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The Ill-Tempered Audiophool

How to guarantee iTunes will only use a library on an external drive, and not start a new one when it can't be found

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The problem:

iTunes by default creates its files in the user's home directory, in the Music subdirectory.

We like to keep everything on an external drive.

If, due to disk arbitration or any other glitch upon startup or login, iTunes does not see this external drive, it reverts back to ~/Music and starts creating stuff there. Moreover, if you re-load stuff, it will start moving and organizing on the internal drive under ~/Music.

The solution:

The one method I have found to be 100% effective is this:

Delete the iTunes subdirectory in ~/Music. (Make sure everything you want is still on that external drive). Hiding it, or sticking it in the trash isn't good enough. You have to wipe that thing clean off your internal drive.

Next, fire up the terminal, and make yourself a symbolic link as follows:

ln -s /Volumes/YourDriveName/subdirectory/iTunes   /Users/yourusername/Music/iTunes
Now it will always work. If the external drive is missing, unplugged, whatever, iTunes will simply fail to open, instead of creating a new library.

Updated 12-21-2014 at 11:57 PM by wgscott

Personal Blogs , computer


  1. phatoldsun's Avatar
    Can I do this if my Media Library is on a NAS? I have an SSD and I think it boots before my network drive connects, so I have issues frequently.
    All I have to do is put
    ln -s /Volumes/YourDriveName/subdirectory/iTunes /Users/yourusername/Music/iTunes
    (replacing with my drive location) in Terminal and that is it? Or is there more steps to create the Symbolic Link?

    Thanks for posting this BTW.
    Updated 12-21-2014 at 11:58 PM by wgscott
  2. wgscott's Avatar
    Yes, that is it, provided the NAS appears as /Volumes/YourDriveName

    The command

    df -h
    will show you the drives mounted.