Where did my Apple playlists go?

If you’ve recently updated your iPhone or iPad and noticed your carefully curated Apple Music playlists have vanished, you’re not alone. Playlists disappearing is a common issue that can occur after installing a new iOS update or getting a new device. The good news is that your playlists likely haven’t been deleted and can often be easily recovered.

Why did my playlists disappear?

There are a few potential reasons your Apple Music playlists may have gone missing after an iOS update or device change:

  • Your iCloud Music Library became corrupted or desynced.
  • Your device wasn’t properly synced to the cloud.
  • Your local iPhone/iPad storage was cleared.
  • You switched Apple IDs on your device.

The most common culprit is iCloud Music Library errors. iCloud Music Library stores all your Apple Music playlists and tracks in the cloud so they can sync across devices. Sometimes during iOS updates, iCloud data can become out of sync or corrupted, causing playlists to temporarily disappear.

How can I get my playlists back?

Don’t panic if your playlists vanished, chances are they’re still stored somewhere and can be recovered. Here are some steps to try:

  1. Check iCloud – Open the Apple Music app on any of your synced devices and look under Library to see if your playlists are still available in iCloud. Playlists are usually stored in iCloud separately from your local device storage.
  2. Re-enable iCloud Music Library – Go to Settings > Music and turn off then on iCloud Music Library. This will re-sync and rebuild your library from the cloud.
  3. Restore from a backup – Playlists are included in iTunes and iCloud backups. Restore your device from the latest backup to retrieve missing playlist data.
  4. Log out then in to Apple Music – Sign out of the Music app under your Apple ID account, then sign back in to reset your library.
  5. Reset sync – In the Watch app, unpair then repair your Apple Watch to force a fresh sync of Apple Music data.

After trying the steps above, your playlists should automatically redownload from the cloud as long as the data is still stored in iCloud. Check on any synced device or under Library in the Music app.

How can I prevent this from happening again?

To avoid playlists disappearing again after iOS updates, here are some tips:

  • Turn on iCloud Music Library syncing – Ensure this option is enabled under Settings > Music on all your devices.
  • Sync before updating – Manually sync your devices first before installing any system updates.
  • Wait before erasing – If getting a new device, don’t erase your old one right away in case you need to retrieve data.
  • Back up regularly – Backup your device to iTunes or iCloud so you have playlist data stored externally.
  • Avoid sync interruptions – Make sure devices have a reliable WiFi signal during syncing to prevent music library corruption.

Recovering deleted Apple playlists

If your playlists have been permanently deleted from everywhere, recovery becomes less straightforward but can still be possible in some scenarios.

Restore from an iTunes or iCloud backup

As mentioned above, one of the easiest ways to retrieve deleted playlists is restoring from a backup. Playlists are included in iTunes backups as well as iCloud backups. Just be sure you have a fairly recent backup available before the playlists were removed.

To restore from iTunes, connect your device to a computer with iTunes installed. In iTunes, go to the device summary page, click Restore, then select the backup file you want to use. iTunes will wipe your device and restore your data and settings from the date of that backup.

For iCloud backup restore, go to Settings > [your name] > iCloud > Manage Storage > Backups. Select the desired backup, tap Restore, and your device will be rolled back to that date. Just keep in mind, restoring will overwrite your current device data and settings.

Recover from Recently Deleted playlist

If you’ve just recently deleted an Apple Music playlist, it may still be residing in the Recently Deleted section. This works similarly to Recently Deleted for photos on iPhone.

To check if your playlist is still there:

  1. Open the Music app and tap Library.
  2. Scroll down and select Recently Deleted.
  3. If you see the playlist, tap Recover to restore it.

Playlists remain in Recently Deleted for around 40 days before being permanently erased. So check there first if you’ve just deleted something by accident.

Retrieve from automatic iTunes backup

Another option is retrieving the deleted playlist data from an automatic iTunes backup of your device. iTunes creates daily device backups whenever you connect to a computer, unless you have this feature disabled.

To recover playlists from an iTunes backup:

  1. Open iTunes on your computer and go to Edit > Preferences.
  2. Select Devices and find your iPhone/iPad backup in the list.
  3. Right click on the backup and choose Show in Finder or Explorer.
  4. Navigate to the Playlists folder and see if your missing playlists are there.
  5. Copy any .pls playlist files back to your device storage under Playlists or Sync Playlists in iTunes.

This method only works if you’ve connected your device to the computer since deleting the playlists so it has a recent backup containing the files. Automatic backups are stored locally rather than in iCloud.

Use iPhone data recovery software

If all else fails, you may need dedicated data recovery software to scan and restore missing data from your device. Options like FoneDog Toolkit iOS Data Recovery dig deep into iPhone/iPad storage and backups to find lost or accidentally deleted playlists.

The recovery process typically involves:

  1. Download and install the software on a computer.
  2. Connect your iOS device to the computer.
  3. Select the deleted playlist recovery option.
  4. Scan your device storage and backups.
  5. Preview and recover deleted playlist files.

Advanced recovery software like this provides one last resort for resurrecting playlists that are nowhere else to be found. Just be cautious of free options that may not have full functionality or could damage your data.

Preventing accidental playlist deletions

Once you’ve regained your lost playlists, you’ll want to make sure they don’t disappear again. Here are some precautions you can take:

  • Enable iCloud Music Library sync as mentioned.
  • Turn on iTunes automatic backups as a safety net.
  • Avoid bulk erasing device contents which removes music.
  • Lock or back up your device before resetting or restoring.
  • Carefully review prompts before deleting playlists.
  • Set music playlists as unchangeable in Content Restrictions.

Following those tips will help keep your playlists intact and prevent accidental removals. But should something go wrong again, at least you now know ways to get playlists back.


Playlists mysteriously disappearing in Apple Music is a common frustration for iPhone users after iOS updates or device changes. Thankfully, your playlist data is rarely ever permanently gone for good. With the right troubleshooting steps, you can typically resurrect vanished Apple Music playlists by restoring from backups, re-syncing your library, or using data recovery tools. Just don’t panic delete or erase anything before trying recovery – lost playlists can almost always be found again with a little time and patience.

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