Locations of Media Files in macOS Catalina

With macOS 10.15 Catalina, and the splitting of iTunes into three apps (Music, Podcasts, and Apple TV), media files will be handled a bit differently. Here’s where the various files will be located.

  • Music: By default, these files will be stored in ~/Music . (~ is a shortcut for your home folder, the one with the house icon and your user name.)
  • Apple TV: For TV shows and movies, the default location is ~/Movies . Music Videos, however, will stay in the Music app.
  • Podcasts: Podcasts are stored in a cache folder in ~/Library/Group Containers/243LU875E5.groups.com.apple.podcasts . This is not designed to be user accessible, and the podcast files do not display the original file names. You can, however, drag podcast files from the Podcasts app to the Desktop or to a folder.
  • Books: Since Apple spun off the Books app, ebooks have been stored in a folder in your Library folder: com.apple.BKAgentService. This folder will contain both ebooks and audiobooks. As with podcasts, you’re not intended to visit this folder, and ebook files do not have their original names, though audiobooks do display their names. However, if you select a file and press the space bar to view it in Quick Look, you will see its cover. (This is not currently the case with podcasts; using Quick Look on a podcast file lets you listen to it, but there is no album artwork attached.)

When you upgrade from macOS Mojave, both the Music and Apple TV apps will remember the location of your existing media, if you are using a different folder than the default. And each of these apps has an Advanced preference allowing you to choose a location for its media folder. This means that you can store your music on one volume and your movies and TV shows on another volume, which can be practical for many people with large libraries.

Note that macOS Catalina is just a beta, and this information is subject to change.

74 thoughts on “Locations of Media Files in macOS Catalina

  1. I hope it still allows files to be in your library where the files themselves are stored externally to the library. My entire home setup is based on that and if that is not allowed then this will be a huge issue for me 🙁 Fingers crossed…

  2. I appreciate your heads up articles on what’s ahead in Mac OS Catalina, but I was wondering what you could dig up on older iMacs whose processor speed might be handcuffed by the newer system. Mine is a late-2013 27-inch model, and I noticed after installing Mojave that some apps (Adobe especially) launched slower than they did in Sierra. That and that slower-than-slow Adobe Acrobat DC.

    • Apple says it’s compatible, but is it the processor, or could it be that you have a hard drive, and somehow reading data is slower? Since I’ve had SSDs in all my Macs, I never notice launch speeds.

  3. I do indeed have a hard drive—in fact it’s a Fusion Drive, and wonder if that may be a factor. If I remember correctly, I bought the iMac in early 2014 when Snow Leopard was the operating system. I first noticed a slowdown in opening graphic apps (such as Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop) after I had installed Mojave.

  4. Thanks for the info. I’m hoping I’ll still be able to rip my own discs into my libraries, but if I can’t, knowing where all the files are stored is a good first step toward a workaround.

    • iTunes hasn’t managed ringtones in a long time. Whatever you have there is legacy tones that weren’t moved when the app stopped managing them. If you upgrade to Catalina, I presume it won’t delete that folder, but it won’t manage the files just as it doesn’t now under Mojave.

      • You can still manually manage ringtones with Mojave. Just connect your device and drag ringtones onto it from the desktop. I’m hoping we can still do this with Catalina/Music app.

      • When I plug my iPhone in, iTunes has a Tones item in iPhone’s sidebar, which displays a “Sync Tones” panel, where you can select between “All tones” or “Selected tones”. So I presume that it is still syncing from the iTunes Media Tones folder.

        • I don’t see that in Catalina. In Mojave, iTunes doesn’t sync tones, but you can drag them to the device, as Marc said above.

          • I updated my 2.9 GHz Quad-Core Intel Core i5 late 2012 27″ iMac to Catalina from Mojave just the other day. Today, a friend asked me to send her a ringtone I’d made. I couldn’t remember if it was the file named wonderp.m4a or wonderp2.m4a that she needed so I decided to play them and see. Well – I didn’t know where they were. Spotlight found the files for me, but when I clicked to open them, the Music app opened and… did nothing. So then I searched in the Music app search for them – it did not find them. I had to go back to the finder and open them manually with QuickTime to play them. So, that’s stupid. If Music isn’t going to be able to play these files, they should not be defaulting to “open with Music.” In Mojave, it was never an issue – if I tried to play one from the finder, it would open in iTunes and play.

