Recover iTunes purchases!

Posted: March 23, 2012 in Uncategorized
Tags: , ,

So I wiped my computer without remembering to include my iTunes music folder.  I’ve updated my backup procedure to ensure this doesn’t happen again.  But what to do in the meantime?

Download library from iTunes (no playlists)

Remember that scaremongering about iTunes that they don’t allow you to re-download purchases? That’s not true any more. All purchases can now be re-downloaded with iTunes 10 and higher. Just go to the iTunes store, scroll right down the bottom of the page and find the tiny link that says “Purchases”.  After clicking that it should be obvious as to what you should do.  You can download individual songs, or whole albums, or your entire library.

Import from iPhone…

But before you do that – you can also recover everything from your iPhone to save you a butt-load of download time.  Just do one thing – before you plug in your iPhone – go to Preferences in iTunes and check “Prevent devices from syncing”. If you plug your phone in and it automatically syncs without a library, it will erase everything from your phone.  So once you’ve checked this option, it’s safe to plug in your phone.

…Using iTunes (no playlists)

You can use iTunes to copy from your phone, but I found it amazingly slow, in fact I left it for a while and it hadn’t done anything by the time I cancelled it.  I actually had to click “eject” (in iTunes) to get it to stop, because cancelling wouldn’t work.  If you want to attempt this, plug in your phone, right click on your device on the left in iTunes, and click “Transfer Purchases”.

…Using Phone to PC (faster, and includes playlists, but costs about $30AU and is temperamental)

Update: I wrote this as I progressed, so the tutorial gets more narky as it goes on.  This will help you out if you do end up getting this app, but my advice is – keep looking. There has to be a better one. I didn’t get to try a large number of these apps before I got suckered into this one.  It appeared to work, so I paid for it.  Upon using it more thoroughly, it’s a nightmare.  However… I got there in the end.

A much better way (not perfect, but gets the job done) is Phone to PC.  (Or Phone to Mac)  Not only does it copy faster, show you a progress bar the entire time, but it re-creates your playlists too. Playlists are very precious to me, because I have refined them over a long period of time.

Before you pay for it, just try the trial.  Download from the link above, and click OK when running it to skip the unlock process.  I don’t know why trial software is NEVER forthcoming about the limits of the trial version compared to the full version so you can make a proper assessment, but here’s this one’s restrictions; after every transfer, or every 10 songs transferred (whichever comes first), it puts up a dialogue for 60 seconds and after that you have to manually start a new transfer, and it will do the next 10 songs, etc.

When you start the program, first check the settings – Edit, Options. You need to check two settings;

  • “Destination folder for transferred tracks” should look like this:
    C:\Users\Clint\Music\iTunes\iTunes Media\Music\
  •  “iTunes music library database location” should look like this
    C:\Users\Clint\Music\iTunes\iTunes Music Library.xml

If you need to make changes, do so – then close Phone to PC, and disconnect your phone. Start Phone to PC, then re-connect your phone.

Now try the “Automatic Transfer” button. If it works at all, you can fork out your cash now and do the whole hog. If it crashes, read on.

Restart the app and this time click the “Music & Video Track Transfer” tab.  The idea is you can click on a Playlist on the left, and check all the songs in it, hit “Transfer” and not only does it import all the songs, but it creates the playlist they’re in as well.

Here’s what you do;

Okay, this will attempt to get all the music on your iPhone in one fell swoop, before you bother re-creating playlists.  But you will have to run the app a few times to get everything, as you’ll see below.

  1. In the Playlist panel on the left, click “Music” right at the top,
  2. In the song list pane on the right, select all songs by clicking the first one, scrolling to the bottom, holding SHIFT and clicking the bottom file – but strangely, this ticks all but the last file. One click on it’s checkbox will add it.
  3. Hit the big “Transfer” button and leave the computer transferring, it will probably take a while.
Click the “Movies” playlist and repeat the same process, if you have any.Now click your topmost playlist, select all the songs as described in step 2, and hit Transfer.  This won’t copy files that already exist, but it will create the playlist and add the songs to it.This is the weirdest part – after you’ve done all those playlists, you should restart Phone to PC and see if any playlists show up that weren’t there before. Get those ones.  Restart and repeat this process till you stop seeing new playlists… worth mentioning it copied songs that it should have caught in the first “Music” playlist transfer but clearly didn’t… so keep restarting till you think you’ve got everything.When you do restart and click on playlists you’ve already transfered, don’t be alarmed to see yellow starred songs (indicating they still need to be transferred) when you know you already transferred the entire playlist.  They are there, it just gets this wrong when it restarts – go to iTunes and search for the songs to ensure they’re still there for peace of mind.Some playlists crash the application (2 of mine did).  If the app crashes, restart iTunes, to make sure Phone to PC sees the latest library. You may have to manually create these playlists again. But at least you’ve got your music back. For me I only lost a few of my playlists to the caveats above.Once you’re done, click back to the Summary tab and glance over the number of songs and videos on the phone vs the iTunes library, and see if you got everything.

Now I advise you go back to the section titled “…Using iTunes” and transfer your purchases that way as well.  That will ensure you get every last possible song, but hopefully won’t take as long now. Plus you have your playlists.Then go back to the section “Download library from iTunes” and get all the music that wasn’t on your iPhone.

I ended up with some duplicates due to folder names getting mixed up.  Here’s some tips about removing duplicates.

  • If you end up with duplicate files, you can get your hands dirty with the free Double Killer.  You can search for files that match any combination of name, file size, or checksum. In other words, you can find duplicates of files that have different names. However it got a bit hairy – when matching by both file size and checksum, I only got a small number of files.  When matching by only file size, I got many more, but upon listening, some of them were not duplicates.  Yet there were still many true duplicates.  Be careful.
  • The folder “iTunes\Album Artwork” can be deleted if you suspect it has duplicate files in there.  It can be re-created any time from the artwork embedded inside the music files, or re-downloaded from the iTunes store for purchased files that don’t have the artwork embedded.

Recreating your iTunes database if things get weird

If things get weird (eg. you know you have songs but iTunes Store, and also Phone to PC don’t believe you – making it impossible to know what you need to get), you can just re-create your iTunes Library.

  1. Close iTunes
  2. Go into your “iTunes Media” folder.  Rename the “Music” folder to “Music_old”
  3. Create a new folder called “Music”
  4. Go back up to the “iTunes” folder and delete the two files “iTunes Library.itl” and “iTunes Music Library.xml”
  5. Open iTunes, it will have an empty music library
  6. Go to File, Preferences, Advanced, check that the media folder is in the correct location, and check the two boxes “Keep organised” and “Copy files to library”. Click OK to close.
  7. Click File, Add Folder, and specify the “Music_old” folder.
  8. Wait for it to add them all.  This will re-create all the extra information and copy your music into the new “Music” folder
  9. Once it’s done and you’ve checked it all out to see that it succeeded, you can delete the “Music_old” folder.
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