Why do some songs not add to iTunes?

There are a few main reasons why some songs may fail to be added to your iTunes library:

DRM Protection

Many online music stores sell songs with Digital Rights Management (DRM) protection. This is a form of copy protection that aims to control or restrict the use of digital content. DRM-protected songs typically cannot be added to iTunes because iTunes does not support that type of DRM.

For example, songs purchased from online stores like Napster or Rhapsody use a DRM format called WM-DRM. These files use the .wma file extension rather than the standard .mp3 format. Attempting to add a WM-DRM protected song to iTunes will fail with an error message that the song cannot be played or synced.

To add these songs to iTunes, you would first need to remove the DRM protection. There are a few ways to legally do this:

  • Purchase the song again from a retailer like Amazon or Apple Music that sells DRM-free MP3 files
  • Burn the song to a CD, then re-rip it to create an unprotected MP3 version
  • Use specialized DRM removal software to strip the protection (legal status of this varies by region)

Once you have an unprotected MP3 version, you can add it to iTunes without issue.

Incompatible File Formats

iTunes can only support certain audio file formats. If you attempt to add a song that is in a format iTunes cannot read, it will fail to import.

The main audio formats that iTunes supports include:

  • MP3
  • AAC
  • Apple Lossless
  • WAV
  • AIFF

So for example, if you purchased a song in the FLAC format, iTunes would be unable to add it. You would first need to convert it to MP3 or another compatible format using an audio conversion tool before adding it to iTunes.

Corrupted or Missing Files

Sometimes iTunes may fail to add a song because the file itself is corrupted or missing. For example, you may see an error message like “The song could not be added to the library because the file cannot be found.”

Issues that can prevent a file from being read properly include:

  • The file path is misspelled or has been moved/renamed
  • There are invalid characters or encoding errors in the file name
  • The file headers are corrupted
  • There are gaps or errors in the data stream

To troubleshoot a corrupted or missing file, first confirm that the file and path are correct. Try re-downloading the file if possible. Use a program like Audacity to inspect the file headers and data stream and repair any errors. Converting to a new file format can also sometimes resolve the issues.

Metadata Problems

The metadata of a music file includes text information like the song title, artist name, album name, genre, and more. iTunes relies on accurate metadata in order to properly categorize and organize songs in your library.

If the metadata in a file is missing, incomplete, or filled with junk information, iTunes may fail to add it. Some common metadata-related issues include:

  • Missing ID3 tags in MP3 files
  • Incorrect encodings (e.g. Unicode vs ASCII)
  • Extra hidden characters in metadata fields
  • Missing or unrecognized characters in names

To fix metadata problems, you’ll need to edit the information stored in the file itself. Programs like MP3Tag on Windows or SongShell on Mac can be used to view and edit ID3 tags. Save the changes to the file after correcting any metadata issues.

Issues Adding CDs

When trying to add songs from a CD, you may encounter errors including:

  • “iTunes could not add songs because an unknown error occurred”
  • “Tracks could not be added because the CD may be damaged or dirty”

Some things to try in this case:

  • Clean the CD and try again
  • Restart your computer and iTunes
  • Try importing using the Import button instead of drag and drop
  • Check for scuffs, scratches, or damage on the disc surface
  • Try installing the latest version of iTunes
  • Try on another computer to rule out drive issues

If none of those help, the CD itself may be too damaged or dirtied to be read properly. You can try using CD repair/cleaning kits to fix surface-level issues. In some cases, the CD may be permanently unusable.

Authorization and Privacy Settings

iTunes has some built-in security features that could potentially block songs from being added. Check these settings if you can’t figure out why a song won’t import:

  • Disable automatic importing – Turn this off in Edit > Preferences > General
  • Importing restrictions – Remove any restrictions set in Edit > Preferences > Parental > Music
  • iTunes Match – Make sure this is disabled under Store > Turn Off iTunes Match
  • Apple Music – Check that “Show Apple Music” is enabled in Account > View My Account

You may also need to authorize your computer if you have not done so already. Go to Store > Authorize This Computer to enter your Apple ID credentials.

