How To: Clean Up Your iTunes Library

As the new year approaches, it’s time to make some resolutions; you know, those things you say you’re going to do but forget after a few weeks… Well, I have a suggestion for a useful resolution that won’t take long: you could clean up your iTunes library. You could weed out duplicates, find missing album art, and check up on your tags. In this article, I’ll discuss how you can do these tasks, quickly and easily.

Get Rid of Duplicates

As your iTunes library grows, you may end up with a bunch of duplicates; some tracks that you bought, others that you “downloaded,” and even some that you ripped, either recently or way back when. It serves little purpose to have these duplicates in your iTunes library, so it’s a good idea to weed them out from time to time.

iTunes lets you find duplicates in your library. Choose View > Show Duplicate Items. You can then manually delete any dupes you don’t want to keep. If you want to find exact duplicates – those that might be on two different albums – press the Option key (or the Shift key if you’re on Windows), then choose View > Show Exact Duplicate Items.

But iTunes’ duplicate finding is limited. A much better tool to find dupes is Doug Adams’ $15 Dupin, a simple app that lets you find and sort duplicates according to a number of criteria. You can choose which ones to keep, according to their date, play counts, bit rates and more. It can find exact duplicates, as well as songs that appear on, say, a regular album and a best of collection.

Dupin portrait tight yos

If you don’t need all of Dupin’s powerful features, you can try the $6 Dupin Lite 2, which offers many of Dupin’s features, but has fewer power-user features.

Find Tracks Without Album Artwork

If you have lots of tracks without album artwork, it might be a good idea to sort them in your iTunes library so you can add artwork to them. In some cases, you may have an album where not all tracks have artwork; in others, full albums may be missing artwork.

Doug Adams’ Tracks Without Embedded Artwork will find all tracks that don’t have artwork embedded in their files. This may find some tracks that do have artwork; when you purchase music from the iTunes Store, the artwork is not embedded in the files, so if you copy it to another computer, the artwork won’t be there.

Embedded artwork

After you run this script, you’ll want to embed the artwork in the tracks that have artwork that’s not embedded, before you start looking for artwork that’s missing altogether. There’s a script for this: Re-Embed Artwork. This exports the artwork, then adds it to the files.

To find tracks without any artwork, you can use Doug Adams’ $4 TrackSift, an app which contains nine useful tools for working with your iTunes library, its files, and its playlists.

The Find Tracks Without Artwork module creates a playlist of all tracks that have no artwork at all.


As for the rest, you’ll want something that can help you find missing artwork. You can use Google, but if you have a lot of files, you might want to get a dedicated app, such as Equinox’s $30 CoverScout. This app examines you files, finds the ones that are missing artwork, and then searches for the missing graphics and adds them to the files.

Get Rid of Dead Tracks

“Dead” tracks are those tracks that iTunes has lost track of. You may have deleted them, and there may still be entries in your iTunes library; or you may have lost the original files. TrackSift, which I mentioned above, can find and delete dead tracks.


It’s best to check Dry Run at first; this creates a text file with a list of dead tracks, and you can scan this to see which ones you want to keep, then look for their missing files.

Find Tracks with Missing Genre, Artist, Album Tags

In order to find music in your iTunes library, sort it, and funnel it into smart playlists, you need to have good tags. It’s a good idea to scan your library from time to time and find tracks that are missing some of the essential tags, such as Genre, Artist or Album.

This is easy to do with smart playlists. For example, to find all the tracks with no Genre tag, make a smart playlist where Genre is [blank]:

Genre playlist

Do the same for other tags: use Artist, Album, or any other tags you want to fill in. The advantage of these smart playlists is that, when you save them, they’ll continually show you tracks matching their conditions. You won’t have to update all the tracks right away; you can do a handful whenever you have time.

Another app from Equinox, the $30 SongGenie, can fix tags, even find tags for your music, add lyrics and more. SongGenie and CoverScout are sold in a bundle at a discount.

Remove Unwanted Genres

Another feature of TrackSift, which I mentioned above, is the ability to remove or merge unwanted genres. You my have an iTunes library with dozens of genres, such as Electro-dubstep-cool-jazz. You may want to move all of these genres to a single, more encompassing genre, such as Electronic or Jazz. TrackSift can do this. Select a genre, tell the app which genre you want to merge it with, and it will quickly change all the tracks in the selected genre.

Note that you cannot remove the two dozen or so genres that iTunes includes by default. So even if you never use Jazz or Soundtracks, they’ll always show up in the list.

And More

There’s lots more you can do to tidy up your iTunes library. If you use a Mac, check out Doug Adams’ website in the Managing Track Info category for more useful AppleScripts. See also his Recommendations by Task page, which groups different AppleScripts by the tasks they perform.

And as part of your New Year’s resolution, try to tag your files better when you add them to your iTunes library; you’ll avoid having to do a massive clean-up later.