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How to set up an iTunes library on a network-attached server

Kirk McElhearn | Oct. 26, 2015
Free your iTunes media from the shackles of a hard drive on your Mac.

When the copy is finished, you can play music, watch movies, and listen to podcasts from your copy of iTunes as if the content was on your Mac.

One tip for this scenario: when the NAS is mounted in the Finder, open System Preferences > Users & Groups, and click your account. Click Login Items, and drag the NAS volume to that list. This ensures that your Mac mounts the volume when you start up your Mac and log in.

Move your entire iTunes folder

This is a simpler process. Just copy the iTunes folder in your home folder’s Music folder to the NAS. As above, this may take a long time.

The first time you launch iTunes after the move has completed, press the Option key immediately after clicking the iTunes icon. Click Choose Library, and then navigate to the iTunes folder on the NAS. iTunes will then use this library, and, if it’s not available on the network, will alert you. It won’t revert its settings to your local drive.

However, if you have a slow network, you may have issues with searches and you may see a bit of lag when making changes to files or their tags. Also, you need to ensure that not only your media files but your iTunes Library file gets backed up regularly. Leaving the non-media files on your Mac ensures that Time Machine backs them up; putting all these files on the NAS means that you need to set up another backup routine.

What’s next?

Once your iTunes media files (or all your iTunes files) are on the NAS, you use iTunes exactly as before. As long as the NAS is mounted, iTunes uses that library. The only difference you’ll see is when you copy files to your iTunes libraries. You won’t notice much delay with music files, but you’ll definitely see that movies take a lot longer to copy to the NAS over your network.

Syncing to iOS devices will also be slower. Again, you won’t notice this if you’re only syncing some new music, but if you set up a new iOS device, and sync a lot of content, this will take quite a while.

Using a NAS, you can have a large iTunes library accessible from a laptop with a compact SSD, and, as I pointed out earlier, also access that content easily from other hi-fi streaming devices that can read files from a network volume. Just remember to back up your iTunes library on the NAS, especially if you’ve moved all your files to the device. If not, and you lose files, you may have trouble rebuilding your iTunes library and playlists.


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