Exclamation marks next to tracks in iTunes

Q: I just logged onto my iTunes library to play some tunes and they won’t play. There are exclamation marks to the left of all the songs. A ‘locate’ prompt keeps coming up and that isn’t working either. I have downloaded the new version of iTunes and all updates are done. I used it a couple of weeks ago and everything was fine. This is very frustrating, hope you can help! Thanks.

– Erin

A: The exclamation marks indicate that iTunes cannot locate your media files where it expects them to be. The iTunes library database stores a full path to each media file in your library, and if you move those files, then iTunes will lose track of them and not be able to find them.

If you’ve moved your iTunes Media folder manually, then the solution to this problem is simply to put it back where it was originally located. You should never move files around in the underlying file system as iTunes will lose track of these file locations. Instead, if you need to move your iTunes content to a different location, use the “Consolidate” function built into iTunes itself. This is explained in more detail in our article on Transferring your iTunes Library.

If you haven’t changed or moved anything that you’re aware of and are storing your iTunes library on an external hard drive, it’s also possible that the drive letter has changed. Windows will often reassign drive letters dynamically if things are connected in a different order. If your external hard drive was originally drive E: for instance, and is now drive F: for whatever reason, then iTunes will not be able to locate your media files as it still expects to see them on drive E:. You can reassign drive letters in Windows by visiting your Windows Control Panel and selecting Computer Management and then Disk Management from there.

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