How to restore your iTunes Music library after Apple Music

If you, like me, had a three-month trial of Apple Music and did not renew it, or have cancelled your subscription to it, your iTunes Music library is possibly left in something of a mess.

One user claims that his trial of Apple Music has resulted in the loss of many tracks, and all sorts of other problems. To that, the iTunes guru at Macworld has asserted that cannot be the result of cancelling his subscription. So who is right?

As usual, the truth probably rests somewhere between these two extremes. I have not seen any tracks deleted, nor my original home-ripped tracks lost, but at the same time Apple Music did not restore the status quo. So Apple does have some explaining and apologising to do, and needs to sort Apple Music out so that it does not interfere with our music libraries. But wholesale data loss is probably not one of its failings.

Missing tracks


Searching my iTunes Music library, there are a few tracks which seem to have gone missing. These are clearly marked with the exclamation mark icon in the first column, and their iCloud icon also contains an exclamation mark.


Try to play any of them, and you will see this alert, which implies that the original file for that track has gone walkies somewhere. With that track selected, press Command-I to view further information.


Then select the File tab, and you will see where iTunes is looking for the file. In this (and every other) case, it is on a volume which is offline, one of the four drives which were installed in a previous Mac Pro. So it is not iTunes or Apple Music which has lost that file – I have.

The solution here is simple: locate a copy of the file, put it back in your library, try to play the track again, and use the alert to hook iTunes up with that file.

iCloud Music Library

When you first subscribed to Apple Music, you agreed to use iCloud Music Library, or iTunes in the Cloud. Then, whenever you let iTunes have the chance, it was busy copying (not moving) tracks from your Mac into iCloud, to help that service to work. When you cancelled your Apple Music subscription, all such copying ceased, leaving some tracks in iCloud. These are distinguished by the iCloud icon assigned to them.


When you now try to play them, they should still work (unless the original file has gone missing, see above).


However, when you select a track and press Command-I, you are informed that they have “not yet been processed by iCloud Music Library”. This is because they were due to be, that processing was initiated, but terminated with your subscription. Do not fear: just click on the Yes button.


The bottom two fields in the File tab now reveal what has happened: their iCloud status is “Waiting” (for Godot, presumably), but they still have a real location in your local iTunes Music library. If you don’t believe me, follow the path shown and you will see the track still there, intact, and the same as it was before this mess started.

What to do

Fix any real missing tracks, or remove them from the iTunes listing. So long as the tracks stuck waiting for iCloud work fine, you should be happy just leaving them like that; they are not apparently at risk, and if they did vanish, you have got good backups of your tracks and library. Haven’t you?

If you really get disturbed by those pesky little iCloud icons and have the time and effort to put things back properly (as iTunes should have done), you can remove the tracks from iTunes but without deleting the tracks themselves, then add them back from the files which are still there.

But my problems are worse, really

Apple has a lot of very useful help information on its support site. We all think that iTunes needs a good overhaul, but it really is not that bad, and is far from being unsupported.

If your content seems to have vanished from iTunes, or you believe that there are plenty of missing tracks, then you can revert to your previous iTunes Library, a process described well here. The snag is that you are not likely to have many previous library files: since I dabbled with Apple Music, there has only been one stored, and that was when my current problems were well established. The next previous library file was almost a year ago, before I tried Apple Music.

So that solution works best when you have just updated iTunes, and the new version is not working properly.

Another clear support article here steps you through replacing a track which has gone missing, such as that described in Missing Tracks above.

One other quick check which might make you feel a bit better is to compare the size of your current iTunes Music folder with one from your Time Machine backup prior to joining Apple Music, and even to check through some folders to see how they compare. You did keep a backup, didn’t you?

If your library is not vast and is now a real mess, consider removing all the tracks (but not their files) and rebuilding your library from scratch. When doing so, stop for a five minute break every hour, and curse iTunes vigorously: unsubscribing from Apple Music does leave a mess, and that is not acceptable, and Apple needs to fix it. But it is not the disaster that it may at first look like.

Footnote (added 0840):

For the sake of completeness, I should point out that the iCloud icon with the broken lines shown above indicates a track which is being transferred to iTunes in the Cloud, typically seen when you first subscribe to Apple Music, or when you have ceased subscribing. When a track is in the cloud, the icon has a continuous line. When you unsubscribe to Apple Music, those tracks should revert to your local copies, so long as their original files have not been removed.