Want CNET to notify you of price drops and the latest stories?

Adding artwork corrupts some Lossless iTunes files

Either iTunes or another component of the Apple Lossless format handling routines in OS X may have a bug that results in file corruption when artwork is added.

Topher Kessler MacFixIt Editor
Topher, an avid Mac user for the past 15 years, has been a contributing author to MacFixIt since the spring of 2008. One of his passions is troubleshooting Mac problems and making the best use of Macs and Apple hardware at home and in the workplace.
Topher Kessler
3 min read

Apple's Lossless audio format is a popular option for people importing CDs into iTunes who wish to preserve as much of the original song quality as possible; however, a number of people have been noticing that random tracks imported in this format become corrupted after artwork is applied to them.

As iTunes imports songs into the iTunes library, it will automatically apply cover artwork to each track if it is available in the iTunes store. If artwork is not available then you will need to add it yourself, which people generally do by selecting all of the tracks in an album and applying artwork to the entire batch at once. While in many cases this works as expected, there appears to be some bug either in the Apple Lossless format or in iTunes' handling of it that results in random tracks only outputting static when played.

The prevalence of this problem varies, with some people reporting that it happens regularly, affecting up to as many as 4 in 10 tracks in every edited batch, whereas others say they've ripped dozens of CDs with only a couple of tracks showing the problem.

A number of iTunes users have reported their experiences of this problem in an Apple discussion forum thread, with some saying Apple support has been able to replicate the issue. As a result, a fix for the problem should be coming in an update from Apple either for the core libraries that handle the Lossless format, or more likely for iTunes itself.

Editing iTunes artwork
Add iTunes artwork by dragging it to the empty Artwork section of the information window from the Finder or from a program like Safari, followed by clicking Next to go to the next track. You can tell what track you are on by looking at the title of the information window. Screenshot by Topher Kessler

Until a fix is available, there are a couple of workarounds you can use if you are experiencing this issue:

  1. Edit one track at a time
    Instead of batch-editing tracks to add artwork after importing them into your iTunes library, you can edit them one by one. This can be done easily by listing the tracks in order and getting information on the first track, then going to the Artwork section and adding your artwork by dragging it into the Artwork window. Then click the Next button at the bottom of the edit window and perform the same actions for the next track, and so on. While this will take quite a bit more time than adding artwork in batches, it will keep the files from getting corrupted.

  2. Reimport corrupted tracks
    If you import many CDs on a regular basis, then editing them to add art one track at a time may be a bit of a burden. In this case, your best bet would be to import them and batch-edit them as you normally would, then play the first few seconds of each track to check for any corruption. If you find a track that is corrupted then delete it, reimport it from its source, and add the artwork directly to the individual track. This approach should result in a complete library without slowing down your progress too much.

(Special thanks to MacFixIt reader "Jim" for writing in about this.)

Questions? Comments? Have a fix? Post them below or e-mail us!
Be sure to check us out on Twitter and the CNET Mac forums.