How to Fix & Repair the Lost Link to The iTunes Music Library

Saikat Basu 07-07-2009

How to Fix & Repair the Lost Link to The iTunes Music Library thumbnailsMy iTunes music library is my very own “˜Library of Alexandria’. There have been instances when my system has crashed or I have upgraded to discover that the library and coveted playlists have gone missing. The ancient Egyptians wouldn’t have been able to match my scream (and curse) decibels when their own famed one got burnt down.


A music library is a coveted digital playground for a serious audiophile. While I don’t exactly fit the stereotype, I do like my music to be organized with tags Here Is How Mp3tag Easily Cleans up Your MP3 Collection Mp3tag is one of the most powerful tools for editing your MP3 collection. In addition to batch editing file names and ID3 tags, custom Actions allow you to perform elaborate changes on your MP3 files. Read More and playlists. Organizing a collection of a few thousand songs is a painstaking feat. Losing that can be sheer anguish.

There are a few common reasons for losing the file link to the iTunes music library.

  • Your system crashes.
  • Your iTunes has a glitch.
  • You update your version of iTunes.
  • “¦or any other sundry reason that’s the bane of a computer’s existence.

Here’s where Apple says – Don’t despair. Help is just a few clicks away.

But what are iTunes Library files?

iTunes library is nothing but the iTunes database that it creates to manage your music. Two iTunes library files are created – iTunes Library.itl and iTunes Music Library.xml.

Both can be found in the iTunes folder in the following default location:


In Microsoft Windows Xp

\Documents and Settings\username\My Documents\My Music\iTunes\iTunes Library.itl
\Documents and Settings\username\My Documents\My Music\iTunes\iTunes Music Library.xml

In Microsoft Windows Vista

\Users\username\Music\iTunes\ iTunes Library.itl
\Users\username\Music\iTunes\ iTunes Music Library.xml

The iTunes Library.itl file is a database of the songs in your library and the playlists you’ve created. This file stores information from the song’s tag (the ID3 tag, for example) and also records information like play count and rating. This is the file iTunes reads to build your library.

The iTunes Music Library.xml is a secondary file with some of the same info as the earlier file but not all. This file also tracks the changes in iTunes and the song contents. The other purpose of this file is to make your songs in iTunes available to other Apple applications on your computer like the iPhone Stream Your iTunes Library to iPhone Over the Web [Mac] Read More .


The iTunes Library.itl file is a binary file and won’t any sense to us. But the iTunes Music Library.xml file is – if opened in a text editor. This is how it works – iTunes falls back on the iTunes Music Library.xml file if the iTunes Library.itl file gets corrupted or is lost. It tries to auto-recreate the library by rebuilding the iTunes Library.itl file using the info stored in its XML counterpart.

How to Fix & Repair the Lost Link to The iTunes Music Library 1 error message

If the automatic process fails, we can essentially get into the iTunes folder and rebuild it on our own.

Here’s how we can recreate the music library and get our playlists back

  1. Browse to the location of the iTunes folder (given above).

    How to Fix & Repair the Lost Link to The iTunes Music Library itunes folder

  2. Cut and paste the iTunes Music Library.xml file to the desktop.
  3. Delete the iTunes Library.itl file from the folder.
  4. Again, open ITunes. The interface will be blank of any user created playlists.
  5. Now, go to File – Library – Import Playlist. Browse to the location of the iTunes Music Library.xml file on the desktop and select it.How to Fix & Repair the Lost Link to The iTunes Music Library 3 import playlist
  6. The library is now rebuilt along with a fresh error-free copy of the .itl (iTunes Library File) file.
  7. If the Podcasts playlists is empty then the downloaded Podcasts folder might have to be added manually from File – Add Folder to Library and resubscribed.
  8. Sometimes, after an iTunes program update the library is gone from view. In such a case, we can replace the iTunes Library.itl file in the iTunes folder with the one in the Previous iTunes Libraries folder in the same folder. The Previous iTunes Libraries folder contains the file named iTunes Library YYYY-MM-DD where YYYY-MM-DD is the date of iTunes upgrade. Copy this file to the iTunes folder and rename it as iTunes Library.itl. Restart iTunes to see the library and playlists restored.How to Fix & Repair the Lost Link to The iTunes Music Library 4 previous itunes library

Any device which connects with iTunes will resync with the fresh rebuilt library in all cases.