            Thoughts on this?

            • Ringtones are .m4r. It’s true that they’re set to open with Music, and Music can’t play them. That’s pretty dumb.

  5. Has the new Music app dumbed down Smart Playlists, or does it still have the full list of options? Honestly, this is the deciding factor on whether I upgrade to Catalina.

  6. I think Apple is trying to sell bigger hard drives. On Catalina, podcasts downloaded 25 GB of podcasts dating back a year and a half. They have to be deleted one at a time.

    On IOS 13, I can no longer delete attachments from messages. My cloud storage is full and its mostly messages attachments. Ugh

  7. Can you still drag and drop individual podcasts to the phone in finder if you want to continue to manually manage these like one can in iTunes. Also any idea why they have chosen to move podcasts to such an obscure place ?? I have a large library in iTunes that I like to dip in and out of and copy a few to the phone each time. Putting them in some sort of cache folder seems to suggest they consider them to be a much more transient thing that regularly gets deleted ?

  8. Any idea how to edit metadata on audiobooks with the move to the Books app? You can’t right click and “Get Info” and then edit metadata the way that you could in iTunes. There has to be a way to edit audiobooks not purchased through Apple or this is a huge miss.

  9. Seems that Catalina public beta is trying to move/migrate my audiobooks from iTunes directory on an external HD to the Home folder and I don’t have room for that. I can’t figure out why it doesn’t just leave the files/audiobooks where they are (like it did with music) and not seem to need it to be on the home internal drive. Any suggestions/help? Thanks!

    • Yes, just decided to try the beta and its a disaster – filled up my HD with Audiobooks I had originally on an external iTunes Audiobooks folder and now there is no way to edit the metadata associated with Audiobooks. Did you find a workaround yet?

      • No, there is none. I think the best solution is to remove all your audiobooks from iTunes before upgrading. You can add audiobooks without DRM to the Music app, or you will need to alias the folder that stores the audiobooks to your external drive. Its path is /Library/Containers/com.apple.BKAgentService/Data/Documents/iBooks/Books

  10. I think this is now because Podcasts and Books are actually iOS apps running in the Catalyst runtime engine on Mac (or whatever in Apple speak) and therefore has to have it’s own local data store as an app store app is not allowed access to the mac HD (other than it’s own special folder)

    • No, they are not “actually iOS apps,” and there is no “Catalyst runtime engine,” but they are different apps, and have their own libraries.

      • Thanks for correcting me. Do you know why the podcasts/books cannot remain in the original place with original names ?

        • They are different libraries, and these apps each have their own library files. Technically, they probably could remain in the same locations, but Apple has decided that they don’t want them to. I think part of the reason is that most people don’t need to access the files, unlike with music files, where you may want to copy them at times. They’ve been doing this with ebooks since the Books app was released. However, it does mean that if you have a large library of audiobooks, then you can’t easily offload them to an external drive.

          I don’t have Catalina running right now, and it’s still an early beta, but it’s possible that you could alias the folder that stores the books and put them on an external drive. I would wait until Catalina is officially released, however, in case anything changes.

          • Thanks for the information. Yes I am in no rush to update. I have a large podcast library and the thought of that ending up in a ‘cache’ folder worries me a bit as that to me makes me think apple considers them temporary files

            • It’s not a cache folder, but it is in ~/Application Support, and it’s not easy to find if you don’t know the path. (Same for books and audiobooks.) I think Apple assumes that most people don’t save podcast episodes, and, to be honest, if I did have a podcast archive, I’d store them elsewhere, or in a different app so I could have more control over them and not accidentally click something that deletes them all.

            • I’ve had a two second look and there only appears to be one Mac app and that is downcast which does not get great reviews

            • I used Downcast back in the day and it was fine, but I see there are lots of bad reviews on the Mac App Store.

  11. One question to which I cannot find an answer is where does Music in Catalina store the album artwork files? iTunes used the Album Artwork folder, but Catalina doesn’t seem to have one of those (that I have found). So where does it store all that artwork?

    • If you upgrade, it’s at the top level of your iTunes folder, where it was before. If not, ~/Library/Caches/com.apple.music.

