A few weeks ago there was a tip floating around various blogs I monitor about using iTunes to backup your music library. It’s a very efficient method because iTunes will automatically burn the backup across multiple CDs or DVDs. I decided to do my own version of the tip, including a handy way to do subsequent backups, without having to manually track what you’ve already archived.
1. Change your iTunes “Burning” preference to “Data CD or DVD”. Access the preferences under the iTunes pulldown menu.
2. Now we need to make a playlist that holds your entire library. We’ll use this playlist to burn the files to CD/DVD. My personal situation may be unique because I wanted to exclude certain tracks from being backed up. I have a Griffin iTrip, and I don’t want to backup my iTrip stations (small audio files in my Library). I also don’t want to backup any music from a stock music collection I have. My solution is to make a smart playlist that excludes these items. All other songs in my library are automatically added to the playlist. You can use this method to exclude any songs that you don’t want to backup. If you want to backup everything, you can simply create a new regular playlist and drag everything from your library in to it.
3. Once you have your playlist setup, containing all the songs you want to backup, simply pop-in a blank CD or DVD and click burn. The great thing about this method is iTunes will automatically segment the burn into multiple CDs or DVDs (I personally needed 5 DVDs). You don’t have to do anything special, when one disc is done, iTunes will spit it out and ask for the next one. The music will be burned onto the discs in alphabetical order, in folders labeled with band and album names.
UPDATE: This portion has been updated to include more information about how the disc is burned… “the layout of the backup discs depends on how the playlist is sorted when you burn it. Sort by artist – you get a bunch of artist folders. Sort by album – you get a bunch of album folders. Sort by song – everything is at the root level, with file names mangled to make them unique.” Thanks go out to Max, who left this in the comments.
4. Now, you’re going to be adding more music to your library at some point, right? You don’t want to have to backup everything again do you? Tracking new additions to your library is a snap. Simply create a new smart playlist, with a rule to only include tracks added after the date of your backup (I backup up mine on 6/8/05). Only music added to your library after that date will be put into the playlist. The next time you want to make a backup, simply burn this playlist to CD/DVD, and then change the date in your rule to your new backup date.
5. You could stop there. You have a complete backup of your music, and a way of tracking new music added. But if you were to have a meltdown, and lost your library on your computer, you would want to be able to restore it to the exact condition it was in at the time of loss, including all of your playlists. In order to do that you would want to backup 2 additional files… “iTunes Library” and “iTunes Music Library.xml”. They are located in ~/Music/iTunes/. These small data files contain all the info about your library and playlists. In case of loss, you would reinstall iTunes, drag all the files from your backup discs back onto iTunes to import them, and then replace the new versions of these 2 files with your archived copies. You only need to do this step to recover your playlists. You don’t need them to simply recover your music.