Don’t try this at home

Posted 5 years ago at 10:33. 2 comments

Sad Mac :(High on the lists of things you probably don’t want to try: moving your iTunes music library to an external hard drive while your iPod is connected. The library move (using Consolidate Library) works just fine, UNTIL the next time you try to sync your iPod.

All the songs on your iPod still point to the old library location, but iTunes can’t resolve the files in the new location. You’d think it would be as simple as matching mountpoints, but you’d be sadly, grievously, yet-only-partially, wrong.

iTunes can’t find the matching songs, but it maintains at least some semblance of an internal mapping (there are file IDs, presumably hashes, in the xml, f.e.), because when you connect your iPod containing the “missing” files, instead of doing, say, nothing, and warning you about the missing files, it goes through all the media on your iPod, matches it to the corresponding file in the Library, and then deletes that file’s location on disk from the iTunes database.


This could only possibly be worse if it actually deleted the file itself, rather than just its location from the database.

The files are still all on disk, and you can manually re-associate the files with their database entries. Sadly, there is no automated tool for finding orphaned files and matching then up. Even if there were, the missing files aren’t pointing to a wrong location, their location is blank, so there wouldn’t even be any hints available when looking for the new file locations. For each individual missing file: you click on the file with the little exclamation point indicating its pooched, you associate it with the proper file on disk. Rinse, foam at the mouth…er, lather, repeat.

Of course, iPods hold a lot of songs these days, and generally, people put their favorite music on their iPods. It’s not like you’ve lost 10 random songs you possibly don’t care about. You’ve lost thousands of your favorite songs and videos, and can’t get them back until you either perform the manual re-association one-at-a-time (slow) or ditch your current library and re-import the whole music directory wholesale (faster, but you lose all your playlists and metadata).

For those curious about the manual re-association route, you can make things a little easier on yourself by creating some temporary smart playlists. Because iTunes (retardedly, IMO) organizes its files different depending on whether the song is part of a compilation or not, you’ll decrease your searching time if you create two playlists: one that contains tracks in compilations, and the converse. That way you can go through the Compilations playlist and the file dialog for matching files can stay in the Compilations sub-directory on disk and save yourself some searching time, and then do the same for regular artists and not have to worry about the Compilations dir. Of course, if you aren’t using a central iTunes music folder, this won’t help you. Don’t even get me started on the sorting differences between iTunes and the underlying OS that make this process even longer. Grrrr.

Fuck you, iTunes. I can think of better ways to spend a Wednesday night.

Current Tunes: DowJonez - Stay In Your Place feat. Drake & Gemstonez | Filed under Music, Software |

2 Replies

  1. er, wow. That’s staggering.

    I’ve moved libraries around to different locations before but never ran into those problems. The last time I did it, I think I let iTunes do the job by going to my Settings and changing the location of my library. Hours later, it had finished the copy. Excruciatingly slow, but it did the job.

    My sympathies.

  2. Tuilou Oct 14th 2009

    YEP, I did the same thing, and lost a ton of songs, many of which I won’t discover.
    I had two external hard drives, music on both and on my hard drive. Some were already part of my itunes library, some were not. I followed (to the letter) the directions on the Apple site to ‘consolidate’ my music, and I wound up losing a ton of the music that was not part of my itunes library and some that were.

    Like Coop says, you won’t know it until you go to play a song, get the exclamation point, then navigate to the folder only to find it is empty or contains one or two songs instead of the entire album.

    I guess Apple just thinks you’ll go to the itunes store and buy more.

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