      • Hmm. Yes it was an ‘upgrade’, but I started again with a new empty library and ‘Added to library’ all the music (about 25K tracks) from a network volume. After which various ~/Library/Caches/com.apple.music folders had been updated, but all remained empty and nothing new in the old Album Artwork folder either.

        Since the imported music would all be seen as new, any artwork would have to be freshly downloaded as evidenced by so much missing stuff (so that’s not improved), whereas all that music originally had full artwork in the iTunes/Album Artwork folder (not embedded). So it’s not simply accessing the original existing artwork (which would be impossible anyway as it could not possibly know the original GUIDs used for the artwork file storage (did I say what a terrible system it is). So…

        It is not using and cannot use the existing artwork, it has not apparently downloaded anything new into that existing iTunes/AA folder structure and it has not put anything into the new ~/Library/Caches/com.apple.music location. So where the hell is it?

        • Yes, I was mistaken. I saw the folder on my iMac, but it turns out there’s nothing new. I watched yesterday as the Music app loaded artwork for my music. It loaded by date added; so I could go to Recently Added view and watch as it loaded in reverse chronological order.

          It’s not fetching it from a server, because I have lots of music that’s not on the iTunes Store or Apple Music. I haven’t yet found where it is stored, which is weird.

          For my iMac library, it has to be several GB, and it’s not easy to hide a folder like that, unless it’s in an invisible folder.

          • Sorry, Kirk can you elaborate on that. Are you saying that when importing your old music into a new library, it ended up with the artwork even for stuff not in the store, but for which you did previously have it?

            That would indicate it IS using the old iTunes/AA data, but how is it matching newly imported albums back to the GUIDs used to store the old artwork files?

            Hang on, if your artwork did not come from the store, how did you add it into iTunes? Embedded? In which case the new Music.app would just grab that. I used to use CoverArt which allowed me to add artwork into iTunes AA structure – until Apple encrypted the process so it was no longer possible to do that (thanks Apple).

            So for my new import, any artwork I had ‘pushed’ into iTunes AA system is now missing and it is only showing what it was apparently able to find in the store (ok from Gracenote, but let’s not go there) or embedded (but I have very little of that). Which in my case indicates the Music.app import is UNable to access the old iTunes AA data and simply downloads what it can.

            Apple is making life hard. I first dragged a couple of albums into the new empty Music.app (directly after Catalina upgrade) Then wanting to start afresh, I quit Music, deleted the Music Library (emptied the Bin) and started Music again. It dutifully created a new Music Library – and those 2 albums were still there. I tried this several times, but I was unable to actually create a new empty Music Library. It ALWAYS found what had been in the library before and included them again. So all this stuff is being cached somewhere else, but it’s ridiculous that you cannot simply create a new empty library.

            In the end I had to delete those albums to empty the library and start from there.

            Remind me, which beta version is this 🙂

            • All my artwork is embedded. Even if it’s purchased music, I’ve embedded it. (I haven’t bought any music from the iTunes Store in a long time.)

              It’s pulling the artwork from the files themselves, but, if your artwork is not embedded, I would assume it’s grabbing it from the previous Album Artwork folder, or from the cloud.

              It sounds like the app you used before did something non-standard; if it was adding artwork not to the files but to the Album Artwork folder, that sounds like a hack.

              I’ve always found embedding artwork to be safer, and it’s portable; if you move the music to another Mac, the artwork stays with it.

              As for a new library finding existing content, do you have Sync Library checked in the General preferences? That would explain it.

  12. The process seems to be terribly flawed in any case. I cleared the artwork for an album for which it had been correctly downloaded during. Oddly, an old iTunes/AA/Download/xxxxxxx folder’s mod date was updated and another contained folder, but nothing inside that was actually updated. So why is it updating the old stuff. Maybe that was registering the deletion of the existing artwork. Could be.

    Then I set up a ‘find’ process in Terminal for each of the old and new AA locations to display anything newer and used ‘Get Album Artwork’ on that same album. I did not get the “cannot find artwork blah” error dialog, so it found the artwork, but then proceeded to NOT download it. I’ve tried several times and it obviously always finds the artwork to download. It just never gets downloaded to the Mac. That album remains resolutely blank in Music.app (even after restarting it) and nothing new in either AA location.

