Did I just lose 99.9% of my iTunes library?!?
November 2, 2015 6:11 PM   Subscribe

I opened iTunes today to play some music, and discovered that of the 13,129 songs in my library, only 22 truly remain. Where did the rest go?

I use iTunes to manage my music and a few movies. My library is extensive enough: I have 13,129 songs and 31 movies. Today, when I attempted to play an album, iTunes threw up a "could not locate file" message. I checked in Music\iTunes\iTunes Media\, and I only have 22 music files. All the rest of the music and movies are missing. "No problem", I say, "I'll look in Time Machine!". I use the default TM settings, so hourly backups. However, it seems that even on TM, the only files I have are the same 22 files, going all the way back to the first backup in April. I updated iTunes to 12.3.1 on October 23, but did play some music on October 28, 5 days later. The biggest suspect to all this is that on November 1st, my town had a scheduled power failure. Perhaps the power failure corrupted my TM Backup. My question for the hive, if files on the TM Backup are deleted/corrupted, does TM delete them from my Mac?

I've accepted that I've probably lost the bulk of my library. I can redownload a small percentage that I purchased through iTunes, and a large percentage is on CD. However there is also a significant portion of my library that I can't get back.
posted by xmattxfx to Computers & Internet (18 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
No, time machine shouldn't delete files on your computer.
posted by ryanrs at 6:23 PM on November 2, 2015

Try doing a Spotlight search for a few of the titles of some of your missing songs, fragments of a song title are better than a potentially misremembered exact title search. It's possible your files somehow got moved elsewhere on your drive.
posted by jamaro at 6:50 PM on November 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

A similar catastrophe has happened to me twice. Check to see if the media moved or was renamed. I'm sure you've checked, but are they in the trash? Does your hard drive have ~66GB more free space?
posted by good lorneing at 7:12 PM on November 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

When you right-click one of the missing songs and select "Show in Finder", does it take you to the file?
posted by wnissen at 7:25 PM on November 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

Go into Preferences. What is the location of the iTunes Library, as stated there?
posted by humboldt32 at 7:35 PM on November 2, 2015 [2 favorites]

Run Disk Inventory X. It should be easy to find a huge folder full of 13,000 tracks.

Power Failure shouldn't cause this problem.
posted by gregr at 7:58 PM on November 2, 2015 [2 favorites]

Try searching for *.m4p, *.m4a, and *.mp3 in Spotlite.
posted by Sauce Trough at 10:13 PM on November 2, 2015

A power failure could have caused this: the file system the Mac uses is antique.

You either have lost files or a corrupt database of those files. Try and find the files, if you find them try this.
posted by gorcha at 1:04 AM on November 3, 2015

"My question for the hive, if files on the TM Backup are deleted/corrupted, does TM delete them from my Mac?"

No it does not - not ever.
posted by AGameOfMoans at 3:18 AM on November 3, 2015 [2 favorites]

Do you have your songs on an external hard drive? I've found I sometimes have to power cycle my external hard drives after a power outage for them to be recognized by my Mac.
posted by Rock Steady at 5:14 AM on November 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

My music files (*.m4a, *.mp3, etc) should be located in \Music\iTunes\iTunes Media\ (not an external drive), which is where my iTunes is expecting them to be. "Show in Finder" does not work, because 99.9% of the music files are not in this directory, only 22 music files remain (they represent 2 full albums and 1 partial album). Curiously, when I try searching my entire Mac with Finder for *.m4a, Finder seems to hang (it's been hours), with a message: Searching "This Mac", and never even retrieves the 22 files I mentioned above. However, I can use Finder to navigate to \Music\iTunes\iTunes Media\ and the 22 files are there.

gregr I tried Disk Inventory X and my music files still appear to be missing.

posted by xmattxfx at 6:10 AM on November 3, 2015

I just realized that Finder doesn't like the search term '*.m4a'. Searching on 'm4a' instead, pulls up only 22 files.

This sucks.
posted by xmattxfx at 6:48 AM on November 3, 2015

You might try searching for the files with EasyFind, a free app from Devon Technologies. It's slower than spotlight, since it doesn't use an index, but it's more thorough.

Even if your HD has failed, I would expect the Time Machine backup to have the original files. It's peculiar that it doesn't, but I have had weird things happen with Time Machine. That's one reason that I use Arq and Amazon Glacier to back up my /Users directory, and I also keep two Time Machine backups of my laptop, one on a server at home and one on an external HD at my office.

Good luck!
posted by brianogilvie at 7:46 AM on November 3, 2015

Did you check Preferences? You don't say. And is the checkbox "Copy files to iTunes Media folder..." ticked?

Also try: http://apps.tempel.org/FindAnyFile/

Are you working with any external hard drives?
posted by humboldt32 at 8:19 AM on November 3, 2015

All this also begs the question: Have you been doing any deleting in Finder recently?
posted by humboldt32 at 8:23 AM on November 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

I called support. They recommended restoring from my backup from the date I last successfully played music. They claim that even if Time Machine thinks the files are gone, they should still be there and a restore will rectify the problem. I think that's a reasonable assumption and expect to mark this as resolved in 23 hours or so.

Thank you all for your help.
posted by xmattxfx at 10:45 AM on November 3, 2015

Did you start already? If not, WAIT! Don't do any restores yet!

First answer these questions:

1. Did you subscribe to iTunes Match at any point?

2. Did you start a free trial of Apple Music? Might you have started a trial without knowing that you did? (It was easy to say yes by accident.) That trial would have expired just about now, so ...

If you did either of these two things, and especially if you did both, there are some minefields here that you should navigate carefully.
posted by RedOrGreen at 12:04 PM on November 3, 2015

Well the restore did not work. Sorry RedOrGreen I did not get your reply in time. However, long story short, I've managed to recover my music. A complication was that my Time Machine Backup was a network drive (not Time Capsule, so Apple support couldn't assist). However, I figured out that I needed to mount the drive. When I did, all the music was where it should be.

Once again, thank you all for your help. A special thank you to those that PM'd.
posted by xmattxfx at 7:52 AM on November 4, 2015 [2 favorites]

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