My iMac has a 1TB internal hard drive, and 300GB is allocated for Windows 7 using BootCamp.

Of the 700GB, right now the space remaining is only about 20GB, and I do hope to create a new partition and install Mountain Lion on it (or install Lion on it and upgrade the current Lion partition to Mountain Lion).

Since the majority of hard drive space use is:

/Users/mike/Music/iTunes/iTunes Media/iTunes U        270GB
/Users/mike/Music/iTunes/iTunes Media/Movies           70GB

and since Mac OS X is UNIX and can create a "soft link", how about creating a soft link (using the Terminal app) using:

ln -s "/Volumes/My Passport/Movies" "/Users/mike/Music/iTunes/iTunes Media/Movies"

and the same for "iTunes U", so that two soft links are created, and they point to the external hard drive ("My Passport", which is a WD 1TB drive).

I probably will do it by rebooting the system, move the Movies folder from the internal drive to the external drive by Finder, using drag and drop, and then create the soft link, and then do the same for "iTunes U", and then create the 2 soft links, and start up the iTunes app and see.

Is this actually a good practical solution by creating a soft link like that? In a way it is like fooling the system to go to the external drive and can there be any side effect?

  • Having portions of your library go missing when your external drive isn't connected when you start iTunes is not something iTunes was designed for. In my experience apple products work great, but only when you use them exactly as they were intended. That being said, iTunes seems to be able to play a track once you restore the underlying file without restarting the app, however messing around with the library is dangerous and could easily become unrecoverable. – errant.info Oct 1 '13 at 1:31

It's a better idea to copy the iTunes Media folder to your external hard drive, then go to iTunes Preferences > Advanced tab and change the iTunes Media folder location to the one on your external disk.

You can also move the library file itself (in ~/Music/iTunes/ on my system), but I don't recommend doing both at the same time. There're other questions around here that go about explaining how to use a different library location.

To more-directly answer your question, I don't know of any downsides to using symlinks, but that's because I've never done it. I have done the approach I described here and it's generally better to avoid going behind an app's back if you can.

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  • aha, yeah, it may be hard to say unless you have tried it and used that for a few months... supposedly, the "soft link" should be "transparent" -- the app should not know whether it is real physical folder or not – nonopolarity Aug 24 '12 at 22:18

I tried many techniques and the symlink is the one I prefered for my library located on a NAS. Using any of the copy techniques, with auto-mounting and the like, you will eventually run into the situation where the mount or NAS is temporarily unavailable for X reason, and iTunes will reset its media folder location. You will then have media in two locations. With the symlink, it will at least throw an error at startup.

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  • I symlinked my Podcasts directory to a NAS, and received no error on startup when the directory was not accessible because the disk wasn't mounted. iTunes started downloading new podcasts into Downloads/Podcasts/$podcast.tmp automagically and now I can't consolidate those new downloads! As @cajunluke suggested, "it's generally better to avoid going behind an app's back if you can". – errant.info Oct 1 '13 at 1:24

Or you could switch iTunes libraries at will by holding during iTunes launch. This will give a dialog where you can select another library location, or create a new Library. I use this all the time.

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  • so we have have multiple libraries, that's interesting... yeah another thing is, what if we have an iTunes library in an external hard drive, then can 2 partitions, one with Lion and one with Mountain Lion, share this library... say, if both have the same version of iTunes, which really belongs to another question – nonopolarity Aug 25 '12 at 16:33
  • Another question: yes, probably. But I can’t see why it would not work, if the version is the same. – myhd Aug 25 '12 at 18:29

Yet another method is, I found, is that

  1. Just go to iTunes -> Preferences and the last tab and change the folder to an external drive, such as "WD 2TB"
  2. Now, go to iTunes's Music or Movies and choose any file or files and right click and choose "Consolidate File".
  3. The file will copy from the old location to the new location.
  4. Follow the usual step of deleting the movie / song file from your boot drive. (the ones that you consolidated)
  5. Empty Trash of the Recycle Bin.

Now your system boot disk will have more space because the file has been moved over to the external drive.

If iTunes can even let you choose to verify the files (that are moved properly, by comparing the original and copied files), and then automatically delete the original files, it will be even more perfect.

A related technique (I am using iTunes 11.0.2):

  1. If you moved any movies to the external hard drive "WD Passport" before, then you can right click in iTunes and choose "Play Movie" for the movie that was moved. (moved by Finder's file moving mechanism, not iTunes's)
  2. iTunes will say "cannot find movie", but would you like to locate it. Answer Yes.
  3. Now, you can type in part of the movie name, such as "Iron" for "Iron Man", and wait 1 second, and choose the search option of "Search for Iron in Filename", and then make sure you click the main window's "Search this: Mac", (as opposed to search in a particular folder), now choose the movie file, which is usually at least 1GB or larger.
  4. iTunes will ask you, found, and would you like iTunes to search for other missing files near that location? Answer Yes, and iTunes will automatically add files that you moved from the boot drive to the external drive.

That's why Apple products are usually a work of art.

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This is the usual way I'd do it on a mac. I've done it a few times and it seems to work well. You can use the technique described by CajunLuke above, but I prefer to do it the way you've described. It keeps the location of the actual library out of iTunes control (and knowledge) and makes it easy to move it multiple times. It also means you can move the whole folder rather than just the media folder.

I've also been able to keep my music on one drive and my movies on another with iTunes treating it all as the same library. I don't think iTunes can do that, but by setting up the appropriate symlinks it just works.

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