How To: Rebuild or Clean an iTunes Library
Building up an iTunes Library can take up a great deal of time when you have dozens of GB to work with. And all your hard work can be flushed away in an instant when your computer crashes or you have any other hard drive problem.

iTunes can bring the user a very fulfilling experience once he can benefit from all the iTunes artwork, when all the Library is fully organized or tagged, through the Cover Flow function that enables the user to visualize artwork while navigating through iTunes.

In order to prevent or alleviate the nightmare of losing all your work designing the iTunes Library, TuvaBox has created this article providing information on prevention (the best case scenario) and reducing the damages after a computer failure (the worst case scenario) and all the options a user has in each situation.

When iTunes works fine..

Any time is the right time to back-up your iTunes Library content, in order to be safe when and if your iTunes dies out because a computer crash or a rare bug. For this purpose, you have two options that we'll analyze further on.

First, you may run the iTunes Backup utility, provided with some blank DVDs or a lot of CDs. To reduce the number of discs needed for a backup, iTunes is built to perform incremental backups, meaning it can backup only items added or changed since the last backup as so:

Follow the steps:

   1. Choose File>”Back up to Disc” and then select your option.

   2. Insert a blank disc, which can be a CD-R, CD-RW, DVD-R, or DVD-RW.

   3. Click Back Up.

After this, iTunes will burn the number of items that will fit on that disc, asking afterwards to insert another disc to continue burning the remaining files.

To restore backed-up files, just a insert one of the backup disc, choose File>”Back Up to Disc”, and then select Restore.

Keep in mind that the discs you use to back up iTunes can only be used to restore it, they can not be played in a CD or DVD player, or read as a media content by your computer.

Second, you can perform a manual backup of the iTunes Library to an alternate hard drive. You can just copy from the “My Music” folder (for Windows users), or “Music” folder (for Mac users), the entire iTunes folder, containing an iTunes Music folder, an iTunes Library.itl file and an iTunes Music Library.xml file.

After you perform one of the backup options provided above, it's a good idea to re-run backups now and then just to keep your copy up to date.

When iTunes doesn't work fine...

At this point, when your iTunes Library is probably already lost, you have a few options at hand:

One would be to transfer your iPod's media content back to your computer. This will not bring back also the computer's high resolution album artwork, but nonetheless you can get back as much of the Library content that you have stored on the iPod, as well as original sorting.

Another solution would be the direct one, to contact Apple support and ask them to recover for you all of your purchased music from the iTunes Store. As their statement goes, the responsibility of backing up your media content lays completely with you, so they won't give you very easily your entire purchased content back. It might be just a one time courtesy from their part, and you won't necessarily get all your purchased content back, let alone the rest of your Library, but it's still an option to bear in mind.

There is also a solution that goes with the worst case scenarios, when your iTunes Library has been completely lost. It takes more than just copy & paste, but at the end of it, you will surely get the satisfaction of a job well done, as well as your entire Library back.

Worst case scenario: Manually rebuilding your iTunes Library

Don't worry, well at least not to much, if your system has crashed and you can't figure out anything out of your iTunes Library. The thing is, either due to a hard disk crash or an iTunes database crash, one of these two still has your library in some way, so you just need to locate it and clean it up.

You can start searching for your media files, regardless of what kind of OS you're using, provided that your hard drive is still intact, through Find or Search files or folders command in Windows, and Finder, Spotlight for Mac. Just type in the individual terms MP3, MP4, M4A, M4B, M4P, and M4V and you can find most of the files that Apple can play. If, on the other hand, your hard drive is in bad shape, you may use a hard disk recovery tool to recover some of its content, but keep in mind that while these tools can locate media files just fine, they are not the perfect thing at recovering them entirely. You may always find dozens of corrupted files, cut to half, etc. This method should be of last resort, as the first two do a better job.

After you have located most or maybe all your media files, the steps to rebuild your iTunes Library are the following:

   1.  Transfer all the media files to a single folder. If all the media content is already transferred to iTunes, the process is simpler. In the iTunes Preferences summary, select the Advanced tab, remaining in the General sub-tab. Here you have to checkmark two options: “Keep iTunes Music folder organized” and “Copy files to iTunes Music folder when adding to library.” Click OK, then go to the top iTunes Window (PC) or screen (Mac) at the Advanced tab. Select “Consolidate Library”, the choose “Consolidate”. By doing this, iTunes will automatically transfer your library into one place.

If you don't have a single folder for all your media files, just add them one by one from where they are into iTunes. Then follow the same iTunes Preferences setting above, while checking off those two boxes. After adding everything, Consolidate the library and all the files will be moved to the iTunes Music folder.

   2.  Now you have to prepare the music files for updating. Select everything in the iTunes Library, then look to the Music heading under Library off to the left of the iTunes window, select it, then choose Edit>Select All from the top of the iTunes window (for a PC) or screen (for Mac). After this, off to the right of Edit, you'll notice the Advanced tab. From there select Convert ID3 Tags, Check ID3 tag version: v2.4, then choose OK.

With this step, you have improved the format of the non-audio parts of each music file, so you won't lose the next changes that you're going to make in iTunes, moreover if you have kept years-old MP3 files in your computer.

   3.  You have to save your settings by closing and re-opening iTunes. You can do this several times along the way, if anything is to happen, you won't lose all your work.

  4.  The last step involves some maintenance work. You have to determine how much processing your media content needs, depending on the source of your media.
  • a. Media content downloaded via iTunes: if you don't want to modify the movie genres or make other optional changes to the files, this media files require almost no cleaning work: they have already been tagged by iTunes and have album or cover art already. You just need to authorize your computer to play the files by selecting the option Store>Authorize Computer that you can find at the top of the iTunes window (PC) or screen (Mac).
  • b. Music ripped from CDs: CDs ripped through iTunes mostly have accurate tags, but they definitely need to be trimmed for artwork. You can do this by first starting the iTunes Album Art Tool, select Advanced> Get Album Artwork to get art. Switch to Cover Flow mode by selecting View> Cover Flow View in order to see which songs have art and which ones don't. Songs who have a transparent musical note near them are missing artwork. If iTunes hasn’t added the art, you will have to do it manually. Just search the Internet for album covers, and make sure you get the proper resolution for your iPod, if you have an iPod Touch, iPhone or Apple TV to connect with, you should search for higher resolution covers. To add artwork to the library, just sort the library by Album name, by selecting the Album heading in the iTunes window. After this, select multiple songs from the same album then right click on the songs and "Get info", then drag and drop the images you've got off the Net into the square Artwork box. The checkmark box next to Artwork will automatically be checked, click OK and you've done with an entire album. You can do the same thing with editing genres, album titles and artist information. Select multiple files, Get info, then change the Artist, Album or Genre fields to your like. When they're checkmarked click OK and you're done.
  • c. Videos ripped from DVDs: Because iTunes treats differently video ripping, videos imported in iTunes always are depicted as movies, although they might be TV shows or music videos. This is why you need to a little work and re-tagg them individually. TV shows and music videos are more useful fixed in bulk, because you will have to change show titles, season numbers and others. This will unfortunately take a while because iTunes does not have a toll for bulk video tag editing.
  • d. Media files downloaded from the Internet or other sources: Usually these files need a lot of editing and tagging but users can normally proceed as the previous steps indicate.

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