If you’ve been having problems importing your iTunes library and playlists to your Surface from a Windows 7 PC, this post is for you. It’s true that Microsoft included a import playlist function that works great when you’re moving from a Windows 8 PC but, it needs a little work when you’re moving from something older.
This is because unless the file paths on both the computer you’re exporting from and the computer you’re importing to, like they would be from a Windows 8 PC to a Surface, simply using the import the playlist function won’t work correctly. So, in this post, we’ll cover how to successfully import your iTunes music AND playlists to your Surface tablet from a Windows 7 (or older PC).
This post was originally from before the release of Windows 8.1 so we updated it to reflect some changes that came about as a result of the upgrade. If you still need the original Windows 8.0 instructions, you can find them in PDF format here: Download
Import iTunes Library to Surface: iTunes and the Surface Pro
The Surface Pro runs a full blown version of Windows 8.x. This means you can install iTunes as you would on your desktop and you don’t have to import anything. This also saves you some trouble if you continue to purchase songs from the iTunes store because you wont have to import them to your Surface later.
If you don’t want to install iTunes on your Surface Pro/Pro2, you can still import your iTunes library by following the procedure for the Surface RT/2 in the next section.
No matter what, you’ll want to be careful of the size of your library. If you have a lot of music you might fill up the rather limited space on your Surface and that could be bad. Really bad.
Import iTunes Library to Surface: iTunes and Metro
Apple has (so far) declined to create a Metro version of iTunes. Unfortunately, this means that there is no “native” way to get iTunes on a Surface RT/2 if you’re importing from a older version of Windows.
However, all is not lost. With the included Music app in Windows RT it is pretty easy to import your music from iTunes but there is still that “gotcha” that might prevent you from easily importing your playlists.
It might sound minor but if you have a huge number of songs it can be quite a pain to recreate your playlists. I actually know of at least one person who gave up on the whole idea of importing their songs to their Surface because of the issues with the playlist.
Import iTunes Library to Surface: Before You Start…
I’m assuming you’re using a Windows 7 PC as the machine from which you’re importing your music. If you’re using a different version of Windows or a Mac, you should be able to make some minor modifications to this procedure to make it workable.
I’m going to outline two versions of the procedure. The first is a simple import of your music without the playlists and the second includes the playlists
OK? Let’s get started….
Import iTunes Library to Surface: Import iTunes Music Files
This section is where we’ll cover importing your iTunes music to your Surface. It’s pretty straightforward. The next section is where we’ll cover how to get your playlists imported but we need the music files in place first. For steps that should happen on your PC, I’ll tag the step with a (PC).
- Copy your songs (PC): iTunes probably put your songs into an “iTunes Music” folder under your user profile on your PC. Just in case something goes wrong, it’s a good idea to make a copy of these songs as opposed to working with the originals. So, copy the entire iTunes Music folder to the root of C:\ drive. When you’re done, you should have a C:\iTunes Music folder with all of your songs in it in their various sub folders.
- Remove the Movies & Books folders (PC): iTunes stores more than music and album covers in the iTunes Music folder. It also keeps movies and books you’ve downloaded in there. You don’t want to import them because they’ll take up extra space on your Surface. In the C:\iTunes Music folder you just made (don’t mess with the original) find and delete the following directories if they exist:
- Automatically Add to iTunes
- Movies (especially this one)
- Copy your songs to the Surface: This part is pretty easy, just copy your songs from the C:\ITunes Music folder on your PC to the Music folder on your Surface. You can do this in any way you’re comfortable (I used a USB key). You can find the Music folder on your Surface by going into Desktop mode then bringing up the Explorer Window.
- Next, open the Music app in the Metro interface.
- Check that your music appears in the Collection area. You should see something like below (don’t judge me by my music) If it doesn’t appear, check that you copied the files into the right location.
Import iTunes Library to Surface: Import iTunes Playlists
Now we’re going to get your playlists imported to your Surface. To do so, we’ll need to do a little bit of editing of the playlist files. Again, for steps that should happen on your PC, I’ll tag the step with a (PC).
On your PC
- Export your playlists (PC): Next you need to export your playlists from iTunes as m3u files. Apple provided a nice little (archived) KB article on how to do this here but the instructions they give say XML. You don’t want to use the XML format. You want to select the m3u format. Aside from that, their directions are spot on.When you do it, make sure you save them to the C:\ iTunes Music folder.
The important piece to remember is to export them as m3u files. Did I mention you should use the m3u format?
- Modify your playlists (PC): This is the important part and is the key to this process working. You need to modify the paths in the playlist to point at the songs. Fortunately, the playlists are pretty easy to modify. Here’s how you do it:
- Go to the c:\ iTunes Music folder
- Right-click on the playlist (*.m3u) and select Open with
- If it’s one of the choices, select Notepad. If it’s not, go to the choose another program option and add notepad to the list. Just make sure you uncheck the Always use the selected program to open this kind of file checkbox
- OK, here’s where it gets a little harder. You need to use the Replace function to alter the paths to the music. First thing you need to do is figure out the existing path. It will probably look something like this example:
C:Users\Tim\Music\iTunes\iTunes Music\Ozzy Osbourne\Bark at the Moon\Bark at the Moon.m4a
The part you care about is everything up to where the album names start. In The above example that would be: “C:Users\Tim\Music\iTunes\iTunes Music”
- Next, you need to figure out the equivalent path on your Surface. It will look very similar. You can find it by getting on your Surface in desktop mode then browsing to your Music folder from Explorer and finding the path in the top bar. It will also look something like this: “C:\Users\Yourname\Music”
- Use the Replace function in Notepad to replace the old path (from your PC) with the new path (from your Surface). It will “fix” all of the paths at the same time
- Save the file
- Repeat until you’ve fixed all of your playlists
- Copy your playlists to the Surface: This part is pretty easy, just copy your playlists to the Music folder on your Surface like you did with your music files earlier.
- Tap on Import playlists and the following prompt will appear:
When it’s done importing, you should see the prompt in the upper right corner and your playlists should appear in the playlist area on the left.
That’s it! Your playlists should now be imported so enjoy your successfully imported music on your Surface.
The procedures I outlined minimize things that could go wrong but, as always when you’re manipulating files, there’s a chance something could go wrong so…. try this at your own risk.
I hope this helps you get your music and playlists over to your Surface Pro/RT. As always, feel free to post a comment if you have questions or input.
Tim Rolston is a professional geek with over 23 years of experience working in Information Technology and dealing with everything from large-scale storage to remote systems management and automation for organizations such as Texas Instruments, Mobil Oil, and the University of Michigan (where he was an Academic IT Director).
He co-founded JTRTech along with Joanna to realize his long-time dream of working for himself.