How can I download my iTunes library?

Streaming music from cloud services such as Spotify and Apple Music is great, but sometimes it's good to know that if your internet connection should falter then you'd still have your collection safely nestled on a nearby hard drive. To this end we've put together a guide on how to make sure your iTunes library is available when network coverage is not.

Related: iTunes Match v Apple Music v iCloud Music Library | Apple Music vs Spotify

How to download your iTunes library: Using iTunes Match with your Mac

If you've already signed up to Apple's iTunes Match service then you should have copies of all your albums stored in the iCloud Music Library servers. One of the advantages of this is that if you delete the music files on your Mac you can download them again, in many cases at a higher quality than the original files. You can also access your iTunes library on multiple machines so long as they are all authorised.

If iTunes Match is new to you then you can check out our guide on How to set up iTunes Match, which takes you through getting this very useful service up and running. 

To download your entire library you'll need to open iTunes and then click on the View option on the menu bar. From the dropdown menu that appears, make sure 'All Music' is selected instead of 'Only Downloaded Music'. 

How to download iTunes library

Next, select Songs from the Library column on the left of the screen.

How to download iTunes library

You should see a column to the right of the song title that has a little blue cloud with an arrow pointing down from the centre. These are all of the tracks that are not actually on your machine at the moment. Highlight one of the tracks and then press Cmd + A to select the entire list.

how to download iTunes library

Now right-click on the blue area, and from the menu that appears, select Download.

How to download iTunes library

Now iTunes will start downloading all of your tracks. Depending on the size of your library this could either take a few minutes or many hours. If your collection is vast then it might be best to start this process just before you go to bed, then hopefully you'll awake to a locally stored library.

How to download your iTunes library: Move your library to another Mac

While you can use iTunes Match to share your music with different Macs, if you wanted to actually move your iTunes library to external storage or another machine then you can follow our How to move your iTunes library to a new Mac or external drive tutorial.

How to download your iTunes library: Use iTunes Match with your iPhone or iPad

If you've got an iPhone or iPad with enough storage to accommodate your iTunes library, such as the spacious 256GB version of the iPhone 7, then iTunes Match is again a good choice. It's not a perfect solution, though, as unlike on the Mac you can't select all of your library to download in one go.

One workaround is to create a Smart Playlist on your Mac (or PC) that includes all the music in your collection. To do this, open iTunes on your computer then go to File > New > Smart Playlist.

How to download iTunes library

In the Match area, make sure 'music' is selected, then from the dropdown menu below choose Year; is greater than; and type in 1000.

How to download iTunes library

So long as you don't have any very old music, when you click OK you'll see all of your library added to the Smart Playlist. Give it a name - we called ours Catalogue - so you'll be able to recognise it on your mobile device.

How to download iTunes library

Now open the Music app on your iOS device and select Playlists.

How to download iTunes library

There you should find the new Smart Playlist you've created. Tap on it and then on the right hand side of the screen, just above the list of songs, you'll see a little red cloud icon with a down arrow emerging from its base.

How to download iTunes library

Tap this and your entire iTunes library will start to download. As with the Mac variant above be sure that you don't need your device for a while as the downloads could take quite a long time if you've got a big collection.

Of course you can always dig out the old lightning cable and manually connect your iOS device to your Mac if you want a quicker way to get things done. Follow our complete guide on How to sync iTunes for more details.