Too Large File Size

There are limits on the maximum file size and length that iTunes can support. Very large video and audio files may fail to import properly.

Here are some of iTunes’ size restrictions:

  • Maximum file size: 4 GB
  • Maximum song length when importing: 2 hours
  • Maximum album length: 20 hours

To add an oversized file, you would first need to split it into smaller pieces under the limit. For example, a long concert video could be split into two files. There are tools available to split both audio and video files.

Incorrect File Location

By default, iTunes expects any files you add to be located inside the iTunes Media folder. This folder is usually located at:

  • Windows: C:\Users\Username\Music\iTunes\iTunes Media
  • Mac: /Users/Username/Music/iTunes/iTunes Media

If you try to directly add files that are outside of that folder, iTunes may fail to import them. To successfully add songs located elsewhere on your computer or external drives, you need to specify the correct file location.

When adding songs, rather than dragging them in directly, use the File > Add to Library > Add File to Library… menu option. This will let you navigate and select the files from other locations.

Permissions Issues

On Mac computers, system permissions could block iTunes from being able to read and import files.

If other apps have full access but iTunes does not, you may need to reset your permissions. To do this:

  1. Go to System Preferences > Security & Privacy > Privacy
  2. Select Full Disk Access
  3. Click the lock icon and enter your admin password
  4. Make sure iTunes is checked and has full disk access

You can also try temporarily disabling System Integrity Protection to test if that is causing a conflict. Follow these steps:

  1. Restart your Mac into Recovery Mode
  2. Launch Terminal from the Utilities menu
  3. Enter csrutil disable
  4. Restart your Mac normally
  5. Try importing into iTunes
  6. Re-enable SIP with csrutil enable after testing

Outdated iTunes Version

Another possibility is that you are running an outdated version of iTunes that has bugs or limitations around importing certain files.

Make sure you have installed the latest version of iTunes available from the Apple website or App Store. The newest version will have the best format compatibility and any bug fixes needed to properly add your songs.

If the issue appeared after an iTunes update, you can also try downgrading to a previous version that was working properly. Just be aware that older versions may become incompatible or insecure over time.

Steps to Troubleshoot Issues Adding Songs to iTunes

To summarize, try the following steps when troubleshooting an issue adding songs to iTunes:

  1. Check for DRM restrictions and remove if possible
  2. Convert to a compatible format (MP3, AAC, etc)
  3. Validate the file integrity and scan for corruption
  4. Inspect metadata tags and correct any invalid data
  5. Clean and inspect CDs before ripping audio
  6. Disable security features blocking imports
  7. Split large files that exceed size limits
  8. Add files directly rather than dragging if not in iTunes folder
  9. Confirm iTunes has proper disk permissions (Mac only)
  10. Update to the newest version of iTunes

Following this structured approach and ruling out each potential cause methodically should help resolve problems adding songs in most cases. But if you still cannot get a particular song into iTunes after trying everything, it may unfortunately not be technically possible, and you’ll have to just listen to it through another player.


While iTunes aims to support importing a wide range of audio file formats and CD tracks, there are times when a specific song or album will refuse to be added to your library. DRM restrictions, incompatible formats, metadata issues, file corruption, size limits and permission problems are just some of the common reasons.

To have the best chance of successfully importing songs, it is recommended to:

  • Purchase DRM-free file formats when possible
  • Convert files to MP3/AAC/Apple Lossless before adding to iTunes
  • Clean and repair any damaged or corrupted files
  • Carefully organize metadata information
  • Avoid very lengthy or oversized files
  • Keep your iTunes updated and authorized

Following troubleshooting steps like checking permissions, validating file locations, and splitting large tracks can also help get stubborn songs into your library. But in rare cases, a file may simply be incompatible or too damaged to work with iTunes. Maintaining your music collection properly formatted and error-free will give you the fewest headaches adding songs over time.