Why Is iTunes Randomly Moving My Music Files? [Ask MacRx]

ITunes Moving Files

Many of us are convinced our computers have minds of their own. In this bizarre case of iTunes moving music files around, there may well be a ghost in the machine:

Ok. I got one for you that has stumped EVERYONE that I have proposed this problem to, including Mac Geniuses and numerous techie friends.

iTunes keeps all music organized inside the Music folder in the Home folder. For the last several months, periodically when I add a new song, or change something regarding songs already in the library (add artwork, adjust genre, etc) SOME songs will relocate themselves to Macintosh HD >Music >iTunes >iTunes Music [outside the Home folder].

I tend to see the same few artists move, but then it moves not only the song that may or may not have been adjusted, but it’ll move all/part of that subsequent album. For example, if I add artwork to the Beatles 1 album, the entire artist folder for Beatles will relocate itself. Or perhaps a second Beatles folder will relocate itself into the Macintosh HD level, but only bring along 5 of the 6 possible albums that I have.

iTunes updates the location information in its database file, so there is no difference seen when playing music through iTunes. The Apple Store’s opinion was that it’s “not a big deal since the music plays anyway, why do you care?” It just tends to drive me nuts and I’d like an explanation rather than just a blow off.

Let’s hope I don’t stump you too.

Julie

Hi Julie,

Yes that is an odd problem. I’m not surprised that the Genius Bar was uninterested in in-depth sleuthing, but clearly something is going on. Is there any consistency to which files get moved? Are they always items you purchased from the iTunes Store?

A couple things to check:

-do you have your iTunes Media folder location set to /Users/homefolder/Music/iTunes/iTunes Music?

-in iTunes Preferences –> Advanced tab, do you have “Copy files to iTunes Media folder when adding to library” checked?

If yes to both, try this: go to File –> Library –> Organize Library, and choose Consolidate files. This will put everything into the library inside the Music Folder. Then quit iTunes, rename the top level Music folder (outside your home folder) to something other than “Music”, then relaunch iTunes. See if things then behave normally or the problem recurs.

Adam, thanks for trying to help

I do not purchase many files from the iTunes store, so I cannot verify if those are the files that move frequently. However, it does seem as if the same artists consistently move, and I do not know if this is because I listen to them the most, or what.

Yes, to both of your questions about where my iTunes library is located. And I often consolidate files when I consolidate files, they either do not actually copy (the scroll bar does come up) or they readjust permissions back to the Macintosh HD level quickly. Now, if I quit iTunes, and rename the folder to something different, when I open iTunes the next time, it adjusts the name to now meet the new name.

It is interesting to note that this does not ALWAYS happen, but it happens frequently enough that I know to check for it. Sometimes it moves one artist, tonight when I was checking what you suggested, it moved almost 2GB of music. I tend to just go and correct it the fix myself since it will update as I move files, but it is getting annoying.

In the last week, I have also tried reinstalling iTunes to no avail.

I would try reinstalling Mac OS X next, and keep the existing user account. Worth a shot.
Readers, have any other ideas for Julie?

Related
  • prof_peabody

    “… And I often consolidate files when I consolidate files, they either do not actually copy (the scroll bar does come up) or they readjust permissions back to the Macintosh HD level quickly.  …” 

    What?  

  • Corey Clarke

    It’s possible that the iTunes library file is corrupt.  Before re-installing OS X, I would kill iTunes, copy the entire iTunes Music folder out to an external drive then delete it from the user’s music folder.  Then, open iTunes so it can create a brand new library file.  Make sure iTunes’ prefs are set to copy music inside the iTunes folder then drag and drop the backup music folder and drop it onto the iTunes window (in the music section in the upper-left).  Assuming all goes correct, you’ll see iTunes process all of your music and start copying it back into the new library.

    Good luck.

  • Jennie6789

    my friend’s step-aunt makes $70/hour on the computer. She has been unemployed for 5 months but last month her pay was $7740 just working on the computer for a few hours. Read about it on this web site MakeCash1.com

  • John Neumann

    I’ve had the same thing happen. At first I thought it was a glitch when I first noticed it (I had installed the iTunes beta prior to last week) but yesterday I noticed a small folder of iTunes files sitting outside of their playpen. 

    The Apple Store’s opinion was that it’s “not a big deal since the music plays anyway, why do you care?”

    This statement is outrageous. Who in their right mind would want their music files sprinkled around their computer? It bugs the hell out of me that I can’t organize some of my applications into folders (but this is a different gripe). 

    I’m sure Apple will figure out this stuff over the next few weeks. 

  • Christopher Lee

    Are all the user permissions correct? From a UNIX perspective it’d be helpful to know if he’s done repair disk permissions, and if all the music files are owned by (username) and have the proper permissions. It may be possible that a music file is owned by root or some change is being run by root; the root user’s home folder is simply Macintosh HD (in UNIX parlance it’s /)

  • joewaylo

    That’s actually the default music folder since a few iTunes versions ago.
    It may have been in 9.X. It’s been a while since I dumped PC for Mac Mini 1 and 2 generation.

    All music stores in /Music/iTunes/iTunes Music.
    All TV shows are stored in /Music/iTunes/iTunes Music/TV Shows
    and the same thing for Movies.

