iTunes 8 and Large Libraries: Faster, Much Faster

I’ve complained about iTunes being slow with large libraries, but I’m happy to say that with Apple’s release of iTunes 8, this problem is greatly attenuated. Tagging, ripping, even checking and unchecking items is much quicker. There’s still a tiny lag, but very short, when I check or uncheck an item. When tagging, things go really fast: whereas before, it could take 30 seconds to change tags for a single album (say adding a comment tag or changing a name in the tags), now it’s instantaneous. I tried changing tags on hundreds of files at once, and that is fast as well; you see the progress, but it’s no longer 5 seconds per file as it was before.

I’m very happy that Apple resolved this issue, as more and more people have been complaining about it. It seems that iTunes is no longer writing the library file for each change; in the past, you could see the file being rewritten, and see temp files being written as well. I suspect that they now write the changes only once after they have finished and increment them with the library file in memory. Whatever they’ve done under the hood, though it works.

One oddity with the new version of iTunes: my Album Artwork folder is more than 600 MB. This folder is used locally for iTunes to display your album art; it’s a sort of cache folder. Before, this folder was about half that size, but the way iTunes parses artwork must have changed. Looking at some of the files, it seems that they are caching files of different sizes for different uses, hence the increase in size. If you back up your home folder regularly, you could exclude this folder (or at least its Cache subfolder, which contains most of the files); iTunes will recreate this if necessary.

28 thoughts on “iTunes 8 and Large Libraries: Faster, Much Faster

  1. I agree iTunes 8, so far, appears to be a winner. I used to dread changing genres for an album as it would take several seconds per song…up to a minute per album. Now it’s instant!

    Also, I’m finding the new cover view very useful. To see just the cover art of my "added in last 14 days" smart playlist makes it simple to view all my new albums at a glance.

    On the downside, memory usage hasn’t improved. I use iStat menus to monitor the memory stats and when I first launch iTunes after a restart my percentage of total memory used is around 38% (for the whole system, not just iTunes). After playing an hours worth of music (but not launching or using any other programs) the memory has shot up to 70% or more. Quiting iTunes brings it back down to to the 38% mark. Cover flow is notorious for memory consumption and it looks like the new cover view isn’t much better.

    Still, it’s a welcome upgrade with some great performance boosts and a couple fun new features to play with.

    • Well, it depends how much RAM you have. I’m currently running on a Mac Pro
      with 4 GB RAM. iTunes has been running for hours, and is using 340 MB. That’s
      more than iTunes 7, but for the speed increase, I can live with that.

      I just quit and relaunched it, and it started up at 111 MB. So if you’re worried,
      just quit it every now and then. It’s a small price to pay for speed.

      BTW, nice idea about the smart playlist with covers of new stuff. I’ll do that too!

      Kirk

    • I havent found iTunes 8 to fix my performance problems,
      which began when i added artwork to most of my 8000 songs about a fortnight ago. in iTunes 7 turning off coverflow fixed the lag issues. However now with 8 it is a different story

      Even the new grid view sorted by genre takes ~10minutes to populate each time, so does querying genius bar, or viewing applications.
      I’m going to investigate my library file size tonight and see if that has anything to do with it…
      iTunes is now practically unusable for me, but hopefully you’ve given me somewhere to start with sorting out my woes.

    • Ever since iTunes 7 came out, I had a problem with songs skipping while running any other programs and listening to music at the same time. I run Windows XP (3gb RAM dual processor) and have almost 20,000 sings on a separate 500gb hard drive.

      My fix came about by creating an iTunes.bat file that runs the program with high priority. I still am doing it this way with iTunes 8 and do notice an increase in speed but also notice that it is a huge resource hog. At times, I will notice flickering of the menu bar and might have to install more RAM.

      Thanks to whomever wrote the new album playlist tip! Great idea!

      • Hi, thanks for your information, I have the hugest library: 122,000 Mp3 and 1,700 Mp4 full lenfgt concerts HQ, I have all the artwork for all my Mp3 and Mp4 also my iTunes is running slow. I running XP, SP2, AMD Atholn 64×2 dual core 4400+, 2.21 Ghz, 2gb RAM.

