So a month ago I lost my 2020 MacBook Air's SSD (which had been running Catalina) to a coffee spill; the computer is now fixed (and upgraded to Monterey) but the drive is wiped. The documents had been backed up to Dropbox, but the music folder was not. I have my previous MacBook (running High Sierra) that contained my music current to mid-2020, whose stuff I have copied over with Migration Assistant, so I do have that at a minimum - but I'd like to get things back the way they were before the spill last month.

I'm not worried about having to re-download the music itself. What I'm worried about is my precious metadata, which are the reason I still use Apple's music app instead of Spotify. Since the mid-'00s I have maintained a carefully curated random-play playlist: it uses nested smart playlists to pick songs based on their star ratings and how recently they were last played. This is by far my preferred way to listen to music and I want to keep it. My hope is to keep all the star ratings and last-played from pre-spill times (Nov 2021) so I can get my music back to the way it was.

I have three places that this data can be drawn from:

  • Before the SSD died I was able to copy the "Music Library.musiclibrary" file from the old computer. I was NOT able to copy all the music, but I did get that file.
  • My iPhone has most, possibly all, of my music on it from before the spill.
  • And everything up to mid-2020 is still there copied over from the older computer's iTunes.

The simple thing would be just to import the 2020-era iTunes library to the Music app on the new computer, but if I left it at that I'd lose over a year's worth of star ratings and last-played data (plus the playlists I created during that year). Since I have the old Music Library file and the iPhone, I'm hopeful that I can get the ratings and last-played back using those. I'm just not sure exactly how to go about it. Given the parameters of the situation above, can you please advise on the most effective way for me to get my music setup back to pre-spill status, including playlists and metadata?

Note: I don't have an Apple Music subscription. My iPhone used to sync with the old computer, the one that died.

  • Just to clarify further, I haven't synced my iPhone since the incident. I'm worried that if I did sync it might wipe the stuff that's on my phone and not the computer; I want to make sure stuff gets from the phone onto the computer, rather than the computer syncing its lack of stuff onto the phone. Dec 13, 2021 at 17:27
  • I'd be happy to get an Apple Music subscription if that would help - if that would allow the metadata to get synced from my phone, for example. I just need the guidance on what actually would make the difference. Dec 15, 2021 at 15:29

1 Answer 1


I had the same problem, in that I had a complete copy of my audio collection on my iPhone (X) but a fresh macOS installation with only old Music Library backup.

I had to use a third party tool. I couldn't get this to work with Music.app (previously iTunes.app), applescript, or any other free tool.

I ended up with iMazing.app (https://imazing.com/iphone-music-transfer) which did transfer over what was important for me: rating, play count, and for audiobooks the meta data where to resume playing and in what chapter. I got a 30% discount using University email address, and I have continued to use this tool, primarily now to backup my Call history and Messages history with images and other attachments. I am not affiliated with iMazing other as a user. There are a myriad tools to "backup iPhones" but it's a shady market when it comes to free tools. After some back on forth on reddit I concluded iMazing would deliver and it did. In the end I had some new music that wasn't synced over to the iPhone that I had to manually sync over later, but thats my fault and no single piece of software could fix that. Good luck!

  • 1
    Thanks! After a few days with no response I also asked this question on the macOS Reddit forum. For reference of others with the problem, the person there suggested this : "Wait for the iPhone to upload music, metadata, etc, to iCloud. Empty your music library on your Mac, then turn on Apple Music subscription there. Everything that was uploaded from your phone would now be available on the Mac." That worked for me. But, I appreciate that you came in and provided an answer here, which might well have worked if the other approach hadn't. So, you get the bounty! Dec 22, 2021 at 0:59
  • Awesome, thanks a lot! You could write up this new and novel solution as another answer to your question, as it doesn't even require third party software. Probably better to stay within the ecosystem whenever possible! Dec 22, 2021 at 10:31

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