iTunes cannot locate music files, fixes

Some iTunes users have found that the application loses track of songs. When the issue manifests, any attempts to play some songs are met with error messages indicating that iTunes cannot find a specified file.

Some iTunes users have found that the application loses track of songs. When the issue manifests, any attempts to play some songs are met with error messages indicating that iTunes cannot find a specified file.

As described by Apple Discussions poster mariner9mike:

"It appears all my songs have lost the path to their music files. The error message says "cannot find the original file do you want to locate it?" When I look in the Music folder they appear in the artist's folder but still will not play."

When this happens, iTunes may display an exclamation point next to the song in the iTunes window. This problem can occur for a variety of reasons, including corrupt iTunes libraries and relocated song files.

Fixes

Ensure iTunes' directory structure is properly set up In the iTunes folder there should be several folders and files:

  • Folder: "iTunes Music"
  • Folder: "Album Artwork"
  • Folder: "Previous iTunes Libraries"
  • File: "iTunes Library"
  • File: "iTunes Music Library.xml"

Ensure these files and folders exist, and are appropriately named. Ensure the iTunes library is properly located by going to the "Advanced" section of the iTunes preferences and selecting the "Importing" tab. Then select "change" and locate your "iTunes Music" folder in the resulting window. If the iTunes Music folder should be in the default location in the user's "Music" directory, clicking the "Reset" button should correct any path errors for the library.

Manually reimport the "lost" files In the Finder, locate the songs that will not play and manually drag them into the iTunes window to reimport them. If there are any warning signs about duplicate files, click "OK" to go forward with the import and the file should play. Alternatively, before doing the import users can remove the song in iTunes to ensure there are no duplicate entries to mess around with afterwards.

Rebuild the entire iTunes library Depending on the extent of the problem, it may be easier to remove all songs from the library and reimport them. To do this, select all of the songs in iTunes and press the delete key. Then choose the option to keep all the song files themselves, and when the iTunes window is empty open the "iTunes Music" directory and select all items in that directory. Drag them to the iTunes window and confirm the import. The process can be fairly lengthy.

Prevention Song accessibility problems are more likely to occur if songs are scattered throughout the system. This can be resolved by having iTunes copy all files to the iTunes library and keep them organized there.

In the iTunes preferences go to the "Advanced" section and click the "Importing" tab. Then ensure the option to "copy files to iTunes music folder..." is checked. This will help keep files from inadvertently being moved or having their paths renamed in other locations on the drive, which could result in this problem. In Addition, after importing all files, go to the "Advanced" menu and select "Consolidate Library", which will copy all files to the iTunes Music folder, ensuring they are in the same location on the drive.

Feedback? Late-breakers@macfixit.com.

Resources
  • mariner9mike
  • Late-breakers@macfixit.com
  • More from Late-Breakers
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