        Please tell me if the ”iTunes.bat” can work for me and if this is the procedure (I found this on internet):
        1. Highlight all of the following 4 lines of text that begin with regsvr32 and then choose Copy from the Edit menu of your web browser:
        regsvr32 /s wintrust.dll
        regsvr32 /s softpub.dll
        regsvr32 /s mssip32.dll
        regsvr32 /s initpki.dll
        2. Open the Notepad program by navigating to:

        Start > All Programs > Accessories > Notepad
        3. In Notepad, choose Paste from the Edit menu. Note: make sure that the text that appears in Notepad is the same as what is shown above.
        4. From the File menu, choose Save As.
        5. In the File name: field type iTunes.bat and save the file to the Desktop.
        6. Close Notepad and locate the iTunes.bat file. It should appear on the Desktop.
        7. Double-click the file and you will see a black window appear on the screen for about a minute. Wait until the window automatically disappears and proceed to the next step.
        8. The iTunes.bat file can be deleted at this time.
        9. Try opening iTunes again.

        Thanks in advance

      • Make a smart playlist where Date Added is in the last N days (I have mine set to
        7, but I’ll change it if I buy a lot of new music so there’s not too much). Then
        have it display in Grid view. You’ll see each album only, rather than a list of
        tracks. To get more info, double-click the album graphic, and then you’ll see
        just that album with its graphic and track info. You can play it from there, or
        from grid view if you want to play the entire album.

  2. I agree iTunes 8, so far, appears to be a winner. I used to dread changing genres for an album as it would take several seconds per song…up to a minute per album. Now it’s instant!

    Also, I’m finding the new cover view very useful. To see just the cover art of my "added in last 14 days" smart playlist makes it simple to view all my new albums at a glance.

    On the downside, memory usage hasn’t improved. I use iStat menus to monitor the memory stats and when I first launch iTunes after a restart my percentage of total memory used is around 38% (for the whole system, not just iTunes). After playing an hours worth of music (but not launching or using any other programs) the memory has shot up to 70% or more. Quiting iTunes brings it back down to to the 38% mark. Cover flow is notorious for memory consumption and it looks like the new cover view isn’t much better.

    Still, it’s a welcome upgrade with some great performance boosts and a couple fun new features to play with.

    • Well, it depends how much RAM you have. I’m currently running on a Mac Pro
      with 4 GB RAM. iTunes has been running for hours, and is using 340 MB. That’s
      more than iTunes 7, but for the speed increase, I can live with that.

      I just quit and relaunched it, and it started up at 111 MB. So if you’re worried,
      just quit it every now and then. It’s a small price to pay for speed.

      BTW, nice idea about the smart playlist with covers of new stuff. I’ll do that too!

      Kirk

    • I havent found iTunes 8 to fix my performance problems,
      which began when i added artwork to most of my 8000 songs about a fortnight ago. in iTunes 7 turning off coverflow fixed the lag issues. However now with 8 it is a different story

      Even the new grid view sorted by genre takes ~10minutes to populate each time, so does querying genius bar, or viewing applications.
      I’m going to investigate my library file size tonight and see if that has anything to do with it…
      iTunes is now practically unusable for me, but hopefully you’ve given me somewhere to start with sorting out my woes.

    • Ever since iTunes 7 came out, I had a problem with songs skipping while running any other programs and listening to music at the same time. I run Windows XP (3gb RAM dual processor) and have almost 20,000 sings on a separate 500gb hard drive.

      My fix came about by creating an iTunes.bat file that runs the program with high priority. I still am doing it this way with iTunes 8 and do notice an increase in speed but also notice that it is a huge resource hog. At times, I will notice flickering of the menu bar and might have to install more RAM.

      Thanks to whomever wrote the new album playlist tip! Great idea!

      • Hi, thanks for your information, I have the hugest library: 122,000 Mp3 and 1,700 Mp4 full lenfgt concerts HQ, I have all the artwork for all my Mp3 and Mp4 also my iTunes is running slow. I running XP, SP2, AMD Atholn 64×2 dual core 4400+, 2.21 Ghz, 2gb RAM.

