A: If I sign up for iTunes Match, is all of my music from the music library removed from iTunes (I know my original MP3 files are still in my HD) and each time I want to listen to my music, iTunes will download the high quality ones from iCloud and save for future use? That means I will have to listen to all of my music at least once just to get all of my music in the HD? That will kill my monthly bandwidth as I have limited number of GB per month. What are your thoughts?
A: The short answer is no. Enabling iTunes Match leaves your existing iTunes library pretty much in its original form; the process does not remove anything from your iTunes library, but merely updates it with status indicators to identify which tracks have been successfully matched or uploaded to iCloud.
In fact, it doesn’t even automatically “upgrade” your original tracks on your local hard drive, so if you’re starting with 128kbps MP3s, that’s what you’ll have on your computer once iTunes Match is enabled. Of course, that’s a good thing, since if you have 320kbps MP3s, they won’t be “downgraded” either.
When you first enable iTunes Match, anything you’ve purchased from the iTunes Store is automatically added based on your purchased history, and then iTunes goes through the rest of your library, analyzing each track to see if it matches a track on the iTunes Store. Tracks that cannot be matched to the iTunes Store are then uploaded directly to iCloud.
Once this process has completed, your entire library will be available via iCloud on your iOS devices and any other computers running iTunes, but all of the music that was in your original iTunes library remains in place, in its original form. However, if you manually remove a track from your iTunes library, you will see an additional option asking you whether you want to also remove it from iCloud. Unless you select this option to also remove the track from iCloud, it will remain listed in your iTunes library and can be streamed or downloaded from there back into your local library.
In fact, if you want to upgrade your lower-bitrate content to the matched copies from the iTunes Store, you must first manually remove it from your library by deleting the local copies, and then manually re-download it from iCloud using the download option that can be found in iTunes once iTunes Match has been enabled.
For more detailed information on how all of this works see our article, Instant Expert: Secrets & Features of iTunes Match.