iTunes help – finding ! (missing files)

The reason why I’m not doing anything on my projects right now is that I discovered that my Mac has decided (of course without bothering (a.k.a consulting) me) that it should start to backup my music library onto my harddrive! Wow, thanks; how considerate. Unfortunately I NEVER want to do that, and it chews through my harddrive space. So, I am currently deleting the songs that are on my harddrive and redirecting them to my external harddrive.

However, once you delete the source of a song in your iTunes, it will come up with a !

When you try to play this track a pop-up box says: “Cannot locate this file. Do you wish to locate it?” Or something along those lines. Now, when you have an extensive music library, these can be scattered throughout your library and you can easily miss these.

Grouping missing songs in iTunes

The quickest way to discover which songs have broken links in your iTunes is an easy three-step process!

1. Create a new playlist. Call this list “NOT MISSING”.
2. Go to the very top of iTunes and grab your library. Click and drag this to the NOT MISSING playlist.
3. Create a new smart playlist. Call it “MISSING”. The criterion is “Playlist is not NOT MISSING”

When you drag songs to a playlist, it will never copy missing songs into the playlist. This way, you will easily draw out all the non linked songs into the MISSING playlist.

Unfortunately, there is no easy way of recovering these missing files. If you have accidentally deleted these files, then you may have issues if you have not backed them up. However, if they simply are broken links (as in my case), when iTunes asks you to find the missing song, search through the directory until you come across the correct track. If you have multiple missing files, you may be lucky in that iTunes is able to find multiple tracks in that location; or you may be unlucky and have to do them all by hand. I have just moved 3,000 links and iTunes is being kind today and is doing them all at once for me!

Hopefully this has helped you to regain control over your library.

Come check out the directory for the rest of my iTunes tips!


iTunes, music

Posted by:submeg

Musician, Writer and Inspirer. I discuss the projects I am working on, the services I provide and my general thoughts.

19 replies on “iTunes help – finding ! (missing files)

  1. I came across this page and it was a big help for me to mass delete a bunch of files with bad bit rates. Thanks!


    1. No worries; I have used it a couple times to ensure that my iTunes is up to date. Let me know if there is anything else you are looking to do, always looking for a challenge!


  2. Submeg: Would you help me? Thanks so much for this posting, but I am just not getting it….I seem to be getting dumber as i procede! I made the “not missing” folder, and dragged my library to it. I get it that you are saying that missing muisc won”t go. This part [i think] i get. But how is the non missing seperated from the missing? How can you then create a folder called missing since you can’t put anything in it? The bottom line is., I am missing something!!!! Please don’t hate me! I look forward to your response!!


    1. Don’t despair, you are almost there!

      Once you have created the “not missing” playlist, that playlist will display all of your music that iTunes knows the location of. Say if your library has 1,000 songs, and you drag this across to the “not missing” playlist and it only has 900 songs listed, you know you are missing 100 songs.

      Now, the next step is to create a smart playlist. The rule that it follows is : The playlist is NOT “not missing”. What iTunes then does is look at your iTunes music libary and sees that 900 out of 1,000 songs are in the “not missing” playlist. It excludes these from the list and leaves the 100 songs that are missing! Pretty nifty huh?

      To check that it has worked correctly, try and play one of those songs in the new playlist you created. If you have done it correctly, it will throw up an error message saying that iTunes cannot find the file and would you like to locate it? It will also put a small ! mark before the song number on the very left hand side of the viewing pane.

      Did that help? If it still doesn’t make any sense, I can add screenshots to assist. Let me know!



      1. Dear Submeg,
        First, thanks so much for getting back to me! Second, my IQ has taken a turn for the worse! I don’t get it. Yes, I get that that the “not missing ” playlist consists of all the songs that are not missing!! But I have no idea what you mean when you say, “The rule of thumb is NOT “not missing”! What is a “smart playlist” And, by the gods, how in the world does itunes make a playlist of missing songs??? It is all chinese to me.
        Yes, I think screenshots would help! I would sure like this to be over!


        1. Oh right, so you have never made a smart playlist? No problem! When I get home tonight I will add some screenshots in for you and explain smart playlists.

          How does it make a playlist of missing songs? Because you made a playlist of songs that aren’t missing, you then tell iTunes to make a playlist that excludes those songs that it has found, leaving only missing songs! In a way, you are tricking iTunes into doing something it was not meant to.


          1. Hi, Tara again. What is most frustrating is that I use my ipod for work, and i am sooo stuck and this is taking me way too long.
            Ok: so as i said I made the “not missing” playlist, and now I have made the smart playist, and put in the rules as you said, However I still do not understand how to get the missing songs on this list!!! What to do???


  3. Hi there. This tip was awesome before I installed iTunes 11. Have you tested this with the latest iTunes version? It messes around with my smart playlists.

    I then emptied my NOT MISSING playlist and added all my titles again. iTunes 11 seems so add missing titles, too. So now the mechanism doesn’t work anymore.

    Got any idea? Still got about 1500 titles missing because of some system failure a while ago.

    Thanks in advance.


    1. I got it to work in iTunes 11, but I had to goto the playlist “Not Missing” select the “Add To” option (at the top of the empty playlist listing) and then it brings you to your library and a sidebar of the playlist (similar to wmp really). I then dragged the entire list of songs in my library and it worked like old times….

      It doesn’t work if I goto my library ctrl+a all the songs and then right click and select add to “not missing” playlist… then it adds the missing songs as well.. very strange and clicky


  4. Just one addition:

    The MISSING playlist (critera: “Playlist is not NOT MISSING” and “Mediatype is Music”) does not show anything at all. Very odd…


    1. Hello Jan,

      That is very interesting! No I haven’t updated to the latest iTunes as of yet, but will do that and then check what happens and post an update to this situation. Thanks for letting me know!



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