Welcome to OS X: Migrating iTunes from PC to Mac

Welcome to OS X

So, you’ve just received your first Mac? Congratulations! You’ve been slowly building up to this moment for years: first using iTunes to manage your music, then an iPod or iPhone purchase, maybe even a MobileMe membership. Well you’ve made the transition and all is splendid. Now, we’ll show you how to get your iTunes data from the PC to the Mac.

First, you’ll want to consolidate your iTunes library. On OS X, by default, iTunes copies each song or video you add to iTunes into a central iTunes folder. This is not the case with iTunes on Windows. Fortunately, we can easily tell iTunes to consolidate its library manually.

Consolidate iTunes Library

Open up iTunes on Windows and go to File > Library > Organize Library. In the window that pops up, select the checkbox next to “Consolidate Files” and then press “OK.” iTunes will now copy all your media into a central iTunes folder, a process that can take a while depending on how much media you have and the speed of your hard drive.

Once that process is complete, you’ll have to make a choice on how to actually move your content. You can either use an external hard drive or a network connection between the Mac and the PC. We’ll cover both options, below. 

Transfer Content with an External Hard Drive

Obtain an external hard drive with enough capacity to store your iTunes content. If you’re unsure what size you’ll need, you can check the size of your iTunes media folder which, if you followed the consolidation steps above should be nicely packed inside the following folders:

Windows XP: C:\Documents and Settings\username\My Documents\My Music\iTunes

Windows Vista: C:\Users\username\Music\iTunes

Windows 7: C:\Users\username\My Music\iTunes 

Find the appropriate folder for your operating system and right-click on it. Select “Properties” and allow the system a moment to properly size the folder. The total size of this folder represents all your content, along with the iTunes database and other support files. Use an external drive at least as big as this number and you’ll be all set.

Next, plug the drive in to your PC and open it with Windows Explorer. In a separate Windows Explorer window, navigate to the appropriate iTunes folder (listed above for each operating system) and copy the entire “iTunes” folder to the external drive. This may take a while depending on the size of your library and the speed of the drive’s interface with your computer.

Once the copy is complete, safely eject the drive from the PC and connect it to your Mac. Once the drive mounts, open it in Finder. Next, in a separate Finder window, open your Music folder. Make sure that the iTunes app is closed and then delete the iTunes folder in your Music folder on the Mac’s hard drive. Please note that this will erase any music you already have on the Mac; this tutorial assumes that you are moving your music from the PC for the first time. Also note that the iTunes folder will only be in the Music folder if you’ve opened iTunes at least once. If you haven’t opened iTunes, you’ll see nothing there and you may skip to the next step. 

Once the Mac’s iTunes folder is deleted, drag and drop the iTunes folder from the external hard drive into your Music folder. Again, this may take a while depending on the size of your data and chosen interface.

Once that copy is complete, open up iTunes on your Mac and, after a brief delay while the software examines the library, you’ll see all your music, videos, and podcasts appear in iTunes on the Mac just as they were on the PC, including view types and playlists. You can now delete the iTunes folder on your external hard drive and eject the drive. 

Transfer Content with a Network Connection

This step will require that both the PC and Mac have an ethernet port. While it’s possible to perform a network connection via a wireless network, it will take significantly longer and is prone to greater chances of error over a hardwired connection.

IP Address

Using an ethernet cable, connect the Mac and the PC together. On the Mac, open System Preferences and then choose the Network preference pane. On the menu to the left, select the Ethernet interface and make note of the IP address, a series of numbers and periods, listed to the right. Jot that address down for later.

Enable SMB File Sharing

Next, go back to System Preferences and click on the Sharing preference pane. In the list to the left, select the checkbox next to “File Sharing” and then click “Options” on the right. In the window that pops up, check the box next to “Share files and folders using SMB” and then also check the box next to your user account name in the menu below, entering your user password when requested. 

Now, hop over to the PC. Using the Start Menu, choose or search for “Run..” and then type the following into the “Open” box: \\[IP Address]\[Home Folder Name] and press return. For example, in my case, my IP address was, so I typed: \\\Tanous.

If you have a password set up on your Mac, enter it when requested. If you have a nonstandard domain set up, the username and password box will reappear after pressing Enter. In this case, type “USERS\[Home Folder Name]” in the User Name box. That should resolve any domain inconsistencies.

PC and Mac Network Transfer

If all goes well you’ll see a new Windows Explorer window pop up. This is the home folder of your Mac’s user account. Navigate to Music and, just as we did in the external hard drive steps, delete the iTunes folder if it exists. Then, open a separate Windows Explorer window and navigate to your PC’s iTunes library, using the guides above depending on your operating system. Finally, drag and drop the “iTunes” folder from your PC into the Music folder on your Mac. The transfer will take a while depending on the size of your library and speed of your network connection. 

Once the transfer is complete, hop back over to your Mac and fire up iTunes. You’ll see your iTunes content just as it was on the PC. 

Congratulations! You’ve successfully moved all your iTunes content from the old PC to your new Mac. Things are looking up!