Right off the cuff, the first thing to be emphasized is the need to always backup your media and the library. iTunes allows you to easily backup the entire iTunes library and playlists along with the Apple store buys.


We spend a great deal of effort to beg, borrow, buy and steal for our music collection. Precaution and preservation is the mantra. Take a look at all we can contribute from our posts on iTunes and iPod for that end.

As the music plays on, let us know your worst iTunes gripe and how you troubleshot it.


Love iTunes but don’t know how to use it to its full potential? Worry not, check out our PDF Manual – MakeUseOf’s Big Book of iTunes.

Related topics: iTunes, Media Player.

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  1. purpleowl
    April 20, 2016 at 6:01 am

    I don't seem to have the xml file so i'm stuffed

  2. Kristina
    February 13, 2010 at 6:59 am

    Thanks for this article! It doesn't exactly solve my problem, but I find it useful for future reference.

    My own problem is this: Almost a year ago the external hdd I kept all my music on died on me, ironically enough the same day I was gonna make a back-up of it. I've been looking into firms that restore hdd's, but the cost of that is much more than I can afford. I still have all my music though, except the newly imported stuff that I'd spent hours organizing etc that very same day, on my iPod, and though I find several tutorials on how to get music from iPod to computer, and how to fix the .xml and .itl files when you have these on your computer, I find nothing about getting them directly from the iPod, or if this is even possible. I haven't been brave enough to try and get my music from my iPod in all this time because I'm afraid I will lose all my playlists, ratings, and play counts (which I obsess a bit over). Do you have a solution to this, or know somewhere I can turn to find it?

    I know it's been a long since this article was published, but I figured it was worth a shot anyways. Thanks for all and any help anyone can give!

  3. Sean S
    January 7, 2010 at 6:52 am

    Thanks for this post. I'd temporarily renamed the folder I keep my iTunes library in )not the "My Music" folder and the next time I started iTunes the library was empty. EEK!!!

    I *copied* the .itdb, itl and .xml files to the default "My Music" folder location and restarted iTunes.

    Library restored!

  4. Jimmy Havok
    August 23, 2009 at 9:48 am

    It took unknown hours to finish the imports, and my iPod read the results of this as a new now it's going through an incredibly long sync operation. I hope the XTML rebuild works better, since I anticipate having to do this again.

  5. Jimmy Havok
    August 23, 2009 at 3:18 am

    I attempted to do a search-and-replace on the XML file, putting my preferred directory in the place of the bad one, then deleting the .itl file,and dumping the old libraries. No good, iTunes apparently took that as an empty library. I suppose I should have imported the corrected XML file into the old libraries directory instead.

    Now I am seeing how importing the folder with all my music in it looks good so far, but I suspect it's going to take a good long while.

  6. Jimmy Havok
    August 23, 2009 at 2:55 am

    My worst gripe is iTunes insistence on reverting back to its preferred folder at any excuse. My music is on a network drive, and if there's any glitch in communication at all, iTunes will jump back to its default directory and then start transferring files on its own, while losing all the links to the previous directory. All links then need to be laboriously restored by hand, until the next time the directory is reset.

    I have no fix for this...although I am hoping I can set up a soft link from the iTunes preferred directory to the actual directory, so as to fool it into thinking that it is using its preferred directory.

  7. Jordan T
    July 11, 2009 at 10:45 pm

    Maybe this will work for me. I just bought a new laptop and installed itunes 64bit and every once in a while i will open itunes and nothing will be there. I tried uninstalling and reinstalling and it still did it. I even tried the 32bit version and it still happened.

    • karen
      August 18, 2009 at 11:29 pm

      I am having the same issue!! I have to reload my music almost every time I rebook!

      • Saikat
        August 19, 2009 at 7:30 am

        Didn't the solutions mentioned work out for you?

  8. Victor V.
    July 7, 2009 at 4:16 pm

    What kind of audiophile uses iTunes? I'd download b3tt's xchange 2.0 foobar customization a thousand times before considering downloading iTunes.

    But hey -- each madman with its own madness.