Restoring a Previous Version of Your iTunes Library

Restoring a Previous Version of Your iTunes Library

I recently received an e-mail from a user who had installed a newer version of iTunes, but then went back to the previous version. When they started the previous version they received an error on the screen related to the “ITunes Library.itl” file. This error prevented iTunes from launching.

I did some research into the issue and managed to find an easy solution to the problem. After describing the steps to correct the problem, the user informed me that iTunes was once again working. In this post I’ll describe the solution.

Restoring Your ITunes Library File

If you decide to revert back to a previous version of iTunes, you may receive the following error:

ITunes Library.itl cannot be read because it was created by a newer version of iTunes.

This error prevents iTunes from launching. The library file was modified to work with the newer iTunes version, so it is no longer compatible with the previous version. The good news, however, is that Apple does backup the iTunes library file into a subdirectory that you can use to revert back to the previous version.

To recover a previous version of the iTunes Library.itl file, use the following steps:

  1. Open up your My Documents\My Music folder.
  2. We will first backup the current version. Rename iTunes Library.itl to something like iTunes Library.itl.bak.
  3. Go into the My Documents\My Music\Previous iTunes Libraries folder.
  4. You may see several files that start with iTunes Library and have a date included in the name. Copy the newest file in the folder.
  5. Go back to the My Documents\My Music and paste the file from the previous step.
  6. Rename the new copied file to iTunes Library.itl.

Your library should now be restored to the previous version of iTunes, and you should no longer receive the message.

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87 Responses to “Restoring a Previous Version of Your iTunes Library”

  1. henryedw says:

    That’s nice. Thanks for your post. When sometimes I update my iTunes and it takes all my data gone and I cannot find the iTunes library. So I have to use 3rd party software called FonePaw iOS Transfer to restore the iTunes library and backup my data by the way. It’s convenient to restore the iTunes library.

  2. Sheryl R says:

    Thank you soooo much for this! I was trying to replace my lost playlists (due to their latest update!) item by item and the time needed to restore my playlists was prohibitive. You seriously saved me so much time and aggravation. Thank you!!

  3. Anne says:

    Hi I mistakenly reverted my i pod to delete ‘manage music manually’ and most of my songs have disappeared – can you help please? I clicked the above button as I couldn’t find the sync button after importing a cd – tried restoring pc to an earlier date but the music is still not there – I owuld be very grateful if you could help at all please? thank you

  4. sachin says:

    thanx you saved hell of time , thanx a lot 🙂

  5. cha says:

    how can i install the previous version of itunes? I need to install 10.2 version. Pls help me.

  6. Saeed says:

    thanks so much
    it is working.

  7. DJ Son Gohan says:

    Hello my friends:

    You can get the old itunes libraries on this local path:
    C:\Documents and Settings\\My Documents\My Music\iTunes\Previous iTunes Libraries\

    But, before you replace the iTunes Library.itl file… review the previous, because on the first line appears the itunes version number.

    I recommend to use Total Commander and press F3 (Viewer) on every C:\Documents and Settings\\My Documents\My Music\iTunes\Previous iTunes Libraries\ file. Before replacing.

  8. producera says:

    holy crap! for some reason today i managed to delete my library off my ipad.. so i went to save it and reoad form my itunes..but i guess i hadnt been on my itunes on laptop since early january.. so i had updated some stuff since then and it had to reimport library etc.. fancy stuff i dont get.. anyways… i accidentally pressed abort when my library was importing onto my laptop. anyways.. as soon as i aborted import i found my whole music library still there but my playlists all had been wiped clean!!! i totally freaked out and googled for help.. first post i found was this one and it saaaved my whole library.. and day!!!! as most people, my playlists go back to 2006 and are very well organized how i like, and with thousands of songs and videos.. that is a necessity.. so thats years of worked i had managed to wipe clean soo quickly and carelessly.. without itunes even offering “are you sure you want to abort?”

    doing this EASY procedure you posted here on 1 of my previously saved libraries from dec saved my itunes and a lot of hours of trying to rectify the situation on my own! so glad i found this and thank you soo much.. i only have to reimport stuff from the past month.. instead of redoing dozens of playlists – including my ipod playlist.. which, if anyone knows… can take hours to sift through and choose from thousands of songs!!!

  9. david says:

    thanks, I’ve now followed your guide and reinstalled 10.4 and have finally managed to get ITunes working again.

  10. Rick says:

    Thanks – you are a star. I had exactly the same on mine, ie updated to 10.5 and everything sounded like a dalek. Thought was quicktime at first so re-installed that and tested quicktime working fine, winamp playing fine therefore must be itunes. Reinstalled – no different. Installed earlier version and wouldnt pick up the library. Found your info and all works great now. Been at this all day !!!!! Thanks a lot, from Richard !!!

