Why does iTunes say it can’t locate my songs?

There are a few common reasons why iTunes may give you the error message “iTunes cannot locate some or all of the songs you’re trying to add.” Here are some quick answers to why this happens and how to fix it:

Your files have been moved or deleted

If you get the “cannot locate songs” error in iTunes, it likely means the actual song files have been moved, renamed or deleted without iTunes knowing. For example, maybe you organized your music folders manually in Finder/Explorer and moved the files out of the iTunes Media folder. Or you may have connected an external drive with your music library, added those songs to your iTunes library, and then disconnected the drive. In cases like these, iTunes now can’t find those song files in their original location.

Your library or files are corrupted

An iTunes library corruption or damaged song files themselves can also lead to missing songs errors. Things like unexpected app quits, system crashes, power outages, etc can cause library corruption. Or if your music files become corrupted for whatever reason, iTunes will be unable to locate them.

Songs purchased with another Apple ID

If you see iTunes cannot locate songs you previously purchased from the iTunes Store, it may be because they were bought with a different Apple ID. Your iTunes library can only access songs purchased under the Apple ID signed in currently. Switching to the proper account should restore access.

How to Fix “Cannot Locate Songs” Errors

Luckily, there are a few things you can try to get iTunes to successfully locate missing music again:

1. Consolidate Library

Go to File > Library > Organize Library and enable the ‘Consolidate files’ option. This will copy any missing files from their original locations back into the iTunes Media folder where iTunes expects to find them. It essentially re-organizes your library and song locations so everything is back in the right place.

2. Check File Paths

You can check the actual file path where iTunes expects to find each song under File > Library > Show in Windows Explorer (PC) or Finder (Mac). Compare this to the actual song location and move any files so they match up. You may also see some songs are pointing to non-existent files, indicating they were deleted.

3. Deactivate iCloud Music Library

If you use iCloud Music Library, the online matching process can sometimes cause songs to become unlinked from their local file locations. Try turning off iCloud Music Library under Account Settings temporarily to manage your songs and library directly.

4. Sign in to Proper Apple ID

Make sure you are signed in under the Apple ID that purchased any missing store songs. You can check under Account > Authorizations > View Account. Sign out if needed, then sign back in with the proper ID.

5. Disable System Syncing

Under Edit > Preferences > Advanced, make sure “Copy files to iTunes Media folder when adding to library” is checked. This prevents iTunes from saving your music in system locations it can lose track of later.

6. Check Library File

Go to File > Library > Export Library and save an XML version to your desktop. Open it in a text editor and scan for any broken paths or files iTunes can’t locate. You may need to delete and re-add impacted songs.

How to Avoid “Cannot Locate Songs” Errors

To help avoid iTunes losing track of songs in the future, here are some best practices:

  • Don’t manually edit your music files outside of iTunes
  • Leave music organized in iTunes default folders
  • Back up your iTunes Library and music files regularly
  • Use Consolidate Library command periodically
  • Disable iCloud Music Library if you don’t use it
  • Always eject external drives properly before disconnecting

Recovering Missing Songs

If iTunes still cannot locate your music files after trying the above fixes, here are some last resort options to recover or replace missing songs:

Restore from Backup

If you have an iTunes or music folder backup from before the songs went missing, restore from this backup to a new location to access the missing files again.

Re-Add Files Manually

If you know the exact location of the song files, you can manually re-add them to your iTunes library by dragging and dropping them in.

Find in File Explorer

Search your whole computer for file names or snippets of lyrics to try to track down missing song files that may be scattered around your hard drive or external devices.

Re-Download Purchased Songs

If your missing tracks were purchased from the iTunes Store, you can go to your Account > Purchase History and re-download these songs again.

Use Recovery Software

Powerful data recovery software may be able to locate deleted song files that iTunes cannot. Apps like Disk Drill can scan and restore missing media.

Preventing Lost Songs in the Future

To avoid having to try to locate missing iTunes songs again, be proactive with the following media management practices:

1. Consolidate Files

As mentioned previously, regularly using File > Library > Organize Library > Consolidate Files will arrange your music neatly into the iTunes folder and prevent files going missing from different locations.

2. Backup Library

Consistently back up your iTunes library database and media files. You can use automatic backup options like Time Machine or manually backup onto an external drive periodically.

3. Avoid Manual File Editing

Refrain from manually moving or modifying your music collection outside of iTunes itself, which can confuse the program.

Good Practices Bad Practices
– Adding, deleting, organizing in iTunes – Moving song files manually in Finder/Explorer
– Syncing devices through iTunes – Copying music to external drives separately

4. Update Software

Make sure you have the latest versions of iTunes and your operating system installed. Updates often fix bugs that can cause media issues.

5. Leave Files in Place

Don’t move your iTunes Media folder from its default location. This ensures iTunes can always find your music where it expects.

6. Check File Health

Periodically scan for corrupt files that iTunes may have trouble locating. Use built-in system tools like Disk Utility on Mac or chkdsk on Windows.

Recovering Songs After Upgrade or Crash

Major system changes like an operating system upgrade or computer crash can also lead to missing iTunes media. Here are some steps to take in these scenarios:

After an Upgrade

  • Check for new iTunes folder location
  • Re-do library file associations
  • Consolidate files again
  • Restore from backup if needed

After a Crash

  • Scan and repair drive errors
  • Check library XML for broken links
  • Enable “Keep iTunes Media folder organized” preference
  • Re-add any damaged files

When Missing Songs Are Gone Forever

If you’ve exhausted all options and some files seem unrecoverable, don’t lose hope. As a last resort, you can:

  • Buy the songs again if purchased originally
  • Find alternate downloading sources
  • Rip music from a CD again
  • Just accept the loss and move on

While accidentally losing music is frustrating, don’t get too discouraged. Implement the right backup strategies and library management habits to avoid similar issues going forward.


iTunes giving you the dreaded “cannot locate files” error doesn’t mean your music is gone permanently. In most cases, you can get iTunes to successfully find your missing songs again with the right troubleshooting techniques. Consolidate your library, check file paths, re-download purchases, restore from backup and use recovery apps if needed. And going forward, adopt smart organizational habits to avoid misplaced media in the future.