Apple Music deleting files? We've heard reports from many Apple Music users that songs are mysteriously disappearing, so we'll help you prevent missing songs in Apple Music and show you how to get deleted songs back.

Why has Apple Music deleted all my files: how iTunes Match and Apple Music works

When you sign up for either Apple Music or iTunes Match, Apple matches the music in your library with the songs in the iTunes Store.

Songs in your library stay in your library, but you can access them on all your other Mac computers, and iOS devices (your iPhone and iPad). You can download matched tracks on other devices, or stream them whenever you have a Wi-Fi or network connection.

Songs that Apple can't match with the iTunes Store are uploaded to iCloud, and you can then stream the audio directly. This enables you to share rare songs, odd audio files and other soundtracks that you have (but iTunes doesn't).

Apple Music complicates matters because it also allows you to play, and download, any track from the iTunes Store as long as your subscription is valid.

Why does Apple delete my music files?

It doesn't. When you end your Apple Music or iTunes Match subscription, the music files should remain on your computer. If you had iTunes Match you will still be able to play them, if you downloaded tracks from Apple Music you won't be able to play them (but will keep the files).

In theory, everything should work just fine. You keep your original music files, get to play and download any track from the iTunes Store, upload rare files to the iTunes Store and when you decide it's not for you: you get to keep everything, but the streaming tracks you downloaded from the iTunes Store (the only ones you never purchased).

At no point is Apple Music supposed to delete your music from your computer. Kirk "The iTunes Guy" McElhern covers this extensively over on our US site. However, even Kirk admits that "iTunes is nothing if not problematic." We are less kind to it: Apple should have put an end to iTunes feature-creep years ago. The program is a complicated mess and has been for a long time.

This problem keeps cropping up.It last came to light in May when James Pinkstone wrote this blog post: Apple Stole My Music. No, Seriously. The blog went viral after Amber, a poster on the Apple forum, said “The software is functioning as intended,” falsely stating that Apple Music deleted files. Apple engineers eventually went round to James' house to see if they could recreate the problem (they couldn't).

But the problem of missing, or wrong, iTunes Music keeps boomeranging back around. See iTunes Match replaces explicit songs with clean versions, or iTunes Match playing the wrong song, or Apple replaces music with live versions.

So this feature is if you have music missing in your iTunes Library. Here are some places to check, and things to do if your music is missing from iTunes, or if iTunes is playing the wrong tracks.

Check your audio files in the Music folder

Check for deleted tracks in the Music folder

Apple iTunes only sorts and displays music. The actual files are stored in your Music folder.

Open a Finder window and click on Music in the Sidebar (or Choose Go > Home and double-click the Music folder). Now open the iTunes, iTunes Media, and another folder named "Music".

Here you should see folders named after artists, and inside those more folders named after albums. And inside those track names ending in .m4a, .mp3. Drag individual tracks, or folders onto the iTunes icon in the Dock to re-import them back into iTunes.

Check your other computers for missing music

If you don't have the music files in iTunes, then they have been removed from your computer.

The first thing we'd suggest you do is to check for the files in iTunes, and in the Music folder, on any other computers you have. Apple Match may have matched them originally from another computer, or you may have downloaded the file to another computer. Either way, if you find them in that copy of iTunes, you can either copy the files across (we find it easiest to copy the files to an external drive, then drag them on top of the iTunes icon to import them as above).

Check your purchased history to get deleted tracks

Check your purchased history

If the files aren't in your trash, or on another Mac, you own then it's time to see if you can recover them. The first place to check is your iTunes purchases. Open iTunes and click Account > Purchases / Family Purchases.

Here you'll find all the music you have bought in the past, click the iCloud icon next to any track to re-download it back to your Mac.

Restore missing music files from backup

Recover music from Time Machine

If you don't have the music tracks in your iTunes purchased list, then you can recover the music files from your Time Machine backup (we hope you have got a backup).

  1. Open Finder and navigate to your Music folder.
  2. Click the Time Machine icon in the Dock. (If it's not in the Dock, drag it from Applications to the Dock and start again).
  3. Click on the up arrow next to Today (to the right of the Finder window). This icon will skip back to the most recent change.
  4. Locate the missing folders and click Restore.

Sadly this does require a Time Machine (or other backup solution) in place. If you haven't then you'll need to get one in place. Please read our Complete Guide to Time Machine.

Re-Import from CD

If this doesn't work, you will need to import your music from the source. If you didn't purchase it from iTunes (or another online source), then you most likely ripped it from a CD. You can import the music from CD again. It's not the best solution, and you may need to attach a CD drive to newer Macs.

See: Home How to iPhone How to How to get high-quality music and audio on your iPhone

See also:

How to download iTunes
How to sync with iTunes and use Apple Music playlists
How to set up iTunes Match
15 iTunes tips and tricks