What to do when iTunes can’t locate your music files

iTunes Can't Locate Music

Have you ever had the problem where an exclamation point appears next to a song in iTunes when you try and play it? This is the last thing you want to deal with when you’re in the mood to listen to your jam, but fortunately, it’s usually a pretty easy thing to fix. In this tutorial, we’ll show you how to get around this problem and get iTunes to play your music once again.

iTunes can’t locate your music… but why?

There come times when iTunes may not be able to locate your music files when you try to play them. You’ll know when iTunes can’t locate your music because as shown above, an exclamation point appears to the left of the music that can’t be found. Moreover, when you try to play it, you’ll get a pop-up alert like saying “The song xxx could not be used because the original file could not be found. Would you like to locate it?

itunes can't find music file

This scenario may occur on your machine after a major system change, such as a major software update, after you restore from a computer backup, or if you’ve removed an important storage drive from your computer.

These critical changes to your computer’s filesystem could take part of your iTunes library with it. When this happens, iTunes will get confused because it won’t be able to locate the music it was once able to find and play.

So how do you fix it? Well… you just need to know what happened to the original files, and then you can redirect iTunes to them. This troubleshooting guide works for both Mac and PC, as iTunes is very similar on both platforms.

Fixing the error

If you know where the music files went, such as you moved it to a new folder or renamed the original files to something new while better organizing your computer’s files, then you’re in luck. You’ll be able to simply re-direct iTunes to the new folder.

If you’ve moved or renamed the files, you can follow these steps to relocate the lost music:

1) Double-click on the missing song(s) from iTunes.

2) In the pop-up window that appears, click on the blue Locate button.

itunes can't find songs

3) Use the Finder navigation window that appears to find the music file associated with the song you’re trying to play.

Redirect iTunes to Music File on Mac 1

4) Keep opening folders until you find the actual song file, then click on the Open button.

Open Missing iTunes Track 2

5) iTunes will now begin playing the song that you were trying to play prior to the issues (note the ! is gone, and a speaker icon appears instead):

iTunes Music Playing After Being Located

Congratulations; you’ve just located a lost music file and solved the iTunes error!

The other scenarios…

Sometimes it won’t be as easy as pointing iTunes to the missing file.

If the issue was related to a storage drive being disconnected, you will have to reconnect that storage drive because your computer won’t have access to the songs stored on it unless it’s physically connected. So if you were in these shoes, you’d just plug it back in.

On the other hand, sometimes the issue can be significantly more complicated, such as, you just had to perform a restore to an earlier backup because of problems with your computer…

I see this problem being more common for Windows users than Mac users, but in some scenarios, files that weren’t on your computer at the time the backup was created will be lost when you turn back the clock on your machine. In these scenarios, the files may be gone for good and you’ll need to re-download them, or re-import them via CD or USB drive.

If you believe your issue was related to a recent iTunes software update, then it’s possible your entire library, not just a select few songs, have gone missing. If this was the case, you can refer to our guide on how to get your iTunes media back after an update.

Wrapping up

I know the feeling of when you want to listen to your music, but can’t because iTunes is having trouble finding the files to play the music. It feels discouraging. Fortunately, you can easily point iTunes in the right direction.

This is why I always recommend you keep backups of your entire iTunes library on a flash drive or external hard drive somewhere, that way when things go missing, it’s super easy to re-import everything to your computer and add it back to iTunes in a jiffy.

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