Troubleshooting iTunes

Finding iTunes a less lyrical experience than you'd hoped? Cures for these common problems may help tune up the program.

Symptom: There's no music in your iTunes library when there should be.

Cure 1: Rebuild your music library by creating a new iTunes database file. To do so, follow these steps.

1. Quit iTunes if it's running.

2. Locate the iTunes 4 Music Library file (or iTunes 3 Music Library file, if you're using that version of iTunes).

On a Macintosh you'll find this file in the iTunes folder within the music folder inside your user folder (~/Music/iTunes).

On a Windows PC this file is found within the iTunes folder inside your user's My Music file (or, more specifically, C:\Document and Settings\username\My Documents\My Music\iTunes, where "username" is your user name -- bubba, for example).

3. Add "(old)" to the iTunes Music Library file's name (without the quotes, please) -- iTunes 4 Music Library (old), for instance. If there's already a file with that name, append "(old1)" to the name.

4. Launch iTunes. When you do so, a new database file will be built and everything should be hunky dory.

Cure 2: Be sure that your iTunes Music folder is where iTunes thinks it is.

On a Macintosh, the iTunes Music folder is kept in this location by default: ~/Music/iTunes.

The default location on a Windows PC is: C:\Document and Settings\username\My Documents\My Music\iTunes.

In the Advanced tab of iTunes' preferences, you can change this default location. If you've done so and haven't moved your music files, no songs will appear in iTunes library.

Cure 3: Add your songs again.

If you can locate your music files by rummaging around on your hard drive but iTunes seems dead set against showing them, use the Add to Library command in the File menu to find your music and add it again. Before doing so, open the Advanced tab of iTunes' preferences and make sure that the Copy Files to iTunes Music Folder When Adding to Library option is unchecked. With this option unchecked, song titles will be added to iTunes without the songs themselves being copied to the iTunes Music folder.

Symptom: iTunes appears to be playing, but you hear nothing.

Cure 1: Make sure your computer can make other sounds.

If your computer is completely mute, the problem likely lies with your speakers (make sure they're on and properly connected), your soundcard (you've got headphones plugged in, which cuts off sound to your speakers), or your Sound Output settings (you have another device configured to play sound or the master volume control for your computer is turned down).

Cure 2: Make sure that the volume slider in iTunes is turned up.

Cure 3: If you're using Apple's AirPort Express to stream music from iTunes to an audio device plugged into the Airport Express, be sure that you've selected a working output in the AirPort Express pop-up menu that appears at the bottom of the iTunes window.

For example, if your living room stereo (which is connected to an AirPort Express) is selected as an output source and that stereo isn't switched on, you hear nothing.

Symptom: You've got a mess of duplicates in your iTunes library.

Cure 1: This can occur when you've used the Add to Library command one time too many. To start fresh, select everything in your iTunes library (the one in iTunes) and press your keyboard's Delete key.

When you're asked whether you want to delete the files from your hard drive, respond NO. We're simply clearing out the list of songs from iTunes, not deleting the songs from your hard drive.

Open iTunes' preferences, click the Advanced tab, and make sure that the Copy Files to iTunes Music Folder When Adding to Library option is unchecked. Now select Add to Library from iTunes' File menu (or Add Folder to Library if you're using Windows), navigate to your music folder (called Music on the Mac and My Music on the PC) and click Choose. All the songs in the folder will be added to iTunes. If you want to grab all the music on your computer, select a directory higher up in the file hierarchy -- your Mac's startup volume or your PC's C drive, for example. iTunes will add any compatible music and audio files to its library.

Cure 2: If you're using a Macintosh, use a helpful ApplesScript to remove the duplicates.

One such AppleScript is Remove Duplicates, which removes any duplicates spawned by the same audio file (in other words, you only have one copy of the file but multiple entries for it in iTunes).

