Transfer iTunes Playlists and Song Ratings

This post is part of our multi-post wizard on how to Transfer Your iTunes Music Library. If you have already moved your actual iTunes music files to your new computer, either by reading the post Move Your iTunes Music to a New Computer with Home Sharing, or by other means, then you are ready to start transferring your iTunes Playlists and Song Ratings. Otherwise, check out our Transfer iTunes Wizard to determine what solution works best for you.

Like many things in life, there is more than one way to do this. This post tells you about the free – albiet somewhat complicated – way that requires a little bit of hacking with an XML file. If you are a Windows user and would rather spend a few bucks on some handy software to save yourself some time and frustration – then we suggest you read Using Software to Transfer iTunes Music and Playlists instead.

  • Export the Library.xml file from your old computer. File > Library > Export Library… Now, get this file over to your new computer somehow. It should be small enough that you can e-mail it to yourself.
  • Export the Library.xml file on your new computer (after you’ve transferred over all of your songs).
  • Open both Library.xml files and examine them. Use a basic text-editing program like TextEdit (Mac) or Notepad (Windows). Don’t use Microsoft Word because it will mess things up. You should see a file path to an actual song file in each of them. Find the file path that leads up to the filename on the Library.xml file from your new computer. So, if it’s C:\Users\[username]\My%20Music\iTunes\iTunes%20Media\Bob%20DylanBringing%20It%20All%20Back%20Home\01%20Subterranean%20Homesick%20Blues.mp3 then the important part is C:\Users\[username]\My%20Music\iTunes\iTunes%20Media.
  • Do a Find/Replace on the file paths in your old computer’s Library.xml file. The Replace command is in Notepad at Edit > Replace… and in TextEdit at Edit > Find > Find…. You’re going to want to “find” the file paths that are in your old computer’s Library.xml, and “replace” them with the file paths from your new computer’s Library.xml file. For example, if you’re transferring from a Windows XP computer, to a Windows 7 computer, you are probably going to “find”C:\Documents and Settings\[username]\My%20Documents\My%20Music\iTunes\iTunes%20Media\, and “replace” it with C:\Users\[username]\My%20Music\iTunes\iTunes%20Media.

A little explanation on what is happening here: the Library.xml file on your old computer holds all of that important info you’re interested in, such as Song Rating, Playcount, and Playlists. It keeps these records, along with the location of the file. By doing this find/replace, we are keeping all of that information, but changing the information that locates the actual file – so iTunes will know where it is. So, now:

  • Select all of your music files
  • Press your “Delete” or “Backspace” key. You’ll get a warning dialog box saying something like “Are you sure you want to remove the selected items from your iTunes library?”
    • Click on “Remove.” We know this is scary to do, but – provided you follow the next instructions – it’s only deleting iTunes’ records of the files, not the files themselves.
    • Click on “Keep Files.” This way you’re only deleting iTunes’ records of the files, not the files themselves. We’ll restore iTunes’ records for these files in the next step.
  • Import your modified Library.xml file into your new computer’s iTunes Library. File < Library < Import Playlist…. Locate your modified Library.xml file and click “Choose.” iTunes will now import all of that data you had about your music files (Ratings and Playlists), and will also have to correct file paths for those files. It will probably take several minutes for iTunes to import everything.

You should now have all of your Playlists, Song Ratings, and Play Counts transferred over to your New Computer. It’s that…easy? Keep in mind that there is also a software solution for Windows users for this process, which we explain in detail in our post, Using Software to Transfer iTunes Music and Playlists.

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  • artysx

    If you need to move only stars, so there is an easy way.

    1. Create 5 smart playlists, for each star rating.
    2. Select all songs in each playlist and add to /comment/ field something like “1 star”, “2 stars”, etc.
    3. Transfer files.
    4. Now on a new computer, create next 5 smart playlists, by rule /comment =/ or /comment have inside/ – “1 star”, “2 stars”, etc.
    5. Select all songs in each playlist and starred them.

    That's it.

  • Travis Zimmerman


    I successfully transferred iTunes (songs, playlists, apps) from my Win XP Dell to my new Win 7 Dell. Unfortunately, the playlists and ratings didn't transfer. I'm following your steps and wondering – why DIDN'T the metadata make the jump if everything else did?

    Do I need to deviate from any of the instructions above?



