It’s official, iTunes is on the way out. When Apple releases macOS Catalina this fall, iTunes will vanish from your Mac and split into three new apps instead. Your iTunes library should transfer to these apps automatically, but we recommend you back it up just in case.
For years, iTunes has been the window through which we consume most media on our Macs. It stores all your music, movies, TV shows, podcasts, and audiobooks. But it’s a problematic app, and even Apple jokes about how bloated iTunes is.
So what happens to your content when Apple splits iTunes into separate Music, TV, and Podcasts apps?
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Catalina automatically transfers your content
Fans of Apple’s unofficial slogan should know what to expect: It just works. When you upgrade to macOS Catalina, your music collection goes to the Music app and your videos go to the TV app. Everything’s automatic, seamless.
Your content from iTunes migrates to its new home during the macOS upgrade. It should be waiting for you by the time you first open the new apps.
What if it goes wrong?
This is why we’re here. Software isn’t perfect, especially when it’s a new operating system such as macOS Catalina. There’s every chance some users will experience errors when their content transfers from iTunes to the Music and TV apps.
We always recommend using Time Machine to make a backup of your Mac before any macOS upgrade; for macOS Catalina, we suggest you go one step further. You should make a separate backup of your iTunes Media library.
This is usually included in a Time Machine backup, but a separate copy — outside of Time Machine — is easier to work with if you need it.
What is my iTunes Media library?
This is where music, movies, home videos, and any other iTunes media is normally saved on your Mac. Backing up your iTunes Media library allows you to manually import content to macOS Catalina if anything is missing after the upgrade.
How do I back up my iTunes Media library?
Making a backup of your iTunes Media library is as simple as copying it to an external hard drive. But before you do so, you need to organize it into clear folders and ensure all your iTunes content is present.
Organize your iTunes Media library
When you import iTunes media to macOS Catalina, you need to manually separate your content for the Music and TV apps. Otherwise, all your videos save as music videos to the Music app and your music doesn’t go into the TV app at all.
The easiest way to keep your content separate is to make iTunes organize your media library. This automatically moves media to separate folders based on their content type: Music, Movies, TV Shows, etc.
How do I make iTunes organize my library?
- Open iTunes on your Mac.
- From the menu bar, go to iTunes > Preferences > Advanced.
- Select the box to Keep iTunes Media folder organized.
Consolidate your iTunes Media library
There are several cases where content appears in iTunes but isn’t saved to your iTunes Media folder:
- iTunes Store purchases that aren’t downloaded to your Mac
- Apple Music content that isn’t downloaded to your Mac
- content that you imported to iTunes from elsewhere on your Mac.
Anything you purchased from iTunes or synced over iCloud is still available when you sign in to macOS Catalina with the same Apple ID. You don’t need to worry about making a backup of this content.
However, content you imported to iTunes from elsewhere on your Mac could get lost during your upgrade. Depending on your preferences, iTunes may not have copied this content to the media library when you imported it.
To fix this, you need to consolidate your iTunes Media library, which creates a copy of missing content in the iTunes Media folder. After consolidating your library, you may want to delete the original files on your Mac to save space.
How do I consolidate my iTunes Media library?
- Open iTunes on your Mac.
- From the menu bar, go to File > Library > Organize Library.
- Select the box to Consolidate files in the window that appears.
- If it’s available, also select the option to Reorganize files in the folder “iTunes Media.”
- Click OK.
Find the iTunes Media folder on your Mac
Now you’ can be certain everything you need to back up is saved to your iTunes Media folder, the next step is to find out where it is saved on your Mac.
Open Finder, and from the menu bar select Go > Home. The default location for the iTunes Media folder is in Music, within the iTunes folder. If your iTunes Media folder is missing or doesn’t contain all your content, there must be a second folder elsewhere.
Open iTunes, and from the menu bar select iTunes > Preferences > Advanced. This page lists the location of your iTunes Media folder at the top of the window. You can also click Change… to move it elsewhere or click Reset to return it to the default location.
Copy your iTunes Media folder
To back up your iTunes Media library, all you need to do is copy it to an external hard drive. Make sure you close iTunes first.
You can either drag-and-drop the folder or use control-click to see Copy and Paste options. Wait for macOS to finish copying the iTunes Media folder before you remove your external drive.
How do I restore my iTunes library to macOS Catalina?
Hopefully, after upgrading to macOS Catalina all your iTunes content automatically transferred to the new Music and TV apps. If that wasn’t the case, you can use your iTunes Media backup to manually restore anything that’s missing.
Previously, you could select a new iTunes library for your Mac by holding shift or option while opening the app. That doesn’t seem to work for the Music and TV apps in macOS Catalina, although that may change with their public release this fall.
Instead, you need to manually import content to each app from the File menu.
How do I import iTunes media to the Music or TV app?
- Connect your external drive to your Mac.
- Open the Music or TV app in macOS Catalina.
- From the menu bar, go to File > Import.
- Find the iTunes Media folder you copied to your external drive.
- Select the content you want to import, choose individual files or entire folders:
- For the Music app: import music, voice recordings, and audiobooks.
- For the TV app: import movies, TV shows, and home videos.
- Click open to import the selected content, you will find it within the Music or TV app under Recently Added.
- You may need to edit the metadata of imported media (Name, Date, Artwork, etc). Do this by control-clicking it in Music or TV and selecting Get Info.
How do I import Podcasts and Audiobooks to macOS Catalina?
Although there is a dedicated Podcasts app in macOS Catalina, there doesn’t appear to be any way to import podcasts to the app. This is probably because most podcasts are freely available to stream or download through the app itself.
Similarly, you cannot import audiobooks to the Books app — despite having a dedicated section for them. Any audiobooks you purchased from the Book Store are automatically available.
Alternatively, you can import audiobooks as music to the Music app.
What are your thoughts on the death of iTunes? Are you excited to have more specialized apps in Catalina? Or does it feel like a step in the wrong direction?
Let us know in the comments below if you found this guide helpful, and be sure to read our other posts about macOS Catalina.