How To Fix ‘The file iTunes Library.itl cannot be read’

If you have used iTunes for a while, you may have encountered “The file iTunes Library.itl cannot be read” errors. They usually happen after an upgrade or when you have reloaded iTunes onto a new computer. The error stops iTunes from accessing your library. It is a showstopper but can quickly be addressed.

How To Fix ‘The file iTunes Library.itl cannot be read’

The error seems to be caused by a mismatch between library files. As mentioned above,  it can often happen when switching iTunes to a new computer or restoring an old library backup. There was also an issue when iTunes removed the App Store for a while, and several users downgraded their iTunes version to bring it back. Any library files created with the newer version of iTunes would not work once those users rolled back to a previous version.

The complete error may display the following: “The file iTunes Library.itl cannot be read because it was created by a newer version of iTunes.” This gives us a clue as to what happened. Here’s how to fix it if you see it. This error occurs on both Windows and Mac.

Fix Error Reading iTunes library on a Mac

To fix the error iTunes library read error, you first have to remove the older version of iTunes and install the latest version. You can then retry or continue the repair.

  1. Remove the older version of iTunes from your Mac and install the latest iTunes version.
  2. If you use iCloud, stop your internet connection during the following steps. This prevents any issues with syncing while you are repairing your iTunes library.
  3. Press “Command+Shift+G” and type “~/Music/iTunes/” to open the iTunes folder.
  4. Rename “iTunes Library.itl” to “iTunes Library.itl.old” within the iTunes folder.
  5. Navigate to Previous iTunes Libraries and copy the latest library file. They include the date within the filename.
  6. Paste the file in “Music/iTunes/” and rename it to “iTunes Library.itl.”
  7. Open iTunes and retest.

Renaming the file to .old is an IT tech method of keeping the original file, just in case. The filename isn’t used by anything else, so we can maintain file integrity without interrupting operations. If anything goes wrong here, you can rename the “.old” file to what it was, and we are back where we started.

Fix Error Reading iTunes library in Windows

If you mix and match your operating systems, the Windows version of iTunes works quite well. It still suffers from iTunes reading error if you roll back your iTunes version. Here’s how to fix it.

  1. Remove the older version of iTunes from your computer and install the latest Windows iTunes version.
  2. Navigate to your Music folder and open the “iTunes” folder.
  3. Locate “iTunes Library.itl.” If you don’t see it, select “View” within File Explorer and turn on “Hidden Items.”
  4. Rename “iTunes Library.itl” to “iTunes Library.itl.old.”
  5. Open the “Previous iTunes Libraries” folder and copy the latest library file. The exact date format exists in Windows, too.
  6. Paste the file into the “iTunes” folder and rename it to “iTunes Library.itl.”
  7. Open iTunes and retest.

Now, when you open iTunes, everything should work fine. Your library should load, and you should be able to access all your media as usual.

If You Don’t Have a ‘Previous iTunes Libraries’ folder or files…

There have been instances where there hasn’t been a “Previous iTunes Libraries” folder or any files within that folder. It isn’t an issue, though. All that happens is you rename your existing “.itl” file to “.old,” start iTunes, and you will begin with no library.

As long as iTunes can sync from your Mac, it should download your library from iCloud or Time Machine. You may have to wait a little while as everything syncs, but it will happen, and you will get your library back.

Windows users may be able to get the files back, too, depending on how you back up your computer. You can check Windows 10 File History or a System Restore Point, depending on what you use. Windows does NOT sync to iCloud unless you are subscribed to Apple Music or iTunes Match. If you’re reading this, it may already be too late. If you don’t have a backup option for iTunes on your Windows computer, now would be an excellent time to set one up!

That’s how to fix “The file iTunes Library.itl cannot be read” errors on Mac or Windows. It’s a critical error that is easily repairable. Hopefully, this article helped you!

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