren
    Commented Sep 8, 2020 at 17:31
  • You could also set up a new user just for this library (and if its an admin, it can help with other issues you might come across later). Plus, with fast switching it would be available to you easily. Add in a cloud service to move individual tracks from one account to the other easily... Again depending on your end goal, there is likely a work around (also depending on how much work you're willing to put in).
    – D. Geren
    Commented Sep 8, 2020 at 17:34
  • Or, once the new user has a working new-version library, move that to the NAS and use it to import to the preferred user. As Phil Hartman once said, "[He] gave me several options." : )
    – D. Geren
    Commented Sep 8, 2020 at 17:51

I ended up option-opening Music and creating a new library in a directory on the same drive as the existing iTunes library. Then I unchecked “Organise music” in prefs and “Add[ed] to library...” all the files in the old library. Took a while, but worked.

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