iTunes Is Eliminating My Songs And I'd Like Them Back!
November 11, 2011 10:14 AM   Subscribe

iTunes missing tracks filter: What can I do when I see the exclamation mark beside a song in iTunes and when I click on the song, I get the message "Song X could not be used because the original file could not be found. Would you like to locate it?" Then, of course, it can't find it. So I have two questions about this: 1. How can I find the songs that are currently tagged with that exclamation mark? I *know* I haven't deleted them. 2. How do I prevent this from happening in the future? Tech details: Windows 7,about 17,000 songs, if that matters. I'm sorry if this seems elementary, but I can't seem to find a straightforward answer to this in the forums. Thank you *so much* everyone for bearing with me with this simple (but screamingly frustrating) question.
posted by purplesludge to Technology (14 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Use Windows search to find the missing file.
posted by wongcorgi at 10:20 AM on November 11, 2011

Would you like to locate it?" Then, of course, it can't find it.
Is iTunes looking for it or is it just opening a folder and asking you to browse for the file? I think you have to tell it where the file went by navigating to the folder and clicking on the file.
If you don't care about keeping play counts or playlists, just add the folders that holds your music to the library again. It should only make duplicates if it found the new file. Then you can ask it to display duplicates and remove the missing ones.
posted by soelo at 10:30 AM on November 11, 2011

Oh, and a possible answer to your second question about preventing this lies in how your music is organized on your computer. Is it all in a My Music folder with subfolders? If you are moving files around, iTunes doesn't know that and will look in the old folder only to find the file missing. You can just add them to your library again, but iTunes will not know that this is the same file in a new location; it will assume it is a brand new file.
posted by soelo at 10:36 AM on November 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: wongcorgi: when I use Windows to look for the missing file, the file doesn't appear. It seems to have actually eliminated it from my computer.

soelo: I haven't been moving files, no. When you say "add the folders that holds your music to the library again"--I can't find the folder with that particular song in it (unless I'm missing something).
posted by purplesludge at 10:43 AM on November 11, 2011

It's been a few years since I've used it so I don't know how things are now, but I've lost a few files to iTunes on Windows. Tracks just mysteriously going missing (very rarely). It's not unthinkable (to me) that iTunes is somehow deleting your tracks.

If you have iTunes set to manage your file locations or organize your files... whatever the option is which lets iTunes move your tracks in some organized manner, turning that off might help. But I'm just taking a guess here.

For a more secure option a backup of your media files would be something to consider, though I realize this might take a good chunk of space.
posted by bjrn at 10:47 AM on November 11, 2011

Or not use iTunes, but maybe that's not an option because you have an iSomething.
posted by bjrn at 10:48 AM on November 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Here's a possibility: You have itunes' collection management turned off already, and the songs you're looking for were on an external disk when you added them. That external disk, or fileserver, or what have you, isn't available right now, so the files cannot be found.

If you "Get Info" on one of these missing files, does the path point to somewhere on the machine, or is it pointing to some non-existent location?
posted by chazlarson at 10:55 AM on November 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: To prevent this happening in the future, go to Advanced Preferences and make sure "Copy files to iTunes Media folder when adding to library."

That way, you have one canonical primary directory where iTunes stores files.

Otherwise they can be anywhere on your hard drive, or external drive, or even an external usb device, and if those are not connected, you get the error in question.
posted by artlung at 11:07 AM on November 11, 2011 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: bjrn--I don't have the iTunes organizer turned on, although I was wondering if I should. I do have my files backed up on an external hard drive (thank goodness, I just had a crash). I'd prefer to continue to use iTunes just because I'm (more or less) used to it.

chazlarson--you're brilliant. I did a "Get Info" on the missing files, and it is currently pointing to a non-existent location that I did not restore from my external hard drive. I can't believe I didn't think of that.

artlung--thank you, I will make sure I copy files to the iTunes Media folder. Should I just make it the default location for files? I like to have things orderly, which to me means no duplicates scattered around.
posted by purplesludge at 11:47 AM on November 11, 2011

iTunes hates us and does not want us to manage our own files and folders in windows. That is what I think. Just get used to searching for files.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 11:48 AM on November 11, 2011

purplesludge: You can choose another location, actually, but I tend to use the default and it's worked for me well on Mac and Windows. I also check "Keep iTunes Media folder organized" so I get folders for artist / album / etc.

If you find yourself wanting to move it, there are good instructions on Apple: iTunes for Windows: Moving your iTunes Media folder

In windows one thing you can do is just search for any mp3 files rather than specific ones. Maybe you have files named terribly or something?
posted by artlung at 12:05 PM on November 11, 2011

Best answer: I like to have things orderly, which to me means no duplicates scattered around

Me too, and this is why I leave "Keep iTunes Media Folder organized" turned on. I drag some songs in from somewhere, and iTunes makes a copy and stashes them in the directory I told it to use. I can then delete the one I just dragged in. There is no question in my mind where the one that iTunes is using is located, and I can always get to the file if I want it.

I've been using iTunes since the day it came out, and I have never lost a music file mysteriously. Apparently I'm the luckiest mope on the planet.
posted by chazlarson at 1:27 PM on November 11, 2011

What I mean is, if you have one folder where all of your music lives, then add that whole folder again. If the file was still there but in a different location, it would find it and add it. It will not add duplicates of files that are already in your library. Of course, if you have external locations in your library, that would'n work.

I have never lost a file mysteriously, either. I don't let iTunes manage any music unless I bought it from Apple or ripped it from a CD (those end up in the iTunes folder in My Music). Anything else I have purchased elsewhere is manually put in subfolders in My Music (by genre before, now by alpha).

I like to have things orderly, which to me means no duplicates scattered around.
I don't like duplicates scattered around, either, but I do like having a backup. artlung's suggestion is good if you have room on your primary hard drive for all of your music. If you have iTunes copy everything into the iTunes folder, you will have that backup.

iTunes hates us and does not want us to manage our own files and folders in windows.
No, it just has the option to manage it for you if you want it to. I don't want it to, so I manage it myself.
posted by soelo at 2:19 PM on November 11, 2011

Best answer: As someone who troubleshoots iTunes issues for a living (Genius Bar) PLEASE just consolidate your library and turn on the "Keep iTunes Media Folder organized" option. Then when you add music to iTunes, just delete the original file. It'll save you a lot of headaches. It's the default on Macs, but for some reason on PCs it seems to default the other way and causes lots of headaches like yours.
posted by raygan at 7:43 AM on November 12, 2011

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