  11. J says:

    hey there, i went into my music, but there’s no file named “itunes libarry itl. ”
    but i still get the message saying the same thing. please help!!

  12. Kazaan says:

    Thanks for this post and comments. This is a life saver.
    renaming the .itl file didnt work for me.The error kept coming back. But as someone had posted a few pages back
    > rename the existing “Itunes Library” to “itunes library.bak” – not the .itl file, chose the file w/o extention.
    > copy the latest “itunes Library -date-” file into the itunes folder
    >remove the date on a file rename. have no extention.
    start older veriosn of itunes – it should work. i does for me.
    IMHO Those fed up with using itunes to manage music on ipod/iphone/ipad should try out MediaMonkey. Works like a charm. Except that those guys take a while to make MM compatible with the upgrades in itunes/IOS. As is MMBeta4 can handle Itunes 10.5, but not IOS5 yet.

  13. alacon says:


  14. Sci_Head says:

    Thanks a lot Bro..
    Worked perfectly !!!

  15. Ryan says:

    Thank you, you saved me a lot of time!

  16. Ray says:

    lost everything on itunes/iphone OS update, pictures, notes, files, contacts. the only thing i have now is apps and music. Called apple they want $29 for phone support and online support is free with no answers to my problems. need help

  17. Steve says:


  18. Kabir says:

    This worked perfectly! Coodos man!

  19. Austin says:

    I followed the steps and after some confusion I eventually got iTunes to at least load again back to the version I wanted. However, there’s NOTHING in my library and I can’t seem to figure out how to correct that. How would I go about getting the songs that were in my library before my initial gaffe (stupid me for messing around and downloading the newest version because it was awful after years of declining it) now that I’ve got the version I want again?

    Thanks for the help!

  20. Roy L. says:

    If you guys have the 10th version, updated it, and reinstalled the 10th, just delete the iTunes folders(itunes and playlist) and install it again, it will work perfectly.

  21. Amanda says:

    I did this and I get itunes to work but my library has nothing…. what do i do to fix this issue?????

  22. Ata says:

    Worked for me………Thanks!!!

  23. ElysiaF says:

    Just tried this fix, worked perfectly and my itunes is now up and running again! Thanks very much!

  24. Anthony says:

    I have followed every step and I still cannot open my itunes the same message is comming up, can you suggest anything else please I am so done with itunes I have a very very large libary going back replacing my vinal records with a lot of old school music, so if anyone can help please let me know

  25. Zeke says:


  26. Jeff says:

    thank you very much i messed up my library this saved me from hours and hours and hours of rebuilding it!

  27. Aaron says:

    I’d like to revert from 10 to 7.5 without losing my ratings and playcounts. There’s probably no way, is there?

  28. David says:

    Hello; I’ve followed your instructions, and iTunes now opens, but is empty of content. Can you explain in simple terms to an idiot like me how to restore my library to iTunes?

  29. Bob Basta says:

    Uninstalled V10 and reinstalled V9.2.1. V10 messed up my album files. Renamed current .itl file as .itl.old. Copied previous .itl file to same directory as current .itl location. Renamed copied file to itunes library.itl. Worked fine. Got itunes 9.2.1 to open properly. All albums came out as they were before I inadvertantly upgraded to V10.

  30. Thomas says:

    My iTunes library was created with a later version of iTunes (8.?), but I would like to use version 7.6. I followed the instructions and they didn’t work for me. I would greatly appreciate some help with this.

  31. Pan says:

    You’ll be in my prayers for this………….!BLESS YOU!

  32. Marcus says:

    Ahh I see. Oh well. I redid the steps and most of my library was salvaged. I just have to readd 1000 songs…. yarg.

    I initially had itunes 9, but my classic wasn’t working with it.. so I uninstalled that and reinstalled itunes 8.

  33. Marcus says:

    Doesn’t this cause your current library to be lost? I tried this step for step, adn yes itunes opens, but all of my songs and library disappeared.

    • Paul says:

      It probably would cause your current library to be lost. The steps outlined in this post were used to correct the problem of opening a newer version of your library with an older version of the iTunes application.

  34. I was really getting worked up for a minute. You really rock for posting this. Thank you!

  35. MaiKa says:

    oh thank you so much. i’m having these problem for like days. thank u so much. this helps me a lot..

  36. Sel says:

    Thanks so much. It’s so amazing. Problem solved just by few clicks.Cool!

  37. Nick Virgo says:

    Sorry folks, the link was for an Apple site (which was fine for me but maybe not for you). However reverting to the old iTunes and reinstating an iTunes library does appear to have got me back to where a working iTunes and iPod system.

  38. Nick Virgo says:

    This has made my life a misery in the last three days. Try the following sight for information.