    It’s kinda hard trying to figure where it’s putting stuff when it’s this buggy and failing to download what it is supposed to. Obviously it IS possible as it manages to do it when importing, but is unable to do it when manually directed to do so.

    This is not the only flaw I’ve come across and I have to say it’s disappointing that after forcing us in this direction (no bad thing), but dropping much needed functionality (a very bad thing) the new system is this bad. Not the best way to win over users to your new modus operandi.

    • There have always been albums where this failed. Add the artwork manually in that case.

      I’m still confused, however, by where the artwork cache is. I’ve asked Apple, and I’ll post when I find out.

    • I found it: ~/Library/Containers/com.apple.APMArtworkAgent/Data/Documents. For me, it’s less than 1 GB, which is about 1/4 the size under iTunes. And it’s no longer storing .itc files, but it keeps the originals.

  13. Genius, well done Kirk, that’s it. All there – in original jpeg files. Now that IS an improvement. Ha, puzzle solved.

    However, that opens up an interesting possibility. Can we extract from Music.app the ID used to name all these files and so add our own files into that folder and have Music.app use them for an album? In other words does this open up the possibility to add our own artwork (for stuff it cannot find and download itself) into Apple’s artwork scheme? That would be a HUGE plus.

      • Hopefully that can discovered. I would love to once again be able to add otherwise unfound artwork into Apple’s AA system.

        I have however discovered the artwork for the album for which I cleared its artwork this morning. It rather looks like it WAS downloaded when requested, but somehow Music.app is not displaying it. I tried ‘Get album artwork’ again and nothing new was downloaded. So it looks like it now knows it is there, but not using it when displaying the album.

        I know embedded is more robust, but it is also dreadfully wasteful. So I’d prefer to use Apple’s system if at all possible. When I create what I need to use it in Plex, I add the artwork files into the album folder and that works a treat. I’m currently updating my sync scripts to work with the new structure, hence my interest in new file locations.

        Thanks for finding the AA location. Good work.

        • Ten years ago, I would have agreed with you about wasteful. But no as much any more. It’s true that with my library of 70,000 tracks, if I consider on average 10 tracks per album, that means that, given a 1 GB artwork folder, there’s 10 GB used for artwork. But my music totals 870 GB, so I’m not that worried.

  14. Hi Kirk, maybe you’ve already answered this question but I keep my iTunes library on an external drive. This includes large music and podcast libraries as well as some audio books. I don’t want 3TB of audio files moved over to my 500GB internal drive. That would be a nightmare. What can I do?

    • All your music will remain on the external drive, and Music will be pointed to that drive, as iTunes is now. For podcasts, which are stored in your home folder, I had expected that they be moved, but they aren’t; they stay on the external, and you can play them, but new episodes go into your home folder. As for audiobooks, I assumed they’d be moved, and, as such, I removed all my audiobooks (20 GB) from my iTunes library before updating, but it’s possible that they are treated like podcasts. I regret not testing now. So if you do update, I’m curious to see what happens to your audiobooks. I can’t imagine that they’ll be moved and fill up your startup disk.

      • As you indicate – Music is finding my music files on my NAS. But many tracks were listed with the exclamation mark in front until I played it and it then found the track. After a few days they seemed to have been found. The update did ‘move’ or start anew a Music library file on my local iMac. The iTunes Library XML files remain on the NAS with Extras, Genius, ITL etc. As these files all pre-date the Music library file … are they all unneeded and should I delete them?
        Is it advisable to leave my Music library file on my local iMac or should I move it (via preferences) back to the NAS? I would still want music I add to be on the NAS, not on my iMac.

        • All those files on the NAS can be deleted. If you just change the location of the media folder in Music’s Advanced preferences to the folder on your NAS, everything should be fine.

  15. I’m a Podcast addict and I have all my Podcasts in an external drive as I never have enough free space in my MacBook Pro’s hard drive. Am I the only one who thinks Podcasts in Catalina is the dumbest release ever? If they can allow you to change the file location of Music and Movies why not allow this for Podcasts? I can’t be the only one in the world that holds a large Podcast library. Apple have gone down in my estimation. Apart from providing feedback to Apple about this software upgrade (downgrade in my opinion), any suggestions from anyone on how to raise this issue in a wider scale?

