Can you restore music from Time Machine?

Time Machine is an automatic backup system included with macOS that creates hourly snapshots of your computer’s files and stores them on an external drive. It’s a convenient way to backup your entire Mac, including your music library. Restoring files from a Time Machine backup is a common task for Mac users who have lost or accidentally deleted important files like songs or playlists.

This article will provide a step-by-step guide focused specifically on restoring your iTunes or Apple Music library from a Time Machine backup. We’ll cover locating your music folder, browsing Time Machine contents, restoring music files or entire libraries, troubleshooting tips, and more. With the right approach, you can easily recover your music collection from a Time Machine backup.

Locate your music folder

By default, iTunes stores your music files in the iTunes Media folder. On Windows, this folder is typically located inside your My Music or Music folder under your user profile. For example, C:\Users\Username\Music\iTunes\iTunes Media. On Mac, the iTunes Media folder is usually in your home folder under Music (~/Music/iTunes/iTunes Media). If you moved your iTunes Media folder location, then check under iTunes > Preferences > Advanced to see the current location.

Knowing the default iTunes media folder location makes it easier to find your music library when browsing Time Machine backups or troubleshooting issues. Always keep a note of where your iTunes Media folder is located, as the path may change if you upgrade operating systems or move your music.

Browse Time Machine Contents

To browse your Time Machine backups for the lost music files, first open the Time Machine application on your Mac. The Time Machine interface allows you to navigate through hourly, daily and weekly backups of your entire Mac contents (Apple Support).

Use the timeline on the right side of the screen to select the date range when you believe the music files went missing. This will allow you to browse through your Mac’s content as it existed during that time period.

Time Machine File Restore

As you browse through the Time Machine folders, locate the Music folder and navigate to the artist, album or playlist where your missing songs were originally stored. You should be able to find the deleted or lost music files in your backups if they were present on your Mac during the selected timeline.

Restore music files

To restore specific music files from a Time Machine backup without duplicating your entire music library:

  1. Open the Time Machine interface and enter your desired backup date.
  2. Navigate to the Music folder and browse its contents from that date.
  3. Select only the specific songs, albums, or playlists you wish to restore.
  4. Click the “Restore” button to copy those files back to your Music folder.

Be careful not to restore the entire Music folder itself, as this will likely duplicate your existing music library. Instead, selectively restore only the specific music files you need. This avoids re-copying songs you already have in your current library.

For example, if you accidentally deleted an album from last year, navigate to that date in Time Machine and restore just that missing album. Don’t restore the entire Music folder from that date, as it would duplicate everything else you still have.

Restore from a backup

One way to restore your music library from Time Machine is to restore it from a previous backup. You can browse through your Time Machine backups and find a date when your music library was in the state you want to restore. Be careful not to overwrite more recent files if you only want to restore certain music or playlists.

To restore your entire music library from a certain date using Time Machine on Mac, first open the Time Machine app and browse through the timeline to find the date you want. Then, locate and select the Music folder or the .musiclibrary file. Finally, click the “Restore” button to restore those files to their original location (Source).

Restoring from a certain date will overwrite any files that have changed since that backup. So if you’ve added new music or playlists since that date that you want to keep, restoring the entire library could delete that newer content. It’s best to carefully select only the specific music or playlists you want to restore if you don’t intend to wipe your whole current library (Source).

Alternative restore methods

There are a couple alternative methods you can use to restore your music library from Time Machine without a full system restore:

Using Finder to restore from backups: You can browse and restore individual files and folders directly from the Time Machine interface in Finder. Go to Finder > Enter Time Machine. Then navigate back through your backups to find the Music folder and select the songs you want to restore. Copy them back into your Music library.

Restoring selected songs into iTunes: You can also restore songs directly into iTunes. Open iTunes with your empty music library. Hold down the Option key while clicking File > Library > Restore from Backup. This will let you pick a Time Machine backup and select individual songs to restore into iTunes.1

These methods give you more granular control to retrieve your music library from Time Machine backups without needing a full system restore.