        Please tell me if the ”iTunes.bat” can work for me and if this is the procedure (I found this on internet):
        1. Highlight all of the following 4 lines of text that begin with regsvr32 and then choose Copy from the Edit menu of your web browser:
        regsvr32 /s wintrust.dll
        regsvr32 /s softpub.dll
        regsvr32 /s mssip32.dll
        regsvr32 /s initpki.dll
        2. Open the Notepad program by navigating to:

        Start > All Programs > Accessories > Notepad
        3. In Notepad, choose Paste from the Edit menu. Note: make sure that the text that appears in Notepad is the same as what is shown above.
        4. From the File menu, choose Save As.
        5. In the File name: field type iTunes.bat and save the file to the Desktop.
        6. Close Notepad and locate the iTunes.bat file. It should appear on the Desktop.
        7. Double-click the file and you will see a black window appear on the screen for about a minute. Wait until the window automatically disappears and proceed to the next step.
        8. The iTunes.bat file can be deleted at this time.
        9. Try opening iTunes again.

        Thanks in advance

      • Make a smart playlist where Date Added is in the last N days (I have mine set to
        7, but I’ll change it if I buy a lot of new music so there’s not too much). Then
        have it display in Grid view. You’ll see each album only, rather than a list of
        tracks. To get more info, double-click the album graphic, and then you’ll see
        just that album with its graphic and track info. You can play it from there, or
        from grid view if you want to play the entire album.

  3. I haven’t had a chance to observe performance increases, but I believe the cause of the increased size of the cover images folder is the result of thumbnails that are created during the initial launch of iTunes 8. These thumbnails obviously serve the new cover viewing option. My 45000 song library spent a couple minutes creating the thumbnails when I first launched the new version. There was a progress indicator during this process.

    Jason

    • Yes, and I also found that during the first times I changed views – to Grid
      view – it took a while for iTunes to "process" that artwork.

      I think there’s something to try if you have a problem. Move the Album
      Artwork/Cache folder out of your iTunes Music folder. Relaunch iTunes, then
      display your library in Grid view and scroll, slowly, until everything has been
      displayed. This will cause iTunes to recreate the caches for artwork. A year or
      so ago, I found this helped improve my artwork display a bit; it seems that
      when you delete music, iTunes doesn’t delete the artwork cache.

      FYI, my cache folder is 621 MB, and that’s for about 35K items.

      Kirk

  4. I haven’t had a chance to observe performance increases, but I believe the cause of the increased size of the cover images folder is the result of thumbnails that are created during the initial launch of iTunes 8. These thumbnails obviously serve the new cover viewing option. My 45000 song library spent a couple minutes creating the thumbnails when I first launched the new version. There was a progress indicator during this process.

    Jason

    • Yes, and I also found that during the first times I changed views – to Grid
      view – it took a while for iTunes to "process" that artwork.

      I think there’s something to try if you have a problem. Move the Album
      Artwork/Cache folder out of your iTunes Music folder. Relaunch iTunes, then
      display your library in Grid view and scroll, slowly, until everything has been
      displayed. This will cause iTunes to recreate the caches for artwork. A year or
      so ago, I found this helped improve my artwork display a bit; it seems that
      when you delete music, iTunes doesn’t delete the artwork cache.

      FYI, my cache folder is 621 MB, and that’s for about 35K items.

      Kirk

  5. Cleaning out my collection of smart playlists improved the speed for me. I
    had literally dozens for
    all kinds of situations, many that I never used more than a few times, so it
    was easy to delete most
    of them.

    I did archive some of the more complex smart playlists, just in case I want to
    use them again in the
    future, by choosing "File -> Library -> Export Playlist" and saving them as
    XML files. The resulting
    file can be imported later and saves the smart playlist’s functionality along
    with the actual list of
    songs.

    I’m enjoying my library again without all the beach balls. Yay!