    • I agree that some bad decisions have been made with regard to the iTunes split. I’ve not tried it myself, but I suggest you try replacing the expected storage directory with an alias or symlink to the appropriate directory on your external drive. You may find the new Podcasts app will then simply use that.

      As i said, not tried it myself, but worth a shot.

      • Hi Ken

        Many thanks for getting back to me but how do you do what you suggest? Also will this mean that the file names are correct as currently they have now changed too which is not good if you need to search for them in a folder etc. Does anybody know if Apple will add a change file location storage option like they have for Music and TV? I’ve already given Apple my scathing feedback on the App. For Podcasts now I use Downcast as it seems to be the best App that I could find however are there any better ones? Thanks.

        • I have no expectations that they will change the file storage options for Books or Podcasts. In part, because these are “Catalyst” apps, which work differently from standard Mac apps, and don’t have the same options. However, they’re bringing back the column browser, and I didn’t expect that either.

            • How is the new podcast app with large libraries by which I mean lots of items ? oTunes on a top spec 2014 mac mini is painful when adding and deleting taking many minutes each time. Thanks

        • The new Podcasts app wants to store the podcasts in a folder on the startup volume (I forget the exact location now). Replace that folder with a ‘pointer’ to the actual folder where you have all your podcasts (on the external volume I believe).

          That ‘pointer’ might be an alias, or a symbolic link. Either/both may or may not work. MacOS deals with symlinks differently from aliases, but in a non-unix standard way and so although a symlink ought to work, with Mac apps it may not. So you may have to try both, but of course neither may work.

          Even so, the file names will be what the Podcasts app wants to use. It may leave existing file names unchanged, but it may change them. I have no idea about that.

          I have not tried any of this on Catalina. But using aliases did work in iTunes, although only for the entire Media folder. You couldn’t store different media in different locations.

          I just thought it might be worth a try with the Podcasts app.

  16. My issue involves movies in particular. In iTunes I kept my purchased iTunes media on a spanned JBOD volume (30Tb across 3 discs). However downloading now fails (error 11800) although TV episodes are ok. So changing back to the default download destination does work but now instead of MPEG-4 files I now download HLS files. If I then move them manually to my remote volume I have no way to add them to the library – no add file option and import doesn’t work.

  17. What about Voice Memos – where are those stored? Voice Memos is another Catalyst app and it has problems just functioning at all correctly – see https://discussions.apple.com/thread/250857957 – I’ve reproduced this on multiple Macs – as soon as you sign in with your Apple ID, you can no longer record Voice Memos on your Mac. So many people having this problem with zero response from Apple.

      • I should revise a bit – if I remember correctly, it allows me to record up until the voice memos in my iCloud account are synced over to my Mac. Then it stops working – no more recording is possible.

        • This is a guess, but do you have an Apple developer account? If so, did you use it with iOS 13 betas? I have, and did, and there have been a number of reports of corrupted iCloud data for people who did this. Also, see the article I posted today about the issue.

          • I do have an Apple developer account, but haven’t used it in years.

            I have never used an iOS or macOS beta.

            By the way, thanks so much Kirk for the investigation and write-up! 🙂

  18. For podcasts, has anyone tried the alias or “symlink” workarounds that Ken describes? If you have done it successfully, can you post step by step instructions. I feel that Apple doesn’t consult power users of each of its apps before making changes. I had a library of 20 – 30 university math and science courses which I don’t delete after listening and do need to refer back to now and then for a refresher. I kept them on an external drive of course. Apple made all of these “podcasts” and now everything is f**d up. I’m not a developer. I’ll look up alias and symlink on Google and also try the downcast app that was mentioned.

  19. Thanks for sharing.
    I’m trying to export my downloaded podcast episodes to an external drive. You mentioned you can just drag and drop it from the Podcasts app, but I couldn’t. Nothing happens when I do it. I know I can drag it from the hidden Group Containers folder, but organizing it would be a mess. Do you know any other way?
    MacOS 10.15.3.

    • Yes, you can no longer drag and drop the files. The cache folder is correct; if it’s empty for you, then you don’t have any downloaded podcast.

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