Maintaining a music library at home

Maintaining a music library at home

As much as I love music and spend way too much time working on my library, I do not go to concerts. I will go if Ken Field brings the Revolutionary Snake Ensemble to New Brunswick or Princeton. I learned that I am a bit agoraphobic (a famous NYC radio jingle writer who recently passed away was described as somewhat agoraphobic in that he never left his zip code), and I know that I am claustrophobic (I walked out of Mama Mia after the first act). I am also lazy and cheap.

But, I can afford to have a very large music library at home- all digital these days.

So, how does one manage such a library?

First, especially if you have more than one computer, keep the library on at least two hard drives. Redundancy is a good rule because you never know when one drive is going to die. Also, if you have a large library (my music library is over 160 gigs), keep it on external hard drives. you can get a terabyte for around US$100. you can also get a portable drive of around 500 gigs for the same US$100. These generally come with USB or Firewire 400 connections. Make life easy and get them with USB connections. Not all computers have Firewire, which seems to have lost the war with USB. Most computers these days have multiple USB ports, and you can buy a USB multiport hub. Be sure that it is “powered”, meaning you connect it to an electrical outlet.

With external drives, it is very easy to copy your last gonzo purchase or download from one drive to the other. But, there are important computer rules to follow to keep out of trouble.

Let’s say you have new music on Drive A, attached to your home desktop machine. You want to copy it to Drive B to take to work and use with your laptop that you carry back and forth. Turn the laptop off. Disconnect the external HDD (that’s computerese for hard drive) from the laptop. With the desktop computer on, it’s ext. HDD has a drive letter, maybe F: or G:. Just attach the laptop’s HDD to a USB port on the desktop machine. It will immediately register and be useable. It will take on the next drive letter.

This drive letter thing is important. Your music player, Windows Media Player (WMP), Winamp, whatever, scans the drives you register in the player’s software. With an external HDD, it might be something like F:\MyMusic. if you disturb that, you break a link and the software needs to scan anew. Believe me, I created this sort of mess not too long ago.

Now, you might think, why not just do it across the network. Do you have a network? Even if you do, it is a lot slower that copying and pasting ( sort of dumb terminology for music, but, hey…) with two drives connected to the same computer. I am running this little test right now. I just had to copy my photo files (2.25 gigs) from my wife’s computer to my desktop because I was missing a lot of pictures. I did it on my network. Wireless. One and one half hours. So, maybe on a wired connection it might have been half of that. Now, I am going to connect the ext. HDD from my laptop to my desktop and repeat the process. We will see how long it takes… five minutes!!

When I am finished, I will reconnect the laptop’s ext. HDD before I turn it on. The dumb beast won’t even know it was gone. 45 seconds left.

Like most of the best of our knowledge, this was all learned very painfully. I took my handy dandy new Acer netbook to California. instead of taking its 500 gig ext HDD which is not huge but not portable, I took the portable 320 gig drive from my work laptop. WMP and Winamp “saw” nothing, and I needed to re-scan the files to use them, even though all of the files were still D:\MyMusic\…. I suspect, even though I cannot prove it, that the name established in the firmware of the drive by the manufacturer stays with the drive. So, in the netbook, WMP and Winamp were looking for something that said “MyBook”, the drive connected to it at home, and what was there said “Passport”.

So, I hope that this little bit of information is of use to you.