Protecting Your iTunes Library.

Via Email IconThis question came in after the show via email from Ken…

I went to play some iTunes from my computer and discovered that EVERYTHING I had there is missing! My library is empty as well as every other window. Can anyone tell me WHAT HAPPENED??? and how can I possibly get all my music back?

The one thing I don’t know is if your music still exists on disc? You say that your library is missing, but I’m guessing you’re referring to the library of music that you see from within iTunes.

I need you to check whether your music collection is still sitting on the hard drive somewhere (the default would be your Music folder if you’re on a Mac). If it isn’t, chances are something has gone wrong outside of iTunes as I’ve never heard of iTunes actually deleting song files.

But if your music is still there, iTunes catalogs your music in a database which apparently sometimes gets corrupted, and that can be remedied… probably not how you’re hoping in that you have to start over… but once we get things straightened out… I’ll show you how to make it much easier to recover from this if it were to ever happen again.

The first step should restore your ability to see all your music in iTunes again.

Assuming your music exists in a folder named “Music”, simply choose ‘Add to Library‘ from the FILE menu in iTunes and navigate to and choose your Music folder. All the songs within it should be added once again to your iTunes library.

From there is any playlists you may have created. Unfortunately the news here isn’t as good. You’re going to have to manually recreate your playlists. There’s a way to back them up, which I’ll get to next, but without that backup, you’ll need to recreate them manually this time.

Once you get your playlists recreated, here’s how you back them up;

To save a copy of all your playlists, choose File > Export Library. The exported information is saved in XML format.

And here’s how you restore your playlists from that back up;

Choose File > Import. The imported playlist includes only songs and videos already in your iTunes library. Unavailable items are removed from the list.

I lost my extensive collection of playlists once to this particular ghost in the machine… I still don’t have my playlists back to their former glory but I can promise you that I back up my library once a week. If you have a .MAC account, your iDisc is a great place to store those back up .XML files, that way if anything happens to your hard drive or computer, your playlists are safe.

Hope that helped. Anyone who has alternative techniques is welcome to post them by clicking ‘comments’ below.


2 Responses to “Protecting Your iTunes Library.”

  1. Laren Says:

    Thank you!
    Tonight, after reading you directions, I have all of my music back in iTunes.
    Bless you,

  2. Jim Says:

    As well as exporting the .xml file, I constantly have windows make extra copies of the ituneslibrary.itl file with a different name. Then you can delete the corrupt library, rename the copy you make ituneslibrary.itl and open it as an existing library. This way you get everything back, and don’t have to import the playlists again from the .xml. You must hold down the shift key while opening iTunes to select an existing library to open.

Leave a Reply