Content of the material
Why can’t iTunes find my music: It displays an exclamation mark instead
Sometimes iTunes loses the location of your entire music folder. This could be because you’ve attempted to move the whole iTunes Media folder from its original place – perhaps because the iTunes Music folder was taking up too much place on your hard drive, and you decided to move it to an external hard drive.
Or it could be nothing that you’re aware of. Sometimes iTunes loses track of a music file for no apparent reason. But don’t worry: we can sort it out.
Syncing Unplayed Content
To ensure that you always have the latest episodes of a podcast or TV show with you, set up iTunes to automatically transfer unplayed content to your iPod. Connect your iPod to your computer and click on its name in the Devices section of iTunes. To automatically sync unlistened podcasts, click the "Podcasts" button at the top of the screen and check the box next to "Sync Podcasts." Check the box next to "Automatically Include" and then select "All Unplayed" from the drop-down menu. Click the "Sync" button in the lower right corner of the screen to transfer all the unplayed podcast episodes from your iTunes library to your iPod. You can automatically sync unwatched movies and TV shows using the same method: click the "Movies" or "TV Shows" button on the iPod's screen, then set "Automatically Include" to "All Unwatched."
Solution #2: Rebuild your iTunes library
If reorganizing your library didn’t fix all of the issues you have, you can take more extreme measures by completely rebuilding your music library. There’s at least a few types of information that will be lost in the process, which may be considered valuable bits of metadata for some folks: star ratings, “Loves”, play counts, and date added. If you can live without that information, this method tries to preserve everything else about your iTunes music library.
The first thing to note is that this method is drastic, and depending on the types of problems you have with your library, it’s possible that you can end up worse off than when you began. Thus I very strongly recommend that you back up your existing iTunes folder before going any further, even if it’s a mess.
Where is your music library?
You’ll need to know where iTunes keeps all of its files. Normally, this is in your (home) > Music > iTunes folder but if you’re a bit more advanced you might have set it up to be elsewhere and therefore you likely already know where it is. When you get to it in Finder or File Explorer, you’ll recognize it by the .itdb files within. Note that you have either a “iTunes Media” or “iTunes Music” folder in here.
Export your library
Don’t worry, you don’t need much disk space for this step as you’re not exporting your actual entire library, you’re only creating a simple database of what is in your library and playlists. In iTunes, choose File > Library > Export Library…. Give it a unique name and save it somewhere like your Desktop.
Remove the database
You now need to remove your existing database files so that new ones can be created from scratch. Quit out of iTunes, then delete any of the following files you saw in the first step: “iTunes Library”, “iTunes Library.itl”, “iTunes Library.xml”, “iTunes Music Library.xml”, “iTunes Library Genius.itdb”. Note that you will not have all of these.
Add the media back in
Now we’re adding everything back into a fresh clean library. Start up iTunes again, and don’t be shocked that your library is completely empty. Select File > Add to Library…, then choose the “iTunes Media” or “iTunes Music” folder that you saw earlier. This will take a while to import everything back into your library. If you know that you had music stored in several different locations, you will want to repeat this step for each.
Restore your playlists
Now choose File > Library > Import Playlist… and select the database file that you created in the “Export your library” step earlier. Note that you will end up with duplicate smart playlists that you’ll later want to remove.
That’s it! Your entire library is rebuilt with all playlists preserved, and hopefully all problems gone away.The upside:
- Thoroughly fixes many problem types
- Works on your entire library all at once
- Might make some problems worse
- Loses Star Ratings, Loves, Play Count, Last Played
- Resets Date Added
- Not for the squeamish
How to locate a missing iTunes Media library
Sometimes you might find your entire music library has gone missing. This most typically happens when your tracks are stored on an external hard drive that is currently disconnected. If you store your iTunes Music on an external drive you should check the connection.
If your connection is missing you will receive a warning when you launch iTunes that says ‘The folder containing “iTunes Library” cannot be found and is required. Please choose or create a new iTunes library.’
- Click OK.
- Click Choose Library
- Use the Finder window to locate your music files. Typically you’ll find them in Home/Music/iTunes, but you might need to look further afield – such as the external hard drive we mentioned earlier. You need to find the folder with the iTunes Library.xml file.
- Click Open.
This will now sort iTunes and you should be able to play all the tracks from that iTunes music library. You can also use this technique to create, and swap, between different iTunes music libraries on your internal and external hard drives.
You can also access this alert by holding down Option when launching iTunes. This enables you to click Create Library to a new your library (say, for an external hard drive). You then hold down Option when launching the iTunes and click Choose Library to switch between the different iTunes Library folders.