Man Loses All His iTunes, But Apple Gives Them Back

When Nathan switched computers he lost all the music he bought off iTunes, but he got it back by e-mailing Apple’s iTunes support at

This is the message he received in reply:

I understand the titles you purchased from the iTunes Store with account [redacted] were lost. I know how upsetting that can be. My name is Jesse and I would be more than happy to help you with this today.

Seeing that you have been a loyal customer since September, 2004, the iTunes Store would like to give you the opportunity to redownload (at no charge) all the titles you purchased on this account that are still available. This does not include any item that has been modified or removed from the store since you purchased it. Please note that you may download your purchases only once, so this is an exception. Also note that Apple does not offer protection for the loss of data from your hard disk, so I recommend that you back up your iTunes library as soon as possible and thereafter on a regular basis. I’ll include backup instructions in this email.

Custom ringtones that you made and purchased using iTunes on your computer cannot be replaced because they are created and stored only on your computer’s hard disk. Ringtones you purchased on your iPhone will be made available for you to download again as long as they are still available for sale on the iTunes Store and have not been modified.

Any movies you may have rented will not be made available for you to download again. If you rented a movie and were unable to finish watching it, please reply to let me know.

Follow these steps to download the available items:

1) Make sure you’re using the latest version of iTunes. It can be downloaded free of charge from the iTunes website:

2) Open iTunes.

3) From the Store menu at the top, choose “Check for Available Downloads”. If you’re unable to upgrade and are using iTunes 7, the option will say “Check for Purchases”.

4) Enter your account name and password, then click Check. Your purchases should begin downloading. If you receive an error message while downloading, try again after turning off any firewall or web-accelerator software that you may have installed.

If you want to pause your downloads and resume later, click Downloads on the left side of iTunes, then click the Pause All button in the lower right corner. When you’re ready to resume downloading, just choose “Check for Available Downloads” from the pull-down Store menu at the top, enter your account name and password, then click the Check button.

I do need to mention that I was unable to restore every item in your purchase history. When an item is modified in the iTunes Store, or removed entirely, we no longer have access to the original one that you ordered. This is what I couldn’t restore: [redacted]

Fortunately, if you have an iPod or iPhone and have your purchases on it, you can transfer items back to your computer using iTunes. You’ll find instructions in this article:

Copying iTunes Store purchases from your iPod or iPhone to a computer

As soon as your download is finished, it would be a perfect time to do a backup of your entire iTunes to make sure you never lose your purchases. This is something I make sure to tell all my friends to do. Here are some great articles that I use all the time to back up my own iTunes library and playlist.

Instructions for backing up your entire iTunes Library

Instructions for making regular, incremental backups

Instructions for backing up your playlists

Back up your iTunes library by copying to an external hard drive

Backing up your iTunes library to CD or DVD

Thanks to Nathan’s work, you can get lazy and not follow the back-up instructions. If you lose all your music, you can just cut and paste this link and sent it to customer service, begging for the same treatment.

(Photo: decaf)


Edit Your Comment

  1. Devidence says:

    This will always be a downside to buying digital only. My CD isn’t going to erase itself. They should have some permanent policy in place for customers.

    • sumocat says:

      @Devidence: Actually, any CDs you have from the early 90s could be erasing themselves now. Disc rot was common among early CDs, and the problem has not been completely eliminated. A few of my wife’s CDs, including her copy of Metallica’s black album, are really bad.

    • winshape says:

      @Devidence: Steam does a great job of this.

      Just for kicks, I downloaded Steam onto my new laptop. After logging in, I was still able to download Half-life 2 – a game I bought many years ago.

      I think XBOX has the same deal, you can redownload anything you’ve purchased under the same gamertag. Luckily I haven’t had to put that to the test yet.

      Apple should allow you to redownload anything associated with your login.