Troubleshooting tips

Resiored files are often missing or incomphtve in valid Time Machine backup restores. Here are some tips for troubleshooting common issues:

If your music files are missing after restoring from Time Machine, first double check that you selected the correct backup date when restoring. The music may not have been present in the backup you chose. Try restoring from a few different dates to see if you can locate the missing files.

If some music files are present but seem corrupted or incomplete, the backup itself may be damaged. First, restart your Mac and try the restore again. If the issue persists, you may need to delete the backup entirely from within Time Machine and recreate a fresh backup.

In rare cases, an interrupted or failed backup can cause problems. If files are missing from every restore attempt, delete the Time Machine backup drive, reformat it, and start a brand new backup to see if that resolves any corruption issues.

As a last resort, you can browse the backup drive itself to manually locate music files buried within the backup folders. This is an advanced approach, but it can recover music if all else fails.

Following best practices for Time Machine can help avoid many issues in the first place. Do regular fresh backups instead of relying on a single backup. Maintain your backup drives well to avoid corruption. And use Time Machine routinely to test that your files restore properly.

Preventing lost music

The best way to prevent losing your music files is to have a regular and reliable backup solution in place. Time Machine is a great built-in option for backing up a Mac, but it’s also important to use additional backup methods.

For Time Machine, best practices include setting it to backup automatically on a schedule, using an external hard drive with ample storage capacity, and verifying that important folders like your music library are included in backups [1]. You can also manually trigger a Time Machine backup at any time.

In addition to Time Machine, storing copies of your music library in cloud storage services like iCloud or OneDrive provides an extra layer of protection. Cloud backups allow access to your files from any device, and safeguard against risks like hardware failure, theft, or disaster. It’s smart to use both Time Machine and cloud backup together for maximum redundancy.

Occasionally reviewing your backup setup, checking for any errors or exclusions, and testing restores can help identify and fix any issues before they lead to lost music. Taking a proactive approach to backups is the best way to secure your irreplaceable music library.

Recovering deleted music

If you have accidentally deleted music files from your Mac, iPod, iPhone, or iTunes library, data recovery software provides an excellent way to retrieve your lost songs and audio files. Specialized Mac data recovery tools allow you to thoroughly scan your hard drive and external devices to find music that may still be recoverable.

One recommended solution for recovering deleted music on Mac is Wondershare Recoverit Data Recovery. This program can rescue music and audio files lost due to accidental deletion, system crash, virus attack, or other data loss scenarios. Recoverit features an advanced scanning algorithm to locate music files and reconstruct them for recovery.

To use Recoverit for music recovery:

  1. Download and install the software on your Mac.
  2. Select the drive or device to scan for missing music files.
  3. Preview found music files before recovery.
  4. Restore the music files to a safe location on your Mac or external drive.

Recoverit Data Recovery stands out with its user-friendly interface, fast scanning, and high recovery rates for audio files. It’s an excellent first step if you need to rescue deleted songs, albums, or playlists that are otherwise unrecoverable through iTunes or Apple Music.


Restoring lost or deleted music from a Time Machine backup is a straightforward process for Mac users. The key steps are to locate your music folder, browse Time Machine’s interfaces to find the relevant backup data, and restore the files you need. Time Machine makes it easy to rescue music libraries that have gone missing.

With a few clicks in Finder and Time Machine, you can get back mp3s, lossless audio files, and any other music that may have accidentally been deleted. Just be sure to act quickly before older backups get deleted. Beyond Time Machine, recovery software provides another option for finding vanished songs.

To avoid needing to restore at all, setup automatic backups, be cautious when deleting files, and consider cloud syncing services like iCloud. But if you ever do lose your iTunes library or other music files, Time Machine should have you covered. Feel free to revisit this guide anytime a tune goes missing.