When you purchase and download songs from the iTunes Store on your iPhone, those songs get saved to the device’s internal storage. The iTunes app manages the storage and playback of that music content. But where exactly are those song files located and how can you access them directly?
In this article, we’ll explain where purchased iTunes songs are kept on an iPhone, how iTunes organizes and manages that music content, and whether you can access the actual song files outside of the iTunes app. We’ll also provide some tips on how to backup purchased music and address some common questions around this topic.
Where are iTunes songs stored on an iPhone?
Purchased songs, albums, and other media from the iTunes Store are stored locally on your iPhone in the “On My iPhone” section of the iTunes app. This includes music, movies, TV shows, audiobooks, and more.
The actual song files are kept in a protected folder structure within the iPhone’s internal storage. This storage can be built-in flash memory or downloaded content cached on an SD card, depending on your iPhone model.
iTunes Media Folder
On a typical iPhone, purchased iTunes media is stored in the /var/mobile/Media/iTunes_Control/Music folder. This folder is sandboxed and cannot be accessed directly through the regular iPhone file system.
The iTunes app has exclusive access to this folder and organizes your media content into a database. Information about your songs, playlists, playback status, and other data is stored in proprietary iTunes databases like iTunes Library.itl and iTunes Library Genius.itdb.
These databases reference the actual song files stored in the iTunes Media folder. This allows iTunes to find, play, and manage the media while keeping the raw files protected.
Cached iTunes Content
In addition to built-in storage, some iPhone models with higher capacities also use SD cards to cache and manage content. For example, an iPhone with 256GB of storage may have 64GB of built-in memory and use a 192GB SD card for extra capacity.
In this scenario, purchased iTunes songs can be stored both in built-in memory and downloaded to the SD card to save space. The iTunes app seamlessly manages playback and transfers between the two storage pools as needed.
So in summary, while the actual song files reside in protected iTunes folders, the iTunes app databases contain the metadata and information needed to locate and play your purchased content.
Direct Access to iTunes Media Files
Since the iTunes media files are sandboxed and encrypted, you don’t have direct filesystem access to them from the iPhone interface or apps. This prevents unauthorized copying or usage that would violate digital rights management (DRM) rules applied to store-purchased content.
Trying to directly access these files through the filesystem will result in permission errors, even if you have a jailbroken iPhone. The iTunes app still controls the decryption and usage of the media.
However, there are some limited ways to directly access and manipulate the iTunes media files stored on your iPhone:
Using Desktop iTunes
Connect your iPhone to a computer and open iTunes. From here, you can browse all the device’s media content through the iTunes interface.
You can also access the iPhone’s iTunes Media folder from the computer filesystem. On a Mac, this is located at /Volumes/YOUR_IPHONE/var/mobile/Media/iTunes_Control/Music.
On Windows, you’ll find it under the iPhone’s directory in Finder or Explorer, likely under Internal Storage/var/mobile/Media/iTunes_Control/Music.
This gives you filesystem access on the desktop for copying, backing up, or manipulating files.
Jailbreaking removes some of the iPhone’s filesystem restrictions, granting root access. This allows installing apps and tools that can directly access the iTunes media folder from the iPhone itself.
For example, bridge tools like iFunBox, iTools, and iExplorer allow browsing and extracting iTunes media to your computer via USB. There are also jailbreak tweaks like MImport and FakeFile that let you modify and add content.
However, DRM restrictions still apply. The files themselves remain encrypted and require iTunes for actual playback and usage on the iPhone.
In summary, while limited direct access is possible through desktop iTunes or jailbreaking tricks, purchased media stays under the full control of the iTunes app during normal iPhone usage.
Backing Up iTunes Library
Since your purchased iTunes content lives directly on your iPhone, it’s important to have regular backups to avoid losing those files. Here are some backup tips for your iTunes library:
Sync to Computer
Connecting your iPhone to the computer and syncing with iTunes remains one of the easiest ways to back up your purchased music library. iTunes can automatically copy new purchases to your computer upon each sync.
You can also manually initiate transfers from the iTunes sidebar. Right click on any content section like “Music” and choose “Transfer Purchases” to copy items to the computer.
Enabling iCloud backups will safely store your iTunes purchase information. While it won’t include the actual media files, an iCloud backup will store your iTunes library data, playlists, play counts, ratings, and other metadata.
This will allow easy restoration of your full iTunes library setup if needed. Media can then be quickly downloaded again on the new device.
For periodic backups that include the actual iTunes media files, third-party apps provide full library copies. On a Mac, CopyTrans Manager can back up iTunes content along with photos, videos, and other data. For Windows, iMazing performs similar iPhone backups.
These tools copy iTunes media to your computer for safe keeping and archiving. Just make sure to use legally authorized apps to avoid violating DRM protections.
So in summary, syncing with iTunes, using iCloud backups, and archiving with trusted third-party software are good ways to keep purchased iTunes content protected.
Here are some common questions that arise around finding and managing purchased iTunes media stored on an iPhone:
Can I use iPhone storage tools to access iTunes media files?
No, most iPhone filesystem access tools can’t directly access iTunes media folders due to sandboxing and encryption. For example, apps like iExplorer and iMazing can’t simply extract purchased songs for external use.
How do I copy iTunes music to my computer?
To properly transfer purchased iTunes music to a computer, connect the iPhone and use the Import or Transfer functions within the desktop iTunes app. This will copy media without violating DRM licenses.
Why can’t I find iTunes media files using search on my iPhone?
The iPhone’s local search tools like Spotlight only index accessible areas of the filesystem. Since the iTunes media folder is sandboxed, it is excluded from search indexing. The only way to search and locate this content is through the iTunes app itself.
What happens to iTunes music if I uninstall the app?
The iTunes app cannot be fully uninstalled from an iPhone. While the app icon can be removed from the home screen, the backend processes, databases, and folder structure will remain intact. This ensures purchased media continues to function normally.
Can I use purchased iTunes music as ringtones?
Yes, you can convert purchased iTunes songs into custom ringtones through iTunes on your computer. Connect the iPhone, select the desired song, and choose File > Convert > Create AAC Version. Then in iTunes preferences, select the AAC file for “iPhone Ringtone” output. Finally sync to transfer the new ringtone to your iPhone.
To summarize key points:
– Purchased iTunes music is stored in a protected folder only accessible by the iTunes app. Trying to directly access this from other iPhone apps will fail.
– You can’t easily search or browse the file structure for these media files on the iPhone itself. iTunes provides the only interface for managing that content.
– To back up purchased iTunes music, you should sync regularly with iTunes on your computer and use iCloud backup for library data.
– While limited access is possible through desktop iTunes or jailbreaking, normal iPhone use keeps the files encrypted and controlled by the iTunes app.
So in most cases, it’s best to simply use the iTunes app for enjoying your purchased music. But with the right tools and backups, you can safely transfer copies for archiving and prevent losing iTunes purchases that live only on your iPhone.