Apple Music’s Confusing Deletion Of Songs Is One Reason You Should Back Up Your Files

Image courtesy of emilybean

Powering on your computer only to find that all of your downloaded music, including original content, is nowhere to be found is an understandably devastating situation. But it’s one that has apparently happened to several Apple Music users since the service launched last year. 

The ordeal, detailed in a blog post on Velluma Atlanta, has taken users by surprise and left many wondering why the music service would take it upon itself to delete files from users’ hard drives.

James Pinkstone says he was told by an Apple support rep that the company’s new Music subscription service deletes files from its users’ computers after evaluating and comparing the files with Apple’s own database.

According to the Velluma blog post, once files are compared to Apple’s database for matches, the original files are removed from the internal hard drive.

“If Apple Music saw a file it didn’t recognize—which came up often, since I’m a freelance composer and have many music files that I created myself—it would then download it to Apple’s database, delete it from my hard drive, and serve it back to me when I wanted to listen, just like it would with my other music files it had deleted,” Pinkstone wrote.

While Pinkstone outlines several issues with the system, including the fact that users would lose access to the song database if they aren’t connected to WiFi or instances in which Apple’s matches aren’t accurate or result in lower quality tracks, the biggest problem is that if a user hasn’t backed up their files lately, they could be gone forever — or at least until they have enough time to re-download them.

The issue certainly shows why it’s important to create backups of your files, a notion seconded by the blog iMore, which suggests the deletion of files from users’ hard drive is likely a result of Apple’s confusing system, not a nefarious plot to clear your music library.

“Apple Music should never automatically delete files off your primary Mac’s hard drive unless you specifically delete them first,” Serenity Caldwell writes.

The confusion starts with the way in which Apple Music operates. Once someone subscribes to the service it scans their music library and matches any tracks to its own streaming library.

This is done so that when you’re on a second device — like a smartphone or iPad — you can stream the tracks at their highest quality without taking up space on the machine, iMore points out.

The process results in two libraries; one stored on your original computer with all your original files, and an iCloud-stored library that can be used on other devices.

iMore suggests that users likely get tripped up after these matches are completed and they move on to use a secondary device.

“Any songs you play on those devices are sourced directly from your iCloud Music Library, and even if you download them locally, they can be removed from your device if your iPhone’s storage space dips too low,” iMore states.

If for some reason you have deleted the original copy from your computer, you can re-download the track from your iCloud Music Library, which could result in a lower quality track.

Users who press delete on a song in their iTunes Library when Apple Music or iTunes Match is enabled will be greeted with a confusing pop-up that states: “This will delete this song from your iCloud Music Library and from your other devices. To keep this song in your library and on your other devices, you can remove this download instead.”

By pressing the “remove download” option users are sending their local file from their hard drive to their trash. The content won’t officially be removed from your computer unless you dump your trash.

The song, however, is left in the iCloud Music Library.

While iMore says the system might be helpful for some users, it should only ever be used on a secondary computer or secondary iTunes Library — never for your master library.

“As such, I’ve advised from the beginning to always keep a master copy of your original library when using streaming services that match your library, and back up that library before signing up for anything cloud-related,” Caldwell writes.

Of course, understanding the confusing system doesn’t help bring back anyone’s deleted files, or fix issues with Apple Music’s matching service.

“iCloud Music Library is always going to be complicated, and people are going to make mistakes because of it. And if they don’t have backups, those mistakes might be costly,” Caldwell says.

Bloomberg News recently reported that Apple Music is looking to redesign its overly complicated user interface in an attempt to better compete with more established streaming services.

We’ve reached out to Apple for details on its system, and will update this post when we hear back.

Apple Stole My Music. No, Seriously. [Vellum Atlanta]
No, Apple Music is not deleting tracks off your hard drive — unless you tell it to [iMore]

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