About a year ago I switched over from using iTunes to Rdio. It's been fantastic. Since everything is in the cloud, I can simply "add" albums to my collection rather than having to go through the painful process of downloading and syncing.

The only thing stopping me from using Rdio exclusively is the fact that they still don't have the rights to stream music from bands like Led Zeppelin, Metallica, and Tool (bands that no human being should have to live without). So I've still kept a huge mp3 collection on my local hard drive. I'd love to be able to just delete all those files if I can find an easy way to stream them online.

Is there a way that I can sync my local collection to the cloud using iTunes Match and then just delete all the local mp3 files? I've read countless articles about iTunes Match but it does tend to get a bit confusing, especially for someone like me who ideally just wants 0 bytes of music data stored locally.

4 Answers 4


I ended up signing up for iTunes Match over the weekend and I figured I'd share my experience to anyone who had the same questions I did...

After going through and organizing my collection I came up with about 250 artists and just over 10k songs in total. I signed up for iTunes Match and it did a fantastic job of collecting the metadata, matching available songs, and uploading remaining songs. There were a few small issues with some ineligible songs and duplicates, but nothing major. I'd say it took about 24 hours total to get everything synced up, but I'm sure experiences vary widely here.

Then after double-checking everything I just went ahead and deleted all my files in iTunes. I would click a given set of songs and then tap the delete key. When prompted, I would select NOT to delete from iCloud, but to move the local files to the trash.

After I was finished I had a clean local hard drive and all my music was available for streaming from the cloud... which is precisely what I wanted. When I enabled iTunes Match on my other computer (which had a blank iTunes Music section), it took all of five seconds to sync up perfectly with my collection in the cloud.

So I'm now able to stream music from iTunes on my Macbook Pro and iMac. Those who are looking to stream to iOS might be out of luck, because from what I've seen you have to download the songs from iCloud to your device (although the songs will play as they are downloading... and I suppose there is nothing to stop you from deleting the files afterward).

But this ended up being a perfect solution for me since I primarily use Rdio now anyway. I just wanted to delete the 100GB worth of local mp3 files that were cluttering my local hard drive and iTunes Match helped me to do that and still keep my collection out there in the cloud.

There still isn't a perfect solution in the music technology world just yet, but I can't say enough good things about services like Rdio and iTunes Match. They've worked great for me.

  • 2
    So what happens if you stop paying for iTunes Match service? You lose access to music you otherwise had on your hard drive in the past? Or can you download stuff to your HD before you un-subscribe?
    – Ian C.
    May 21, 2012 at 16:03
  • Yes, you can download everything again by clicking on the cloud icon displayed in the appropriate column. It's rather cumbersome though because there is no "download all" function. In @bijan's case this would require 10k clicks. I found it easier to use the Remote app on iOS and tap the icon there (much faster!).
    – nohillside
    May 21, 2012 at 17:24
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    Well when you put it that way I sound like a crazy person, lol. Yes I would lose access if I canceled my iTunes Match subscription. I'm not planning on doing that, and my guess is that Apple will continue to improve on their offerings in this area. I've moved from Winamp to iTunes to Lala to Rdio in the past decade. At this point I think ownership of the actual albums and files is something I don't need. I'm okay with having a virtual Rdio collection. Who knows though, there may come a day when I wish I had all my bytes back.
    – Bijan
    May 21, 2012 at 21:03
  • And yes you could potentially re-download each file with 10k clicks. But I'm guessing that by the time I finished doing that, an entirely new transformational technology will have made my collections obsolete by then, lol. So I'll probably just stick to balancing my use of Rdio and iTunes Match until that day comes.
    – Bijan
    May 21, 2012 at 21:05

Yes - you can delete all your music files and then depend on the cloud.

The other answers about lots of clicking to delete or re-download the songs are not correct as there's no need to click 10k times to download all your files. Select-All, right click, Download. Ta da!

The only downside is uploads can deduplicate songs and not need to upload the majority of your library. Downloading an entire library if you ever want to get out of paying for the service might take weeks and unless you have unlimited data - run you into bandwidth caps and overage charges.


iTunes Match is not a streaming solution but primarily a cloud storage for music/audio files. So yes, you can upload all your music to iTunes Match and delete it locally. But whenever you listen to a song it gets downloaded and stored locally again. There is nothing preventing you from deleting it again after listening of course.

  • After signing up, iTunes Match actually works great as a streaming solution so long as you're using a Laptop or Desktop. It's only on iOS that it forces you to download the files while listening. Aside from that the rest of what you said is spot on.
    – Bijan
    May 21, 2012 at 15:49

I don't have much to add, except that I found this to be a clear article on the subject of removing the files once they've been synced to iTunes Match, with screenshots.

Only very slightly out of date with the release of iTunes 11, but this article from Apple still worked for me.

You might feel even better, as I did, if you backup your music to an external hard drive, just in case.

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