  2. unchi says:

    itunes only restores purchases they still sell. i lost all my itunes purchases a year and a half ago (new hdd died and apple care covered it) and they restored all my songs and videos they still sold. it took about 3-4 days to download them all, but there wasn’t a problem. it was quite nice. the apple staff pointed me to the link to fill out the form when i brought my imac in. they mentioned its buried pretty deep, a google search for the right key words takes you right there.

    the only problem is at the time my purchases were restored, itunes had stopped selling nbc videos. to restore my nbc purchases when nbc came back, they told me i needed the exact receipt number for my purchases 2-3 years ago from that date.

  3. bigd7387 says:

    I don’t see how this is even a topic, really? Companies should have to give back what is lost through hardware changes whether upgraded or failures. It’s time digital media is treated like physical media if we are to move towards this market. Apple did nothing that it shouldn’t do, period.

    • DangerMouth says:

      @bigd7387: Huh, not sure if your argument makes sense. No one will replace cds or dvds if I lose or break them, why should digital media (or software) be replaced if they are lost thru no fault of the original seller? Physical media is treated as very much a ‘you buy it, it’s your repsonsibily’ type thing.

      OTOH, there’s an actual cost to replacing a physical thing, whereas digital media can be sold a million times without actually having to ‘manufacture’ it past the first time.

    • ionerox says:

      @bigd7387: If they had treated the digital media like physical media, it would not have been replaced.

      Really, is it so hard to create a back-up of your digital media? Or to transfer it from your old computer to your new computer? Guess what, it’s not. The OP not transferring or backing up his iTunes is like tossing all your CDs in a random box somewhere and losing it in a move.

  4. techknight says:

    You don’t have to beg – it’s normal Apple policy to give everyone one free re-download of their iTunes purchases.

    • Nick1693 says:

      @techknight: Yeah, I’ve done it before. I don’t know of any other companies doing it, though.

    • Brontide says:

      @techknight: When you buy the music from iTunes they agree to provide you with the 1 download. It is their customer service policy that they will grant users 1 additional download, but it’s still their own discretion and could discontinue the policy at any time ( I doubt they would ).

      Apple will also allow you to “reset” your authorized computers once a year as well. Customer service policy will also allow more resets, but you have to give them a good reason.

      • schance says:

        @Brontide: You can reset your authorized computers at any time. You can authorize (up to your limit) or deauthorize any machine from within iTunes, or you can deauthorize all machines on your account from the account interface in the iTunes store, then reauthorize just the ones you want. There’s no “once a year” or “good reason” about it.

        • Brontide says:

          @schance: If you can’t deauthorize a system and you reach your 5 system limit you have to reset them all ( which you can only do when you reach 5, and can only do once a year through the provided interface ).

  5. idip says:

    I have a friend who’s computer crashed, she called Apple and they kicked her to the curb. They would not replace the songs and she was out several hundred dollars as she had one of those “Classic” iPods with thousands of songs.


    For the reason, I’m not a fan of buying songs off of iTunes. I think I have maybe 4 or 5 songs. The rest of my music comes from CD’s.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      @idip: It’s really, really easy to get free software that will take the songs on your iPod and deposit them into your iTunes. We transferred songs from an iPod to a Mac in about half an hour.

  6. ExtraCelestial says:

    iTunes has been nothing short of spectacular with all my clicky issues. I’ve had a few idiot accidental purchases and deletions that they’ve taken care of very promptly and professionally. It almost makes me want to get ALL of my downloads legally. Almost. (Go back to .99 across board and I’ll at least be open to negotiations)

  7. ModernTenshi04 says:

    From what I understand Apple has had this general practice for quite some time, and they’ll do it for you more than once, so long as it’s not every couple of months for example.

    I read sometime back about some guy who’s had to do it like 3 times, and each time he was able to without any problems from Apple.

    • BridgetPentheus says:

      @ModernTenshi04: Itunes says in their terms of service they won’t do it for you but I’ve never heard of anyone emailing them and not getting their purchased items back. Basically with Apple if you ask nice enough (and then angry enough) you will get whatever you want.

  8. Colonel Jack O'Neill says:

    One word:


  9. Cameraman says:

    Apple did the same for me. I bought a Touch about a year ago, and downloaded a good $35 worth of music… mostly because it was so much fun downloading music over the air directly to my new, shiny, mp3 player (I can be dumb like that).