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  • Thanks for this blog. I followed each step, but only about half of my music imported correctly. That is to say, all of my music is on my new computer, but when I imported the Library.xml file only about half of the music was found. I know how to manually enter the rest of the music in, but it's around 1,000 songs and most of them are assigned to multiple playlists, so it's going to take a while. Any idea why this might have happened and how to fix it?

  • dingo

    artysx – that is freakin' brilliant. i have been looking for a couple of days now, and this worked wonderfully. i didn't think that after transferring the comments and grouping type of info would carry over, but it did! this is so simple. hidden in plain view. thanks!

  • Hey Travis, Did you make the proper edits to paths in the Library.xml file? You may want to make a dummy library on your new computer and export it to see what the file paths should look like.

  • Kaodell

    My music disappeared after I imported my changed playlist. I found file://localhost/Users/kathrynodell/Music/iTunes/iTunes%20Music/ and replaced it with file://localhost/Users/Kate/Music/iTunes/iTunes%20Media/
    Any ideas where I went wrong?

  • Mark

    i have successfully transferred my itunes library from my macbook to new imac using home sharing. However, now i would like to transfer my playlists. Would the above directions work for this or is there a better way? Thanks so much!! Mark

  • I can’t figure out how to get my ratings to show up. I have them in the XML file but when I import playlist (XML File) none of the ratings show up.

  • Jrlooking

    This looks like a sensible approach but other than the path’s you mention there is one clear difference in the XML files:
    Library Persistent ID00E5070AF8CECF30
    Which one do I use? Your process would copy over the old one but have the new paths. Any problems with this?

  • Marcus Rundstrom

    There’s no problem with importing all the music. However, the description of the XML-file doesn’t work. Just like Kaodell described, i changed the path from:




    When importing the XML-file i don’t get any songs/playlists at all…

    Please provide more information as this solution is currently not working.

  • Melissa Pugs

    worked for transfer from old vista to new 7. Thanks for the concise steps!

  • Emu

    yessssss my beloved itunes!!! thankyou thankyou thankyou 😀

    by the way, i have about 17GB’s worth of music (4000 songs) and it’s taken me 5 hours to do it… had to be really patient.

  • TheOnlyAshta

    This is the most helpful, straight-forward answer I’ve ever seen detailing how to transfer playlists. Thank you so much.

  • Dave

    Good article.   I’d been struggling with this for a while.  Read some other stuff about hacking the xml file and importing, but the key step was deleting the music. 

    Saved my musical bacon.

  • Pratesyk

    Whoa, thats a lot of work!
    Heres a MUCH simpler way that also retains all your playlist, play count, ratings etc. when moving your selection to a new computer or hard drive:
    1. Move your old library (the folder called iTunes) to your new preferred location.
    2. Make sure your new empty iTunes is not running.
    3. Hold down the key that says “option” or “alt” on your keyboard when starting iTunes.
    4. Select “Choose itunes Library” and locate your old iTunes folder.
    5. Select the old iTunes folder.
    Thats it!

  • Andy Block

    I have to agree this is incredibly simple and brilliant. I found this original page because I am moving my library and everytime I import my old 5-star playlists, it creates duplicate line item references to the same songs in the main itunes library. There are not actually two copies of the files in existence, but there are duplicate REFERENCES to them in itunes when I import playlists. This has occurred regardless of if if “copy files to itunes library” is selected in preferences. This approach using the comments field is nice because you are not importing any playlists in the new library, but just rather recreating your originals. Conceptually this should prevent any issues with duplicate references to the same file in the new itunes library. I’m going to give this approach a shot! Thanks for posting.

  • Bilal

    this worked! thank you!!!

  • MoZ Pierce

    I used the shift key with windows 8.1…AWESOME…it was a snap! The editing of the xml did NOT work for me and was time consuming…wish I’d looked at the comments FIRST. THANK YOU!

  • Helen Bailey

    Genius! I have spent hours trying to work out how to do it and this is SO Simple! Thank you so much 🙂

  • Seth Stephenson

    Thank you so much. I tried everything else because your recommendation looked a little technical- but none of those ways worked. Yours did. Perfectly explained, and I got all my ratings and playlists back. You saved me years of lost listening data.

  • Alberto Viesca Gómez

    Dude, thanks a lot! I was killing myself with long-ass tutorials that helped for nothing! 😉

  • Cesar Desmond Fernandez Cahill

    AMAZING!! GENIUS!! So simple and fast!!! Thanks a mil!

  • YES!!! This still provides the quick and easy and effective solution, THANK YOU! Note, as another commenter mentioned, on Windows 8.1 hold down key.

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