Back in the 2000s, iTunes was the premier app for playing and managing your music. It was lightweight, fast, and offered a range of features that were previously unheard of in common music software. Even steadfast Windows users downloaded the app in droves.
But over the course of the last decade, the app has been knocked off its perch. Apple has progressively attempted to transform it into a catch-all program for every type of multimedia.
Today, iTunes a bloated mess. Most people wouldn’t include it in their list of best music players.
But the situation is recoverable. Of course, much of the onus falls on Apple to rectify the underlying problems, but there are some steps you can take that will help to make iTunes usable again.
1. Turn Off Genius Playlists
Genius playlists have been a part of iTunes since 2008. But they hark back to a pre-streaming era when music discovery was a lot more labor-intensive.
Aside from the on-screen clutter, the Genius tool also raises privacy concerns. It creates playlists by comparing your library with all the other Genius users in the world, then running secret algorithms.
To turn off Genius playlists, open iTunes and navigate to File > Library > Turn Off Genius.
2. Clean Up the Sidebar
If you’re an audiophile, it’s vital that the music software you use provides you with sorting tools for every piece of metadata imaginable. In this regard, iTunes performs well. You can add a column for everything from beats per minute to bitrate.
But what’s going on in the sidebar on the left-hand side of the screen? By default, there are a barely-believable 11 different categories. Most of them are utterly useless; does anyone seriously use iTunes to manage locally-saved copies of music videos? Perhaps in 2004, they did…
To remove unnecessary fields from the sidebar, hover your mouse in the upper right-hand corner of the panel and click on Edit. Clear the checkboxes accordingly. Most people only need to keep Artists, Albums, and Songs.
3. Remove Smart Playlists
Look, smart playlists are a useful feature. Building your own playlists and keeping them updated is a time-consuming task. Smart playlists can keep your music fresh by constantly tweaking lists to include songs which match a list of pre-determined criteria.
But if you have an extensive music collection, you should delete them all. Why? Because smart playlists are exceptionally resource-intensive. If you’ve noticed iTunes running slowly, your smart playlists are often the culprit.
To delete a smart playlist, scroll down to the Music Playlists section of the sidebar, right-click on the playlist’s title, and click Delete from Library.
4. Hide Unused Services
As part of Apple’s desire to turn iTunes into a one-stop media app, it has introduced an increasing number of services. Some of them—like podcasts—are useful. Others, less so.
You can disable any services you don’t regularly use in the restrictions menu. Technically, restrictions are Apple’s version of parental controls, but they double as a tool for cleaning up the bloated app. By disabling a service, you’ll remove the references to it in the other parts of the app.
There are six services you can hide: Podcasts, Internet Radio, iTunes Store, Apple Music, Music Profiles and Posts, and Shared Libraries.
To disable a service, open iTunes and go to Preferences > Restrictions. Mark the checkboxes next to the services you want to remove.
5. Prevent Safari From Launching iTunes
If you need any more evidence to prove Apple is more interested in using iTunes to sell you content rather than letting you listen to music, you need to look no further than how Safari handles App Store links.
When you click on an App Store download while using Apple’s browser, it will automatically launch iTunes and the corresponding store page. This behavior spoils the surfing experience and makes you become even more irked with iTunes.
You can stop it from happening with a third-party Safari extension called NoMoreiTunes. Install it on your system and App Store links will start opening in Safari instead.
Download: NoMoreiTunes (Free)
6. Disable Apple Music Buttons
Unsurprisingly, Apple has decided that Apple Music should also play a prominent role in the iTunes app.
On the primary music interface, the integration comes in the form of two tabs: For You and Browse. The For You section is Apple Music’s music recommendation tool; the Browse section lets you explore Apple Music’s collection of songs.
But if you’re not an Apple Music subscriber, both tabs are useless. The For You tab merely prompts you to sign up for the service without offering recommendations, and you won’t be able to play any songs in the Browse section.
Ultimately, the tabs are just unnecessary clutter.
To remove the Apple Music features from iTunes, go to Preferences > General and clear the checkbox next to Show Apple Music Features. When you’re done, hit OK.
7. Disable Automatic Downloads
If you’re tightly integrated into the Apple ecosystem, there’s a good chance you own lots of other Apple devices: iPads, iPhones, Apple TVs, and so on. By default, whenever you buy an album or movie on one of your other devices, it will automatically download onto iTunes on your Mac.
It’s undesirable behavior; do you really need a copy of a movie you just purchased on every device you own? Of course not, it’s just going to eat through your available storage space.
Instead, disable automatic downloads. You can still download content you own whenever you want it.
To disable automatic downloading of music and movies, navigate to Preferences > Downloads > Automatic Downloads and clear the checkboxes next to Movies and Music.
Share Your iTunes Cleanup Tips
We’ve given you seven different ways which, when combined, will help to make iTunes useable again.
But there are lots more ways that you can improve the app, and we want to hear about them. What do you alter that helps make iTunes a little more bearable?