Question Advice on moving file i.e. iTunes & Photo library to external storage


Well-known Member
Hi all - hoping for some advice from more experienced Mac users. I use an iMac (mid-2011) with 12GB RAM and a 1TB hard disk. Currently utilising about 75% capacity of the hard disk, primarily iTunes library (videos and music) and Photos. I use Time Machine to back up all content to a WD Passport external hard drive over the FireWire port. All worked fine thus far.

Planning ahead and thinking of moving all of my content to external storage as opposed to the iMac's internal hard disk. Three reasons - (1) capacity (2) I like the idea of a dual external drive to mirror data on a 2nd drive for protection (RAID 1) and (3) this may be easier should I replace the iMac with a MacBook Pro in future. So far my web research has led me to one of two options:

1) WD Thunderbolt Duo - directly connected to the iMac Thunderbolt port. Fast. Dual drive. Relatively simple.

2) WD My Cloud Mirror - connected to my BT HomeHub 6 router ("smart hub"). Not as fast especially via wifi. Dual drive. Potential NAS complexity worries me a bit but this seems a relatively simple option in that respect. But it would (I think) mean that I could access all of the content from any internet connected device.

My questions are :-

1) I am assuming that in each case I would need to move my iTunes library and Photos library to the external drive / NAS, so that the iTunes / Photo application on the iMac would point to the right place when importing or using the relevant content. Correct? Any tips or gotchas?

2) if I have a dual external drive with disk 1 being primary storage for iTunes and Photos libraries and all other content/media and disk 2 being a mirrored copy of this content, would I still need to use Time Machine? I'm assuming I would to back up everything else on the iMac, perhaps still to the external drive I use today via FireWire?

3) Anyone use either of the options above and got any recommendations or tips on them? Or better alternative solutions?

Thanks all.


Active Member
Q1) yep. I think you press option as itunes launches to point it at the library. I did this but i have my iphone set to launch itunes when i plug it in and found that it often asked me where the library was when the drive was not mounted. So i now keep my itunes library on the local disk and back it up manually to the external drive every now and then. I have the itunes content excluded from time machine backups.

Q2) yep, still use time machine to backup to external drive for the mac and working documents etc.

Personally I use a few external drives - each for different content. The drives I use are cheap 3tb usb3 toshiba canvio drives.

If it was me I'd avoid a drive connected to router. I did that with a Time Capsule, I found I never used it away from home and it was too slow for my liking over wifi. If I go away with my mbp I can v.easily take a tiny usb powered 1tb drive with a bunch of content on or put the content on my 128gb iphone or ipad.


Well-known Member
Thanks. I think I'm more likely to go with a directly connected external drive. The whole NAS thing intimidates me a bit and I agree that speed could be an issue.

Am I right in assuming that I could use two external drives as follows :-

External drive #1 - as the primary location for all media such as iTunes and Photo libraries - connected to Thunderbolt for speed.

External drive #2 - as the location for Time Machine backups - connected to either FireWire or USB. If this configuration works, could I include all content from both the iMac internal drive and the external drive #1 noted above in those Time Machine backups?


Distinguished Member
It's been a long time since I did this but I created an alias of the itunes folder and then moved the original to my external drive.

Over by there

Well-known Member
Just started to use Photos after a while away from iPhoto and just created a Photo library (300gb or so combined), shifted it to the external hard drive (4tb canvio using my USB3 port) then pointed Photos to use it as a system library in the preferences. Photos now runs off that. I back up that library to another 3 external HD and my preferred cloud backup (two libraries actually). I have a comprehensive backup.....

I still have a separate 2tb drive for time machine as it is a quite a clever system and not quite a cloner and let it do its thing that drive is solely for time machine. You can select what to back up as well on time machine. In time machine I leave out applications etc. where I can get the apps and programs again. I include photos. USB2 might take a bit longer but it runs in the background if you machine is on all the time so should not be an issue?

Also, instal Mac OS on at least one external hard drive, that will be bootable in the event of a main HD failure. I update the external Mac OS once in a while.
I also backup up to bluray but then I am paranoid. (edit, not sure this works on USB2 so might have to be firewire, I had to do it this way on my eMac)

And I use a hub for the USB3 but not sure if there are any for firewire? Must be I suppose.

I use a third party program to manage non time machine backups, it is a bought in option.


Well-known Member
Thanks overbythere

I currently use a external drive connected via FireWire for Time Machine back ups. It works fine. I may need to find a bigger one (current is 2TB) going forward.

I've found some online info on moving both iTunes and Photo libraries to external drives so that seems possible. As does adding external drives to Time Machine backups.

So I think I have a plan. I'm ditching the NAS idea, don't think I need it. I'll go with a thunderbolt connected external drive as my main storage, possibly a dual drive for added security using RAID mirroring, with either FireWire or USB external drive for Time Machine back ups only comprising the external storage drive and the internal iMac drive. As you rightly say, speed isn't essential for the ongoing Time Machine backups.

If anyone can spot any flaws with my plan or recommend any external Thunderbolt drives, I'd appreciate it. Thanks.

Over by there

Well-known Member
My Photos library on the external HD is trundling along, cataloging stuff in the background when not in use and working just fine. Accessing and editing is working fine on USB3 (and USB 2when I bought a faulty hub). I used firewire on my old eMac for external stuff as well and it seemed quick enough for my needs at the time.

Time machine info here
Apple OSX and Time Machine Tips
Someone posted this link on the Apple forums when someone wanted to know the difference so I bookmarked it. It is dated 2013 but I think the basics are there?

My HD iMac hd is 1tb and read that double that for time machine (hence my 2tb time machine disk)? However time machine will over write older data when it needs to I think. So no worries about getting a larger HD for me but it is whatever suits your needs. Probably going to re arrange the way time machine deals with my Photos back up, the library is getting large so might just backup the masters folder.

Personally I use carbon copy cloner to backup to the various drives. Very customisable and you can create bootable backup with it. Not trying to sell it here, just what I use.

Over by there

Well-known Member
Just to mention, certain stuff is disabled by default with time machine. Connected external hard drives at the time of checking will be disabled, they can be enabled to be included. But remember the lock on the preference pane if it is enabled, unlock first.

Spent ages one morning trying to change the soddin thing before I realised. DOH! Goes for other system preferences as well.


Well-known Member
Just to mention, certain stuff is disabled by default with time machine. Connected external hard drives at the time of checking will be disabled, they can be enabled to be included. But remember the lock on the preference pane if it is enabled, unlock first.

Spent ages one morning trying to change the soddin thing before I realised. DOH! Goes for other system preferences as well.

Yes, thanks, I read that too. TM automatically excludes external drives from back up but it's possible to uncheck the exclude box and therefore include them.

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