Another is Corral All Dupes. This one searches for songs that appear to be the same and places them in a playlist, allowing you to decide which to keep and which to delete. These duplicates are multiple copies of a song -- perhaps one in MP3 format and another in AAC format.

Both scripts are from Doug's AppleScripts for iTunes site.

Symptom: You've purchased a song from the iTunes Music Store yet the file doesn't appear in your iTunes library.

Cure 1: Select Check for Purchased Music from iTunes' Advanced menu.

If there was a connection problem during download of some purchased music, all the files you bought may not make their way to iTunes. Selecting the Check for Purchased Music command tells iTunes to see if there's anything in The Store's download queue that you haven't retrieved.

Symptom: Your computer crashed and you've lost your music.

Cure 1: Use a file recovery utility to attempt to recover your data (and music).

Recovering computer data is beyond the scope of this article. Just know that there are tools such as Norton Utilities for Windows and Data Rescue and TechTool Pro for the Macintosh that can handle these kinds of jobs.

Cure 2: My hope is that you're reading this before such a thing happens to you. In this case, the best offense is a good defense. The music you've ripped from the CDs you own is safe -- you have to go through the hassle of re-ripping your discs, but at least you've got the music.

Music you've purchased from the iTunes Music Store is a tougher nut to crack. Apple won't allow you to download music twice without paying for it a second time. For this reason it's a good idea to backup music (either as data or as an audio CD) the minute you purchase it.

If your iPod holds copies of the music you've purchased you can use a variety of tools to copy it from your iPod to your computer (which, presumably, you've fixed so this sort of thing doesn't happen again).

If you're using a Macintosh, go to VersionTracker or MacUpdate and enter "iPod" in the search field. You'll be presented with a long list of utilities that can copy music from the iPod to your Mac. Popular utilities include the free Senuti and the $8 PodManager.

Windows users can try the $15 iPod Music Liberator, the free EphPod, or Red Chair Software's $25 Anapod Explorer.

Alternatively, you can make the music files on your iPod visible and copy them to your computer's hard drive.

Macintosh users can use a utility such as TinkerTool to make hidden files visible. Once the files are visible, copy the Music folder from inside the iPod_Control folder to the Mac's Desktop and then drag that folder into iTunes to add them to the iTunes library.

Windows users can mount the iPod as a hard drive, double-click the iPod to open it, select Folder Options from the Tools menu, click the View tab in the resulting window, enable the Show Hidden Files and Folder option, and click Apply. Copy the Music folder within the iPod_Control folder to the PC's hard drive and then drag the folder into iTunes to add the songs to iTunes' library.

Symptom: There are gaps between songs in iTunes, on CDs you've burned with iTunes, and songs you've transferred from iTunes to your iPod.

Not Much of a Cure 1: I'm afraid this is the nature of the beast. There's information in the headers of the music files used by iTunes that creates these small gaps. You can get around this problem when ripping an audio CD by choosing Join CD Tracks from iTunes' Advanced menu. This isn't an ideal solution because the tracks you select before imposing this command become one long audio track -- meaning that you can't easily navigate between one songs and another. Also, such long tracks tend to use up an iPod battery charge more quickly because the iPod's hard drive has to spin up more often.

Once the tracks are in iTunes (because you'd ripped a CD without using Join CD Tracks or you've downloaded the music), you can't join them in this way. You can lessen the gap a bit by using the Crossfade Playback control in the Audio tab of iTunes' preferences, but it won't completely eliminate the gap.

Symptom: A computer crashed and with it went your last authorization for playing purchased iTunes.

Cure 1: Talk to Apple.

In the old days, when you had just three authorizations, Apple was pretty good about resetting its authorization count from HQ -- meaning that it deauthorized all your computers and then you'd reauthorize them by playing .

Apple now allows you to authorize up to five computers and may be a bit stingier with those authorizations. If you'd like to have a go, surf over to Apple's iTunes feedback site, pen a polite message explaining the problem, and ask if they might reset your authorizations.

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