- Boot up iTunes
- Select some tunes to play only to see an exclamation mark beside the track name
- A dialogue box appears telling me that the song could not be played because the original file could not be found. I've added a screen shot below (click through for full screen):
I scanned through the rest of my library and little exclamation marks popped up everywhere.
Now I have a library of over 25,000 tracks the vast majority of which were missing. If you only have a few tracks missing then, okay, you can merely locate each individual track by double clickiing it and locating the file in Explorer/Finder which shouldn't take you too long. However, 25,000+ tracks is a serious time suck.
I will detail an easy solution to this problem in a moment, but before I do that I will detail exactly what happened.
It seems like iTunes had took it upon itself to create a subfolder within my user designated music folder and was only looking in there for my music, hence it couldn't see the larger library - see the image below:
iTunes had created a new directory at D:\My iTunes\iTunes Music when it should have been D:\My iTunes\ as it had been 24 hours prior. You can find where iTunes stores your music by hitting [ctrl+,] on a PC or [⌘+,] on a Mac. Alternatively click Edit - Preferences - Advanced - General.
I have only recently just reinstalled XP on my office desktop, cleaned up all my files and created multiple partitions - one for system files and programmes, one for data, and one specifically for music in the event that if something went wrong on one, the others would be fine.
My solution to this nightmare was rather straightforward. I've learned from previous mistakes you see. In the past I had been told in the Apple forums (by some noob!) to select all my files in iTunes and hit delete, then reimport them again (be selecting File - Add Folder to Library). Be warned, this is a laborious process which takes an age and also erases all your ratings, playlists, and sometimes even your ID tags. Not ideal. Apple have a related article on their support site which advises similar, but is more a touch more cautious and involves the import command.
Other solutions I have seen involve hunting down your iTunes Library.itl file and rebooting iTunes by clicking on its icon (either in XP's Quicklaunch Toolbar or from OSX's Dock) whilst holding down the Shift key. You can then point iTunes to the library file. This solution only works if that file is intact and not corrupted in any way. It is a good idea to make regular backups of your important files - I have a folder set up in which I keep a weekly backup of the iTunes Library.itl file in the directory above my iTunes folder (see below):
This has saved my music collection a few times and I can't recommend it enough! It's well worth backing this file up to an external source somewhere too, in case you have a total hard drive failure.
Anyway, like I said, my solution to restoring my iTunes collection was pretty straightforward. I selected Preferences - Advanced - General, changed the location of my iTunes Music Folder back to where it should have been (D:\My iTunes in this specific instance) and iTunes automatically did the rest. I had to do a quick scan through the library to see if there were any outstanding exclamation marks or duplicate files, which took a few minutes.
There were between 10-15 tracks which did just seem to have vanished from my hard drive, for which I have no explanation. As I said above, it is good practice to regularly backup files - I use the free version of SyncBackSE from 2BrightSparks to schedule a regular backup of my music to an external drive. It's easy to use and a godsend. It was a simple matter of dragging files from my external to the correct location on my internal with iTunes open - they played straight away.
I did notice some other strange behaviour within iTunes' preferences. I always have iTunes make a copy of the music it imports into my music folder but this option had been disabled - see below:
I have no idea how or why all this happened but I'm glad I spotted it as files recently imported from utorrent had stayed on my E: drive which I usually erase very frequently. I did recently uninstall Adobe CS3 using a WinCS3Clean Script before reinstalling. I have had a few system problems since then, notabley utorrent reporting its inability to downloadsome files (error: requested operation cannot be performed on file with user-mapped section open).
Problems like this are few and far between but they do happen (too often!) and it makes me wonder why I persist with iTunes. However, being a PC and Mac owning household, the benefit of seamless file sharing from the PC into Front Row is just too good to give up on. I love being able to port my music around the house via the Macbook, connecting it up to any of the amps in the different rooms without having to clutter my smaller hard drive.
System: XP Pro SP3
Software: iTunes 126.96.36.199
If you've had similar nightmares, or if this advice has been of some help, be sure to let me know in the comments section.