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00-ilife_logoEver since it was introduced in 2003, Apple’s iLife suite has become one of the biggest names in the digital multimedia world. The package includes iPhoto, iMovie, Garageband, iWeb and iDVD. There’s one unofficial member of the bunch which has gone solo but still integrates well with the others: iTunes.

Since a package of iLife comes free with every purchase of a new Mac, and iTunes is also available for free download — I think it’s safe to assume that every Mac user uses (and loves) at least one of the iLife apps.

Always hungry

But there’s one common problem among iLife applications that most users will find rather annoying: the applications take up lots, and lots of storage space. In this article, I will show you how to transfer your iLife suite and access it from an external hard drive, freeing up precious hard disk space on your computer.


What takes up all this space? Even an amateur wannabe photographer like me can stack up over 15 gigabytes (!) worth of digital photos in my iPhoto library. There are also tens of gigabytes of loops, artist lessons, and project files in Garageband; another huge chunk reserved by iMovie project files; and don’t forget iTunes songs collection. (A fraction of my ‘small’ music library is shown below).01b-itunes_collection_size

With today’s hard drive capacity, this storage deficiency problem shouldn’t be something to worry about. But not everybody’s Mac is equipped with a “large enough” storage capacity, not everybody needs Garageband or iMovie, not everybody listens to each and every MP3 all the time, and not everybody – especially the ones with MacBooks (or older generations Mac laptops) – wants to dump everything in their local hard drive.


I personally would not stop taking digital pictures.

It would be nice if we could move (some of) those large data to another location, wouldn’t it? Unfortunately, users can not just “cut and paste”. Special ‘tricks’ are necessary to preserve the database.

Moving iPhoto library
To move your iPhoto to an external hard disk, you first need to reveal the iPhoto library. It’s located in the ~/Pictures folder. Drag and drop it to a new location. The process could take several minutes to hours, depending on how big your library is.


For iPhoto ’06 and ’08 users, open the iPhoto application while holding down the Option key, then locate the library on the external hard disk.

For iPhoto ’09 users, rename the “iPhoto Library” in the computer’s hard drive to “iPhoto Library Old” before opening iPhoto. Then, iPhoto will show a dialog box where you can choose which library to open. After choosing the new library, you can delete (or keep) the old one.


Please note that if you move your iPhoto library to an external hard drive it has to be connected before launching iPhoto. The same goes for every other application.

Moving iTunes Library
Launch iTunes while holding down the Option key. A small window will open, asking you whether to locate the library or create a new one.


Choose “Create Library” and put the new library in the location you prefer.

Go to File –> Library –> Consolidate Library menu. This step will copy all of your music files (from the old library) to the new library while retaining the ratings, playlists and any other information tagged to the files.


Then you can delete the old iTunes Music Folder, but you should not delete the iTunes library files.

For more detailed information, please refer to this Apple’s iTunes Support Page.

Moving Garageband
Moving Garageband (and all the loops and data) is not recommended because the process of composing and editing within Garageband requires fast access to all the data. And if you really have to move them, the process itself is not easy and requires tinkering with terminal command (as described here). You might also find this discussion to be helpful.

There was an old application called “Garageband Anywhere” which made the process of moving Garageband easy, but I failed to find any download source for the app. And since this app was dated back to 2005, there’s no guarantee that it would be compatible with the latest Mac OS X and Garageband.

Moving iMovie data
Moving iMovie’s data is done from within iMovie. The one that consumes the most disk space is the Event.

First, you have to connect the drive where you want to move the data to, open iMovie, then you can move your data to the new location by dragging and dropping them in the left pane.
Please note that the drive should be formatted as Mac OS X Extended and connected to the computer via Firewire. For more detailed information, please refer to this Apple’s iMovie Support Page.

That’s all. Hopefully, that has helped you free up hundreds of gigabytes of space. If you have personal experiences or other tips regarding this topic (especially about moving Garageband), please share using the comment below.

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  1. Yuval Zukerman
    October 7, 2009 at 8:42 pm

    Thanks for the tutorial. There is one correction: In iPhoto 09, to choose/switch libraries, you need to hold down the option key and open iPhoto. That will bring up the library selection dialog window.

  2. Alex
    July 1, 2009 at 12:10 pm

    Hungry Mac Apps...... Great if you have an imac or G5 but It beats the purpose of having a mac book pro then if you need an xternal firewire brick attached all the time sucking all the battery.