    • Some time ago, based on recommendations on the Apple forums, I tried
      removing smart playlists. It really didn’t make a difference for me. I’ve got about
      two dozen, and each one only returns about 20 tracks. Each of those tracks
      takes up space in the library file, though, so if you have unlimited or large
      numbers of tracks, that could make a big difference.

  6. Cleaning out my collection of smart playlists improved the speed for me. I
    had literally dozens for
    all kinds of situations, many that I never used more than a few times, so it
    was easy to delete most
    of them.

    I did archive some of the more complex smart playlists, just in case I want to
    use them again in the
    future, by choosing "File -> Library -> Export Playlist" and saving them as
    XML files. The resulting
    file can be imported later and saves the smart playlist’s functionality along
    with the actual list of
    songs.

    I’m enjoying my library again without all the beach balls. Yay!

    • Some time ago, based on recommendations on the Apple forums, I tried
      removing smart playlists. It really didn’t make a difference for me. I’ve got about
      two dozen, and each one only returns about 20 tracks. Each of those tracks
      takes up space in the library file, though, so if you have unlimited or large
      numbers of tracks, that could make a big difference.

  7. Hi, Im running a macbook which i purchased when they first come out, the
    basic specs are: Tiger Mac OS X 10.4.11 (kept up to date) 2GHz intel core
    duo, 2GB 667 MHz DDR2 SDRAM. I have a iTunes library around 740GB, only
    20GB (music) is on the laptop itself and the rest (movies only) is on a Western
    Digital 1TB external HD. I am running everything in the 1 itunes Library at the
    moment, everything seems to run fine but i find that after my laptop has
    been on for a few days or if i use heavily, the music im playing will start to
    skip and become real slow, the actual program itself continues to run fine just
    the play back of the tracks suffers. even if i shut down programs or leave
    overnight it will not become any faster. after restarting the laptop it will be ok
    for a day or so.
    Im not really up with the technical side to computers, just the basic stuff so i
    was wondering if anyone has any ideas on how to stop this problem. i have
    considered purchasing Leopard and installing on this laptop until im ready to
    buy a new one next financial year.

    Greatfull for any help 🙂

    • Hmm, I’ve never heard this, but it sounds like you’re pushing the computer too
      hard. You have 2 GB of RAM in it, but if you open a lot of applications, that RAM
      is used and the computer has to use virtual memory, basically writing memory
      data to disk. This slows things down. You’ll generally see this after the computer
      has been running for a while (as you say, a couple of days). I have a feeling
      everything would be fine if you should it down every night and restarted in the
      morning. Then the computer starts fresh with minimal virtual memory.

  8. Hi, Im running a macbook which i purchased when they first come out, the
    basic specs are: Tiger Mac OS X 10.4.11 (kept up to date) 2GHz intel core
    duo, 2GB 667 MHz DDR2 SDRAM. I have a iTunes library around 740GB, only
    20GB (music) is on the laptop itself and the rest (movies only) is on a Western
    Digital 1TB external HD. I am running everything in the 1 itunes Library at the
    moment, everything seems to run fine but i find that after my laptop has
    been on for a few days or if i use heavily, the music im playing will start to
    skip and become real slow, the actual program itself continues to run fine just
    the play back of the tracks suffers. even if i shut down programs or leave
    overnight it will not become any faster. after restarting the laptop it will be ok
    for a day or so.
    Im not really up with the technical side to computers, just the basic stuff so i
    was wondering if anyone has any ideas on how to stop this problem. i have
    considered purchasing Leopard and installing on this laptop until im ready to
    buy a new one next financial year.

    Greatfull for any help 🙂

    • Hmm, I’ve never heard this, but it sounds like you’re pushing the computer too
      hard. You have 2 GB of RAM in it, but if you open a lot of applications, that RAM
      is used and the computer has to use virtual memory, basically writing memory
      data to disk. This slows things down. You’ll generally see this after the computer
      has been running for a while (as you say, a couple of days). I have a feeling
      everything would be fine if you should it down every night and restarted in the
      morning. Then the computer starts fresh with minimal virtual memory.

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