By Tony Bove

iTunes backups? You don’t need no stinkin’ backups! Yes, you do, so think twice about not making them! Backing up your files can be inconvenient and can eat up the capacity of all your external hard drives. Still, it must be done. And fortunately, it’s easy to do, either manually or automatically with a system backup utility such as Apple’s Time Machine. You can also keep a backup of your songs in iCloud.

To copy your entire iTunes library to another hard drive, locate the iTunes folder on your computer. Drag this folder to another hard drive or backup device, and you’re all set. This action copies everything, including the playlists in your library.

The copy operation might take some time if your library is huge. Although you can interrupt the operation any time, the newly copied library might not be complete. Finishing the copy operation is always best.

If you restore the backup copy to the same computer with the same name for the hard drive that holds the iTunes library, the backup copy’s playlists work fine. Playlists are essentially lists of songs with pathnames to the song files. If the hard drive name is different, the pathnames won’t work. However, if you export individual playlists, or all of your playlists, in the XML (eXtensible Markup Language) format beforehand, you can then import them back into iTunes when you restore your backup to realign the playlist pathnames to the new hard drive.

To export a playlist, select the playlist in the Playlists section of the iTunes source pane, choose File→Library→Export Playlist, and then choose a location on your hard drive. To export all of your playlists at once, choose File→Library→Export Library.

To import a playlist into iTunes, choose File→Library→Import Playlist, and then browse for and select the playlist’s XML file on your hard drive. To import all the playlists at once, choose File→Library→Import Playlist and choose the iTunes Media Library.xml file (or iTunes Music Library.xml file for previous versions of iTunes).