    I’m currently trying to go back iTunes 9.1.1 🙁

  39. Isla says:

    Leane, the exact same thing happened to me. I downloaded the new version of itunes and then i went into it and the it said itunes.itl cannont be found. I ended up having to re-install itunes and i used a previous itunes library but now i try to sync my ipod and it freezes. Have you had any luck? or any help from anyone would be great!!!

  40. Leanne says:

    When I went into iTunes, it asked me if I wanted to download the 9.2 newer version of iTunes. I accepted and when the newer version came, all my music was gone. I exited out of iTunes and tried to get the older version back but when I try and go into iTunes, nothing happens. It won’t let me go into it. Do you know what’s wrong with it? Any help I can get would be much appreciated!

  41. Pavan says:

    Thank you very very. It worked for me. I should have seen this article .. 🙂

  42. Coral says:

    Omg this is so helpful but…. When i got to my documents all that shows is dowloaded music , and ichat. PLease help me step by step.

  43. Victor says:

    God bless you. You were so helpful. Thank you so much.

  44. Sam says:

    Thank you sooooo much. It worked great.

  45. Eli says:

    Worked for me. Windows XP.

  46. nico says:

    works great with the newest itunes version. i’m on win 7 x64. thanks a lot

  47. Maya says:

    Got the library to open. Thank you! But my library of music didn’t carry over or playlists.
    The music is still there but how do I get it back into the library?
    How do I prevent the error from happening again?
    Can I put all the music on my ipod back into iTunes with the different playlists?

  48. kevin says:

    what if ur on Windows XP and ur files only appear as “iTunes Library” – how do you make this file change work? I was able to open iTunes after trying this, but my “Music” section was empty…don’t want to import 1200 songs one by one

  49. Kas says:

    Thank youuu SO MUCH 🙂

  50. Max says:

    The approach worked without major problems. Naturally, newly added files and folders were lost and had to be added again, followed by consolidation. By knowing the date of the iTunes Library.itl file, and comparing with dates of the iTunes sound/music files and folders, this was a straightforward task. – Many thanks

  51. Hannah says:

    Thank-you thank-you thank-you!! You just helped me recover thousands of songs from years of downloading that were accidentally deleted on my computer…you’re a lifesaver!

  52. Jenn says:


  53. Kerem says:

    I have windows vista (32) and there is no Previous iTunes Libraries folder…
    but the error is the same.

    would be great, if you could help me 🙂

  54. Ann-Marie says:

    Thanks John, yes i found a load of songs in folders on my computer but don’t know if that is everything as i had thousands of songs before and my only real way of knowing if they were all there is seeing them in my playlists again. Like you i rely on those playlists for my job. Yes in looking for a solution to this problem i have found that many other people are in the same position, so if you do find a good mp3 program yes please let me know.

    its a nightmare really and i haven’t gotten around to starting to put playlists back in. I would have to look at all of my dvds and hear the music from each one and then go through the music on the computer and try to recognise which songs in arabic go with which choreographies. Obviously music i have listened to a lot in more recent times i have found quickly as i know their names and know what to type in to search for them. But other songs i will have to recognise the music when i hear it to know which playlist to allocate.

  55. Ann-Marie Hammond says:

    Hi John, the same has happened to me. I have completely lost all of my playlists. I found a version of a library … not sure if it the most recent as i no longer have my playlists and because my music is Middle Eastern (I am a belly dancer) it is difficult for me to know if i have got it all back. Plus without all of my playlists i now don’t know which songs go with which choreography dvds etc… and I have a heck of a lot of them that i have collected over the past 6 years. I cannot find my back up cds. I know i did them but they seem to have been misplaced. I have had to move things around to stop baby from getting cds and maybe hid them then, but i really can’t recall where. So now i am stuck in the same boat as you without my play lists. If anyone works out how to get them back please let me know.

    • John says:

      Anne Marie

      Yes its very frustrating. However I assume you realise that you would still have your music files on your computer in their original directories. The only reason I mention this is because in your email you sound as though you might think you have lost everything.
      But, even though the files are still there, the playlists that are the important part of knowing how you have compiled everything. I can sympathise with you as I am in a similar position in that my playlists involved approximately 75 hours of music in different categories for a radio program I present each week. I have spent 6 months compiling them into categories (pop, romantic etc) and even have them in a play order. Now I have to start again.
      This time around I am creating a column (in the column browser) called ‘Grouping’ and I am placing the playlist name in that column against each song. This means that if it should happen again then at least I will can sort that column into the playlist names and place each group into a new playlist. This way I will always know what playlist a particular song belongs to.When I get it finished I won’t be using iTunes again for this sort of thing. If I find a good mp3 management program I will let you know.

