Is music library backed up to iCloud?

Many iOS users rely on the Apple Music app to store and stream their music libraries. A key question for these users is whether their music library is automatically backed up to iCloud. The short answer is that music purchased from the iTunes Store is backed up, while music imported from other sources like CDs is not. In this article, we’ll provide a more in-depth look at how iCloud music library works, what gets backed up, and how you can manually back up music not purchased from iTunes.

What is the iCloud Music Library?

The iCloud Music Library is Apple’s cloud-based storage system for music. When enabled, it allows you to access your music library from any device signed into your Apple ID. The iCloud Music Library stores any music you purchase from the iTunes Store and Apple Music. It matches music imported from other sources to songs already in the iTunes catalog. Matched songs are added to your iCloud Music Library so you can access them anywhere.

Is iTunes Purchased Music Backed Up?

Yes, any music purchased from the iTunes Store is automatically stored in iCloud and backed up. This includes music bought as individual song or album downloads as well as Apple Music subscriptions.

When you buy music from iTunes, it is attached to your Apple ID. This means it is always accessible from the cloud on any device signed into your account. You don’t need to manually back it up or transfer purchases between devices. iTunes purchased music will download automatically across devices when you’re signed in.

Is Imported/Ripped Music Backed Up?

No, music imported from CDs or other sources is NOT automatically backed up to iCloud. The iCloud Music Library will only store music purchased directly from iTunes or matched to the iTunes catalog.

Imported or ripped tracks that don’t match anything in the iTunes catalog will remain only on the local device storage. This music will NOT be stored in iCloud or accessible from other devices by default.

Why Isn’t Imported Music Backed Up?

Apple cannot back up music imported from CDs or other sources in iCloud for copyright reasons. When you purchase music from iTunes, you are buying a license to access that content from any device. Apple has the rights to make that content available from the cloud.

However, music ripped from CDs or downloaded from other sources is still subject to copyright. Apple does not have the rights to duplicate this content in the cloud or make it accessible from other devices. Only the physical owner has the rights to use ripped or downloaded music locally.

How to Back Up Imported Music

While imported music isn’t automatically backed up, there are a few options to manually back it up:

Use iTunes Match

iTunes Match is a paid add-on to an Apple Music subscription. For $24.99/year, iTunes Match will scan your library and match any tracks it can to songs already available in the iTunes catalog.

Matched tracks are then added to your iCloud Music Library, making them accessible on all devices. Any tracks that don’t match are uploaded and stored in the cloud too. This ensures your entire library is backed up.

Sync with iTunes

You can connect your iOS device to a computer running iTunes and sync the music library. This will transfer any local audio files into the iTunes application on your computer. You can then back up the iTunes library to an external hard drive or cloud storage.

Manually Upload to iCloud

In the iOS Music app, you can select songs and tap the cloud icon to manually upload them to iCloud. This will add the songs to your iCloud Music Library. Manual uploads are limited to 100,000 songs total.

Method Pros Cons
iTunes Match – Backs up entire library
– Music is accessible on all devices
– $24.99/year subscription required
Sync with iTunes – Free backup option
– Full control over storage location
– Only backups computer’s library
– Need to manually transfer music to iOS
Manual iCloud Upload – Directly uploads music to iCloud
– Accessible on iOS devices
– Limited to 100,000 songs
– Time consuming process

Which Music Gets Backed Up: Summary

– Music purchased from iTunes Store is automatically backed up to iCloud
– Imported or ripped music is NOT backed up automatically
– Options to manually back up imported music include:
– iTunes Match subscription
– Syncing with iTunes
– Manual iCloud upload

Backing Up the Entire Apple Music Library

To ensure your full Apple Music library is backed up, including imported songs, playlists and settings, you need to back up the entire library file. This library file contains all media and data for the Apple Music app.

Back Up with iTunes

Connecting your device to iTunes not only syncs music, but can back up the entire Apple Music library file. With your phone connected, open iTunes preferences > Devices and check “Prevent iPods, iPhones and iPads from syncing automatically.”

Now when you click Summary > Back Up Now, iTunes will create a backup containing your music library file. Restore this backup to transfer the music library to a new device.

iCloud Backup

You can also choose to back up your entire iOS device to iCloud. This includes backing up the Apple Music library file. On your device go to Settings > YourName > iCloud > iCloud Backup and turn on iCloud Backup.

Your music library will now be included when iCloud backs up your device each day. Restore from an iCloud backup to transfer the library to a new device.

External Storage

Another option is to manually copy the Apple Music library file from an iOS device to external storage like a computer or external hard drive.

On a Mac, the library file is located at /User/Music/iTunes/iTunes Media/Mobile Applications. You can copy the entire Apple Music folder to external storage. On Windows, navigate to \\User\My Music\iTunes\iTunes Media\Mobile Applications.

Limitations of iCloud Music Library

While iCloud Music Library enables access to your music across devices, there are some limitations:

– Only 100,000 imported songs can be manually uploaded
– Playlists may become disorganized if matched/uploaded incorrectly
– Uploads count against your iCloud storage limit
– Uploading large libraries can take hours or days

iCloud Music Library uses audio fingerprinting to match tracks. This isn’t 100% accurate, so you may find playlists out of order or tracks mislabeled after matching. Large libraries of imported music may not fully upload to the cloud.

Alternative Backup Options

If you find iCloud Music Library too limiting, there are alternatives for backing up your music:

External Hard Drive

You can manually back up your iTunes or Apple Music library files to an external hard drive. This gives you full control without storage limits or reliance on internet connectivity.

Third-Party Cloud Storage

Services like Google Drive, Dropbox or OneDrive give you more cloud storage and flexibility compared to iCloud. You can manually upload music files to store in the cloud.

Plex Media Server

Media server software like Plex lets you store music on your own computer and stream to different devices. Provides more control than iCloud Music Library.


Syncthing is an open-source file synchronization tool. It can sync music libraries between devices without relying on a central server. Provides a decentralized backup approach.


In summary, music purchased from iTunes is automatically stored in iCloud Music Library, while imported music requires extra steps to back up. To back up the full Apple Music library including playlists and data, you need to manually create backups using iTunes, iCloud, or external storage. Due to limitations like upload caps, you may want to consider alternative backup tools like external drives, third-party cloud services or syncing tools for large, imported music libraries.

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