  • joewaylo

    That’s actually the default music folder since a few iTunes versions ago.
    It may have been in 9.X. It’s been a while since I dumped PC for Mac Mini 1 and 2 generation.

    All music stores in /Music/iTunes/iTunes Music.
    All TV shows are stored in /Music/iTunes/iTunes Music/TV Shows
    and the same thing for Movies.

  • SusanLeser08787

    my friend’s step-aunt makes $70/hour on the computer. She has been unemployed for 5 months but last month her pay was $7740 just working on the computer for a few hours. Read about it on this web site MakeCash1.com

  • Guest

    This may be a somewhat more drastic solution, but I like to start with a clean slate.  In fact, I like doing this from time to time (about once a year when a new major release of iTunes comes out).

    1. Move all of your music to a folder on your desktop.  Make sure you get it all.  You may have to do a Spotlight search or, if you know the size of your library, verify.  It helps to be very familiar with your library so that you can browse through your files and know that everything is there.

    2. Use an uninstaller like AppCleaner http://freemacsoft.net/# to make sure you get rid of iTunes completely.  Delete your Music/iTunes folder completely. (You did move your music out of there, right?)

    3. Download the latest version of iTunes http://www.apple.com/itunes/ and reinstall it.  You may want to restart your computer and repair permissions just to be sure.  If you want to be thorough, start a new user account.  To be absolutely sure, you could start with a fresh OS X install, although that shouldn’t be necessary.

    4. There is a folder called “Automatically Add to iTunes” in iTunes/iTunes Media that’s created after you first run iTunes.  You can move your music to this folder now.  I like to reorganize and discard music at this time.

    5. After iTunes finishes processing everything, there should be nothing left in the “Automatically Add to iTunes” folder.  If there is, I’ll let you figure out what went wrong.  Perhaps some files were corrupted.  Go back to iTunes and scroll through your library, making sure everything was imported correctly and that files actually play.

    I believe your iTunes library (the database that points to where your files are located) was corrupted somehow.  Many users don’t understand that unless you completely uninstall and delete all preference and database files for an application, problems could reoccur.  Don’t be afraid to delete preference files.  They should only take a second to setup again, or else either the program or the way you use it are overcomplicated.

    I had a lot of hard drive crashes back when I was a young and naive Windows user, so I had a lot of practice restoring from scratch.  I learned the importance of keeping it simple and knowing exactly the way I like things.

    tl;dr COMPLETELY UNINSTALL ITUNES, DELETE YOUR ITUNES FOLDER, LIBRARY, AND PREFERENCES, AND START WITH A CLEAN SLATE.

  • Evan Benford

    What about the problem of iTunes randomly deleting songs from not only the music folder, BUT THE WHOLE HARDDRIVE! This has happened to me for years and its a PC and OSX issue no matter where songs are purchased (even iTunes). Forums are littered with this complaint dating years back…still hasnt been addressed RIDICULOUS!

  • Christopher Lee

    Are you sure? Are you sure it’s not ~/Music etc (note the tilde)? I can’t imagine any version of OS X storing stuff in what would be a root folder.

    EDIT: also, just want to make sure you’re talking about Mac, not Windows. Windows and OS X have very different file systems, so while it would be acceptable for a Windows iTunes to store stuff in C:\Music\iTunes\iTunes Music, it would be *very* strange for any apple os x app to store in /Music/iTunes/iTunes Music intentionally

  • Theuninvitedguest

    iTunes makes me crazy. For some reason, it keeps deleting my music files (well, maybe not iTunes, but for some reason my computer keeps deleting them). I keep getting exclamation points next to songs that were just there – and more every time I log in. It seems to be entire albums just go missing at once. I search for them, but they are nowhere to be found. So I have to use a script that deletes all the missing files and then use Senuti to re-download them to my iPod. And I’m not the only one, there are many forums with people discussing the same issue. I just don’t even understand where the files go. Last time it was over 1,500 songs.

  • Enrique Terrazas

    Sounds like a corrupt iTunes library file
    here is what i would try next, move my entire music folders to a separate folder for example on the desktop create a “Music Backup” folder and dump only the folders containing music, example: “The Beatles” etc….then delete the entire contents of the iTunes folder, just delete it so that the iTunes library files go along with it.
    Upon relaunching iTunes, it should recreate these files and not finding any music will be blank and fresh.  Set your preferences as stated in the article(iTunes media folder location, keep iTunes folder organized etc…..)
    Then add your library files again, if you have checked “Keep iTunes folder organized(it’s buried somewhere in the preferences) iTunes will take the files you backed up to your desktop and copy them to the location where you stated you want your iTunes media folder, typically Users\username\music\iTunes
    This should solve your issue

  • Adam Rosen

    Yes that’s a good suggestion – worth doing before reinstalling OS X, in fact.

  • Adam Rosen

    I agree, a corrupt iTunes Library file could be a potential cause.

About the author

Adam RosenAdam Rosen is an Apple certified IT consultant specializing in Macintosh systems new and old. He lives in Boston with two cats and too many possessions. In addition to membership in the Cult of Mac, Adam has written for Low End Mac and is curator of the Vintage Mac Museum. He also enjoys a good libation.

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