    I faithfully synced all the music to my laptop, of course. Unfortunatly, the HDD died like a week later. I bought a new drive, popped it in, used my recovery disk, and all was well… until I tried to sync my Touch, because iTunes replaced all the music on the Touch with the music on the computer itself. Now, all my (legally purchased thankyouverymuch) ripped CDs were on my external hard drive, but the purchased music was not.

    One email to Apple (I didn’t pay for Apple Care), and they quickly authorized my account to redownload all music. I was so impressed that I sent back an email saying that I deal with the tech support departments of dozens of companies, large and small, in my job, and my first contact with Apple was top-notch.

    I now copy all the spur-of-the-moment music I download onto my iPhone to a folder on my external drive, and a folder on my backup external drive (yes, I’m a belt-and-suspenders kind of guy).

    • Eat A Peach says:

      @Cameraman: I had almost the same experience this past June. I got a new laptop when the disk drive in my old pc died along with the backup external drive. I contacted Apple and they let me download all my music that I had purchased over the years as a one time courtesy. I now make sure that I have 3 copies of the paid-for downloaded content in case of malfunction. You can also deauthorize all 5 computers on your account once a year (in case you authorize computers and forget to deauthorize them before selling or trashing them or if you’re unable to deauthorize them due to a crash).

  10. in2insight says:

    Wow, this is so not the same iTunes I have been dealing with.
    When a 50 song credit that I had got pulled, due to an expiration date that was not viewable to anyone but their system, emails to both iTunes support as well as executive CS and finally, Mr. Jobs, yielded no results and no love.
    Totally tainted my view of Apple as a company that cares about it’s source of income. digital downloads, here I come!

  11. Cant_stop_the_rock says:

    “Thanks to Nathan’s work?” This has been a not-very-secret secret for years.

  12. AnthonyC says:

    I keep multiple backups of all my data- 2 on desktops, 1 on my iPod, and 1 on an external hard drive. I hope soon to keep that external HD off-site.

    Still, it bothers me that Apple doesn’t let us automatically re-download already-purchased still-available content, especially since they already limit you to playing purchased songs on a maximum of 5 authorized computers. The actual download costs them far less than a penny. CDs can’t work like this, for obvious reasons, but downloads should, for equally obvious reasons.

  13. Trai_Dep says:

    Apple is so routinely full of Win that other computer/mp3 player/music retailers* should blush in shame, apologize for not being Apple, then close up shop as a service to their customers.

    * Except Amoeba Music, of course!

  14. happywaffle says:

    FYI, your mileage may vary… I don’t know iTunes Store support policy, but I believe you get one of these total unconditional re-downloads. The second time around, they’ll say “Sorry” and suggest that you back up next time around.

  15. CentralServices says:

    People actually pay for highly compressed, DRMed music that can’t be legally resold? Wow, where do I get in on this wonderful opportunity?

  16. Duke_Newcombe-Making children and adults as fat as pigs says:

    I don’t see an original explanation from the OP, so I’ll ask here: How exactly did he think that the music would make it to his new computer from his old one?

    I ask for informational purposes only.

  17. Red Cat Linux says:

    Hard drive osmosis. You hold the drive from the old machine up to your monitor.

    How long you have to hold it varies on the speed of the hard drive and the monitor resolution.

    It’s the thing I hate about download only purchases. I don’t mess with them unless I can burn them to my own media and re-load them at my leisure. Of course, you can do this with iTunes purchased music. But I don’t know how many people blow this off because it’s an extra step. Just like system backups.

  18. MitchV says: – it keeps my tunes, pictures, and other valuable digital archives safe.

  19. mosammey says:

    This can be done with the Zune Marketplace as well. I can restore all of the movies and music that I have purchased. I wish Amazon had a feature like that though.

  20. seamer says:

    I had a similar story published here about a year ago. I had an external drive crap out on me, Apple re-enabled everything that was still available for download.