I have 150 GB of diligently organized music in my iTunes library which is stored on an external hard drive, and which I have migrated across various computers that I've owned in the last 7 years without any issues. When I last launched iTunes to import music (files previously added to 'automatically add to iTunes' folder), to my shock I was greeted by an empty library (except for the two albums I had just added.)

In Preferences I discovered that the file path was set to the default location (Music under Home directory) which of course is empty, rather than my external drive. I have not reset the location, nor even so much as opened iTunes settings for months.

All the files themselves are intact and in their usual location, so I tried to simply orient iTunes back to its proper path on the external drive, but to no avail. The iTunes library file (.itl file) is only 4.6 MB big, containing nothing but these two albums. I looked for any hidden .itl file but to no avail. The .itl file in the default Music folder is, unsurprisingly, empty. I have found no 'previous iTunes libraries' folder either.

Since I use another external drive as my time machine, I do not have any previous versions of my iTunes library. I do have an iPod classic that I recently synced.

I imagine I can just import the files back into iTunes, but fear that the (very) many hours of work put into cleaning and organizing the library will be wasted? Is that the case?

What could have happened? What are my options? How do I prevent this from happening again?

I am using an Early 2015 13" MacBook Air, running macOS Sierra 10.12.6 with iTunes 12.7.4.

  • Sorry, I don't have an answer, or even a good reason why it may have happened. Just to clarify, you normally keep your iTunes ,itl etc on the external drive with the library? I've always found it better to allow the OS to maintain the .itl in its default location [~/Music/iTunes/], even with a remote library. That way, it seems to handle its own backup/previous libs better. – Tetsujin Apr 28 '18 at 8:31
  • Thanks for your answer. Yes, I kept the itl file with the library. Will take your advice into account from now on. I still haven't restored the library, hoping for more insight into this oddity? – alina May 10 '18 at 11:01

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