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Can I Delete my Music Library after using iTunes Match?

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Download Music using iMatchThe quick answer is yes. But there are some things you need to know before you delete your iTunes music library after initiating iTunes Match.

Let’s start from the beginning. iTunes Match is a new feature from Apple that utilizes iCloud to store all of your music. For $24.99 per year, you can upload all of your music to the cloud and then access that music any time you are connected to the Internet. You can also use your iPad, iPod, iPhone, or other computer with iTunes to access your entire music library at any time.

When you upload your music, you actually don’t upload your entire library, you only upload songs that iTunes does not have in their library. If iTunes has it in their library, you will be hearing that copy. Why have a million copies of a song when one is all you need? What’s great is that the iTunes version is in 256-Kbps AAC DRM-free quality, which may be better than the version you have on your computer. So think of iTunes Match as matching your music library to the existing library in the cloud. If you have music that is not in the library, it is added.

What you need to know before you delete your music

Second, after you have completed the iTunes Match process, and before you delete all of your music, be sure you back up your music library to an external drive. If you are using Time Machine to back up your computer, your music library will be on that backup. I’d even suggest doing another backup of your music to be safe. You can usually find your entire library by clicking on these folders Music > iTunes > iTunes Media > Music.

Second, if you delete your songs, they will not be available when you are not connected to the Internet. You can always easily add them back, but just know that you won’t be able to listen to these songs when you are on your international flight with no Internet connection.

Deleting your music

When you are ready to delete your music, highlight the songs you’d like to delete (do a command + A to select all), and then simply press the delete key. You will be given the option to Delete the Song with a checkbox to also delete the song from iCloud. Don’t check the iCloud box unless you want that song to disappear. If you just push the button to “Delete Song,” the song will be deleted from your computer, freeing up space.

Delete Song in iTunes Match

After you click the Delete Song button, another option will come up to Keep File or Move to Trash. Keeping the file will keep the file on your computer within your files. It will remove it from iTunes, but it will still be in your files. Moving the File to trash will remove the file from your computer. It will still be in the iCloud where you can access it from any devices, but it will not be on your local computer.

iTunes Match Keep File or Move to Trash

You can delete your entire music library if you plan to access all of your music in the cloud. That’s what I did because I use a MacBook Air with limited hard drive space. I was able to remove all of my music but still access all of it through iTunes Match and the cloud.

iMatch DownloadOnce you have deleted your library and you decide to add some of that music back to your local computer, simply click the cloud-looking icon next to your song and the song will begin downloading immediately.

To use iTunes Match on your mobile device, enable iTunes Match under the Music settings on your iPod, iPad, or iPhone. For your computer, initiate iTunes Match within iTunes to access the library associated with your Apple username. You only pay for iTunes Match once per account no matter how many devices will access that music.

One incredible feature is that the music is instantly available in the cloud once you purchase it or burn it to your computer. For instance, I just burned a new cd to my computer and was able to access that cd from my iPhone immediately after it loaded on my computer. I was pretty impressed with that.


  1. Clive Lawrence

    Hi Erik,
    After purchasing iTunes Match and uploading my songs I located this article for help to subsequently delete my files.

    In iTunes, in the album window, I selected all the albums (using ctrl A) then used ‘delete’ – delete songs – moved to trash.

    A relatively small amount of space was freed up on my computer, but when I went into iTunes folder> iTunes Media folder> music folder, the song files were still there (!) which explains why I have not freed-up the expected space on my computer.

    I am probably doing something wrong (!) Can you help?


  2. Erik Rostad

    Hello Clive – after deleting the files, did you then delete them from your Trash as well? You will not see the hard drive space go back up until they are also deleted from the trash. If that doesn’t work, try deleting one song to see if it is still allowing you to delete the file from your computer.

  3. Tuneup Media

    Nice blog Erik. Very informative. I have a large collection in my music library so will it help me to delete all the duplicates or you can suggest me other kind of software for removing duplicates song. As i recently read a article that was about duplicate song remover software Tuneupmedia

  4. David N

    Thank you so much for this advice Erik. After struggling for months to find space on my MacBook Air, in the click of a few keys and in one minute, this has resolved my storage issue completely.

  5. Erik Rostad

    Thanks for letting me know David.

  6. Honor

    Eric, are my iTunes movies also downloaded into iCloud, or only the music?

  7. Erik Rostad

    Hello – just the music. I’m hoping the movies start downloading in the future, but it is not a feature now.

  8. Keith

    How do I make iTunes on my computer use iTunes Match to locate files in iCloud, rather than on my computer. I have a lot of tracks that have the exclamation point beside of them. When you try to play the track, you get the “the original file could not be found, would you like to locate it” message. If you simply hit “cancel,” then the song is automatically found through Match and plays. But you have to do that for every song with the exclamation point. How can I make that happen for every song in my library at once?

  9. Erik Rostad

    Hi Keith – hmm, you might need to change the title of all of your tracks to remove the exclamation point. Then turn on Match. Perhaps there is a way for you to do a change all for the song titles. Let me know what you find out.


  10. Mike Bethany

    You should be aware that if you cancel your Match subscription you will lose your entire library. I let my Match subscription expire then my local RAID died (yeah, it’s not supposed to do that when mirrored but the “RAID” enclosure was a POS). I resigned up for Match and none of my stuff was there.

  11. Erik Rostad

    Good to know Mike – thank you for sharing. I was not aware of that.

  12. Bobbie

    I just bought a Macbook Air and have put all my music in the icloud as I have Itunes Match. I did keep all the music files instead of putting them in the trash. Does that keep them on my hard drive? I am trying to free up space on my Macbook. If I need to put all the files in the trash and empty trash, can you tell me how to do that. Thanks

  13. Erik Rostad

    Hi Bobbie,

    Yeah, in order to remove them from your hard drive, you’ll need to go into itunes, select the songs to delete, and then push delete. You will then see a box asking if you’d like to delete from your hard drive AND iCloud. Do not delete them from iCloud, but just delete them from your hard drive. My suggestion is to backup all of your music on an external drive before you delete them just as a precaution. It’s always good to have one or two backups outside of your computer. Let me know if that works for you.

  14. Tomek

    Hey Erik, I have tried to do likewise yet what I ended up is a library packed with songs with an exclamation mark symbol that refuse to play automatically as each time the dialogue window pops up asking me whether I want to relocate the song or not. If I click cancel, the song starts to play. Did I do sth wrong? How do I get rid of this issue pls?

  15. Erik Rostad

    Hi Tomek – hmm, I haven’t seen that issue before, but here is a page that appears to address the problem – https://discussions.apple.com/thread/4014573

    Please let me know if this works for you.

  16. David Doty

    I tried uploading 120 gigs of music to imatch last year. After two days, it was still trying to upload. I lost about 5 gigs. POOF! Gone…I’ll never trust iTunes again. The WD MyCloud works in a similar way.

  17. Chris Hernandez

    Let’s say I’ve activated iTunes Match, deleted my music that was matched, and later decided I want to unsubscribe from Match. Would I still have access to all my previously matched music (as if they were purchases) or am I royally screwed?

  18. Erik Rostad

    Hi Chris,

    I would always have a backup of all of your music. If you turn off Match, you should still have access to the music that was originally yours. It would just need to be on your actual machine. You’d no longer be able to access it over wi-fi. But to be safe, I’d always have a backup of all of your music before turning off Match.

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