Reorganizing recovered tracks in iTunes


Q: By using your tutorials and a free application I was able to transfer songs that were saved on my iPod back to my computer after I had lost everything. The music folders are now located under Documents & Settings/Owner/My Documents/My Music and each time I try to play a song on my computer for the first time I have to “locate” the song in that file folder. Is there an easy way to put my music files back into an iTunes library that iTunes recognizes instead of having to locate each song I’m trying to play? I have an external hard drive where any CD’s I download are saved. Can I drag and drop the folders from My Music to the external hard drive I specifically have my iTunes save new CDs to? Will that put everything
back into an iTunes library? Thanks.

Reorganizing recovered tracks in iTunes

– Evelyn

A: The problem here is that iTunes stores the full path to each of your media files in the iTunes library, and when it can’t find the file in that location, it falls back to asking you to locate the file yourself. Before it does this, however, it will make one other attempt to locate the track in the standard location where iTunes would store your music by default, specifically in your iTunes Music folder, organized into sub-folders by Artist and Album.

Your iTunes Music folder location is specified under your iTunes Advanced preferences tab, and by default would be a folder named “iTunes Music” under the main iTunes folder on your C: drive. However, if you’ve previously specified another location, such as a folder on your external hard drive, this means that iTunes will fall back to looking for the music in that location instead of looking for it in the location where you’ve stored the recovered files.

Reorganizing recovered tracks in iTunes

Basically, to solve this problem easily, you need to put the files back where iTunes would expect to find them. If you’ve recovered them to a standard ARTIST\ALBUM\SONGNAME file system structure, then you’re probably already most of the way there, and might be able to get away with just copying then en masse to your external hard drive, or resetting your “iTunes Music folder” path in your iTunes Advanced preferences back to your C: drive location.

A useful tip for getting your tracks organized in the way that iTunes wants to see them is to let iTunes re-organize the tracks for you by re-importing them into a new, separate iTunes library. The idea here is that the iTunes application will always organize your tracks in the same way, regardless of which iTunes library database you’re using. On the basis of this, you can create a new iTunes library database to work with, import all of the tracks into that new, dummy library and let iTunes organize them for you, and then switch back to your original iTunes library database.

You can create a new iTunes library without affecting your existing library files simply by holding down the SHIFT key (Windows) or OPT key (Mac) when starting iTunes. iTunes will prompt you to either choose or create a new library.


Reorganizing recovered tracks in iTunes

Simply choose to create a new iTunes library and specify a path for the new library database. Note that even in a new library, all of your iTunes preferences remain the same, so your preferred iTunes Music folder path will apply to both libraries. As part of this process, make sure that the “Copy files to iTunes Music folder when adding to library” option is enabled under your iTunes Advanced preferences:


Reorganizing recovered tracks in iTunes

Once you’ve created a new iTunes library, simply re-import all of your music as you normally would, by selecting File, Add to Library or dragging and dropping the music into iTunes. As iTunes imports your tracks, it will copy them into your iTunes Music folder location, as specified in your iTunes preferences. organizing them into the proper folder structure in the process.

Once this process has been completed, close iTunes and restart it again while holding down the SHIFT/OPT key to bring up the library selection dialog box, and select “Choose Library” and switch back to your original iTunes library database. With all of the files having been copied and re-organized by iTunes, your primary library should now have no problem locating your music.


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Jesse Hollington

Jesse Hollington was a Senior Editor at iLounge. He's written about Apple technology for nearly a decade and had been covering the industry since the early days of iLounge. In his role at iLounge, he provided daily news coverage, wrote and edited features and reviews, and was responsible for the overall quality of the site's content.