  56. John says:

    An even worse (and different problem) is that I have just installed the latest upgrade (Itunes version 9xxx) and it has completely removed my playlists and library. I can get the library back by renaming the .itl file as above but the playlists have gone. I had several and had spent a considerable amount of time compiling them. Now 6 months work is down the drain. Any ideas as to how to restore old playlists????

  57. margie says:

    i have a little bit of a different problem…earlier today i attempted to create a new folder and put a file that was in my general library into it. it copied it fine. i closed itunes. later, opened it again, and it said -cannot start without previous library picked..gave me a few options..i picked the one with the most recent date, which was a bit ago..and now all my most recently uploaded music is not there..i went into previous libraries though my music etc, and there is nothing that resembles what my library looked like prior to this going nuts…

  58. vespeur says:

    My iTunes has the same problem but when i open the “previous itunes libraries” it’s empty ,there’s no file in there to copy n paste to the main screen
    I store all my mp3 song in the folder in diskG:/ ,but there’s one same folder music in diskC:/ has the same itunes’s folder too
    Im tired of whenever i start itunes,i have to add the music folder once again

  59. Daniel says:


    Version 9 of iTUNES won’t let me use YamIpod, a great little application that lets you transfer your music from your iPod to your PC.

    Yes, there are other applications that do that, but they are not free, or don’t work well.

    I think the best solution is to go back to iTUNES version 8.0.

    Thanks for the information.

  60. Bethany says:

    I had the same problem. Whenever I started itunes it was creating a new itunes library instead of using the one I had created by naming it itunes library.itl. I fixed it by naming the library I wanted it to use “itunes library” and left it .itl off. Worked like a charm! Just to be clear, find the newest version of your itunes library in “previous itunes libraries” as listed above and copy and paste it to the main screen. Then instead of renaming it “itunes library.itl” just name it “itunes library”. Make sure noting else has the “itunes library” name. Hope it works for you!

  61. leon says:

    hi there, this worked for me many thanks. only thing now is there is no music in itunes! nothing completly blank. can you help me get my music back?


  62. Midge says:

    Thanks! Worked really well. Two features iTunes 8 got rid of are importing using a MP3 encoder and “Convert Selection to MP3”. iTunes 8 does suck!

    Good advice!

  63. DMoeller says:

    when i open my documents/my music/itunes i am not shown a file named itunes library.itl. the only files show to me are itunes music library, itunes library genius,itunes library, itunes library extras, and a folder named itunes music with no files in it. where is the file itunes library.itl

  64. EvilGenius says:

    I did added the old itunes library to itunes, but now i get:

    The iTunes application could not be opened. A required iTunes component is not installed. Please repair or reinstall QuickTime. (-42404).

    I repaired Quicktime, but still get the same error message. Thoughts?

  65. Paul Richards says:

    Thank you so much; I was quite lost as to what to do. This has been a real success, and I thank you for placing these instructions online. I use itunes for my business, and was thinking I’d have to call in an expensive techy. Thanks again.

  66. Amit says:

    Thanks dear. It worked for me as well…..Keep Rocking. If you have any other tips for the Itunes, please send it to me.



  67. etsu says:

    thanks! worked for me

  68. wildcard says:

    Thanks a lot man! U made my day!

  69. Li Le says:

    thanks yours was the best answer on the internet

  70. tellyismylife says:

    thank g for u. totally works.

    itunes 8.2 upgrade sucks!

  71. Tafy says:

    youre a genius , thank u!

  72. tali says:

    worked a charm, lovely.
    thank you so much!

  73. sam says:


  74. doug says:

    I was getting the error about my itunes library being created with a newer version and iTunes app wouldn’t launch fully.
    What I found was that the link from the dock was pointing to an older version of the application (8.02) and a newer version has been downloaded into the applications file, but the link from the dock wasn’t hitting the same version somehow. So I deleted the link from the dock, then made a new link from the icon in the application foler…voila, it all works. I now see the iTunes as version 8.1 and it’s recognizing my library.

    • a godin says:

      I don’t understand ” the link from the dock ” Could you explain it step by step to a person who does not know too much about these things.

      I have been unable to use itunes for several weeks now and would be very thankful for your help.Thanks a lot.

      A Godin

    • Ming says:

      Hi Doug,
      I have an iPod 60GB bought in 2006 which came with a iPod and iTunes CD. Few months ago, the hard disk went dead and it was replaced with a similar iPod 60GB with a new SN by paying $149AUD. I download iTunes 8 and it works, but it does not installed iPod for Windows 2006-06-28, whereas the original v6 did. iTunes 2008 or V8 works but it does not have the option for transfering files (manual or automatic). After I reinstall version 6, iTunes could not read the iTunes Library.itl. I copied from the previous foulder and rename the old version with the ‘iTunes Library.itl. It still does not work. I could not used my iPod with the old version.
      I will appreciate if you could give me some tips to overcome this error.

      Thank you in advance


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