Apple’s iTunes Match service compares the tracks in your iTunes library with those in Apple’s catalogue of 20 million songs, and lets you upload the ones it can’t match (you can upload a maximum of 25,000 non-purchased tracks). And for the tracks it does match, you can download Apple’s copies to replace your own poorly ripped MP3 files from a decade ago. You can then access those songs via iTunes or your iOS devices whenever you want. Sounds simple enough, but we’ve received dozens of questions about iTunes Match. Here are some of the most common.

Will my playlists be available on other PCs, Macs or iOS devices just as they are on my home computer?

iTunes Match syncs and displays your playlists on all the computers and iOS devices (up to 10 in total) on which you’ve enabled iTunes Match. However, if you have playlists that contain podcasts, videos or music videos, those playlists won’t sync (even if a playlist includes 1,000 songs and just one music video). But your music-only playlists should be available on your computers and iOS devices.

Many songs in my library are sold on the iTunes Store but have been uploaded rather than matched. If I change the titles’ spellings to match Apple’s, will that make the files match instead?

iTunes Match doesn’t match all the tracks it should, but not because of how you’ve tagged them. iTunes Match ignores the tags and looks at the music alone, creating an acoustic fingerprint to match against its catalogue. So even if you change tags on your own this won’t affect whether songs match. Also note that if you match songs whose tags are incorrect, iTunes won’t fix those for you.

Do I have to download each song to my PC individually by clicking on the iCloud symbol next to the song, or is there a download-all option somewhere?

Just select the files you want to download and then Control-click or right-click on the selection and choose Download from the contextual menu that appears. This downloads all the selected files. Naturally, if you’re downloading your entire library, be prepared for the process to take a long time.

Download multiple tracks from iTunes Match via the iTunes contextual menu

A lot of my older downloads are protected AAC files that are no longer available on the iTunes Store. How can I get these songs onto my other devices?

I, too, found that many songs I bought from the iTunes Store turned out not to match, and were no longer sold on the iTunes Store. However, none of these were listed as ineligible, and all of them were uploaded. The only ineligible tracks are those at bit rates of less than 96 kilobits per second (kbps) and files larger than 200MB. So in your case, there must be another reason. Check the files by pressing Cmd-I and looking on the Summary tab of the Get Info window to see what types of files they are and their bit rates.

Files that are ineligible for iTunes Match – like those with low bit rates – display this iCloud icon and status

I spent a lot of time adding CDs to my iTunes library in either WAV or Apple Lossless formats. Will I lose this quality level if I use iTunes Match?

Yes and no. iTunes Match doesn’t alter the songs in your library unless you choose to replace them. If iTunes has matched a lossless track and you delete your master file, the version you redownload from iTunes will be 256kbps. And if you download that track on another computer or an iOS device, it will similarly be 256kbps. Unmatched lossless audio files that iTunes uploads get transcoded to a 256kbps AAC file first, but again that doesn’t affect your originals. In most cases, 256kbps AAC files are fine for portable devices – taking into consideration their limited storage space and the headphones you’ll be listening through. So you might want to use iTunes Match to provide music to, say, an iPhone, but still use your computer’s iTunes library when you listen via a stereo.