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Rsync an iTunes Library like a boss


Shiny new MacBook Air, and I wanted to do this install from scratch (no TimeMachine recovery), but still get the good stuff from my old laptop. Also, rsync is awesome.

Prepare old computer

On old computer, from iTunes: File -> Library -> Organize Library and check Consolidate files.

After this looks like it finished (would be displayed in status area, i.e. song progress), quit iTunes.

In System Preferences, go to Sharing and make sure Remote Login is enabled.

Make note of this computer’s IP address. You can use /sbin/ifconfig or the Network preferences.

Prepare new computer

Quit iTunes.

Backup existing files, just in case:

cd ~/Music
mv iTunes iTunes.bak

rsync in boss like fashion:

Remember that IP address from earlier? Let’s pretend it’s for demonstration.

On new computer:

cd ~/Music
rsync -av --delete .

Now wait, and have a glass of scotch.

The result

Open iTunes on your new computer, and you should have all these things:

  • Music
  • Playlists
  • Song plays
  • Ratings
  • Videos
  • Syncability with iPhones/iPods


The first time I tried this, it didn’t recognize anything in the Library. Not sure if these matter, or if the second run was just luckier. In any event, these are things I tried, and are reflected above when it’s pretty likely to have helped:

  • Tried to add existing Library to itself. Cancelled partway through
  • On old computer, exported Library using File -> Library -> Export Library
  • Added –delete to rsync run
  • Made sure iTunes wasn’t running during rsync
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