How to Remove Broken Songs from Your iTunes Library [Windows]

I was trying to move my iTunes library from my dead laptop’s hard drive to my desktop PC and accidentally I ended up getting a lot of duplicate songs into my library. After Googling around for a duplicate file remover, I was able to physically remove those duplicate songs from my file system, but iTunes still listed those songs with a little exclamatory ("!") mark next to it. Even though iTunes can list duplicate tracks, it cannot sort the library by broken songs which it can’t play. Manually clicking each song and removing it wasn’t an option for me as I had countless broken song links, even if I was willing to take the pain, it would take me forever to clean up my library.

Solution:

I came across a clever idea from Apple Forum, using which I was able to put all the broken song links into one playlist and mass delete them. Here’s how:

1. Create a smart playlist (shortcut: Ctrl+Alt+N) called "All Songs" with this rule: "Artist" is not "123456789? (or any random name from that matter, but make sure it won’t be in your library).

Smart Playlist

2. Now make a regular playlist (shortcut: Ctrl+N) called "All Live Songs".

3. Create a second smart playlist called "Missing Songs" with these rules: Match all of the following rules, Playlist is "All Songs", Playlist is not "All Live Songs"

Smart Playlist 2

4. Select everything from "All Songs" and drag them into "All Songs Files". The broken song links marked (!) will not be copies over to that playlist

5. All your broken songs will be in the "Missing Songs" playlist. Select all (shortcut: Ctrl+A) and delete them!

Note: Mac users have a simpler solution, using a script called Super Remove Dead Tracks.

This post was published by on September 8, 2009

About the Author: Thilak Rao works as a Social Media Expert. He is one of the first professional bloggers from India, and he loves to write, travel and click photos. Follow him on Twitter @thilak

  • http://www.onetipaday.com/2009/09/08/how-to-remove-broken-songs-from-itunes-library/ How To Remove Broken Songs From iTunes Library | One Tip A Day

    [...] to Thilak for an excellent tip.  Definitely my favourite one for a long [...]

  • Peter

    Followed your guide and managed to get all the dead music files listed in the “Missing Songs” playlist but when I select all and press delete nothing happens. I checked iTunes help and it says that deleting files from a playlist does not remove them from a library.

    Am I missing something??

  • Tabbi

    You have to select Shift (or Command) & Delete.

  • jake

    where is “all songs files”? is it a normal playlist we have to create ourselves, or a location in the computer or itunes..? help please. thank you.

  • Tim

    I think the author meant “All Live Songs”, not “All Song Files”.

  • rairairaiiii

    Wow you've made this very difficult.

    Here's the easy way.

    1. Create a regular playlist called “All songs”.
    2. Drag all songs from Music Library to this playlist
    3. Create a smart playlist called “Missing” with rules: Playlist – is not – All Songs
    4. Delete all from this playlist

  • TheArnster

    There's a problem in that you can't delete files from within a playlist. Following the method suggested by rairairaiiii in the last post certainly separates the good tracks from the dead links. The ideal solution to then delete the dead links would be to change the properties of all the tracks in the “Missing” playlist.

    After some playing around I've discovered that if you add the column 'rating' to your view and give all the tracks in the “Missing” playlist the same rating (say one star) you can then sort the main music library by rating, highlight all songs with one star and delete.

    Note, this will require you to remove all star ratings from the “All songs” playlist first. This can be done by selecting all and removing ratings for multiple items.

    If you're fond of the ratings system then tough! This is the only property that can universally be given to all the tracks with broken links as it seems to be the only one that doesn't involve amending the underlying file (which, of course, doesn't exist in these cases).

    Can't believe this is something so problematic for so many people but apple haven't implemented what would be a very simple fix. Why can't we group all the exclamation marked tracks?!?!?

  • http://twitter.com/margotosleep Marta

    @rairairaiiii Thank you a lot. It worked! :)

  • http://twitter.com/margotosleep Marta

    @rairairaiiii Thank you a lot. It worked! :)

  • prsdow

    Just a big thank you to RAI and THEARNSTER between the two of you my rpoblem of 1600 dead links was solved really grateful

  • http://tech-buzz.net Thilak Rao

    I’m glad it fixed your problem

  • Shefr8g876

     Yes correct, select all songs with dead links in “Missing” smart playlist, rate them 5 stars but make sure your full music library is all unrated. Then sort your Music library in Ratings, all 5 stars with missing will show, then select them either CTRL or SHIFT down, DELETE!!

  • Zaphod0

    Thanks!

  • Jason69

    The problem with this is … you can’t delete from within a playlist.  This was stated in the post above and is the reason for “making this very difficult”.

    Please show my ignorance and prove me wrong.

  • Sheila Mika

    IF YOU ARE LIKE ME I DO NOT USE THE CHECK FEATURE ON I TUNES EVERYTHING STAYS CHECKED SO TO EASILY DELETE FILES I OPEN THE MISSING FILES PLAYLIST AND SELECT ALL FILES RIGHT CLICK AND SELECT UNCHECK THEN YOU CAN SORT IN THE MUSIC LIST AND DELETE ALL AT ONCE.

  • Deroo

    alt-shift delete to recycle bin ;)

  • http://tech-buzz.net Thilak Rao

    Thanks Colealexander3823!

  • Likeninja

    Just ran into the same issue with not being able to delete from within the playlist… Solution was to use CTRL+SHIFT+DELETE after selecting all of them.  Hope that helps.