New version of iTunes addresses the music deletion issue

Apple rolled out a new version of iTunes this week which introduced an updated design, including modified navigation and the return of the left sidebar. However, under the hood, the new software also includes a fix which aims to address the troubling issue of iTunes deleting some users’ music files from their computer.

Complaints about iTunes and its poor integration with Apple Music had surfaced in the past – but these had to do with iTunes Match issues. In one case, an influential Apple blogger Jim Dalrymple lost around 4,7000 songs. He wrote about this nightmare situation, and Apple directly intervened, restoring 99 percent of his music. The company then addressed this issue with a bug fix.

More recently, another story of music disappearing began making the rounds.

This time, a blogger and musician James Pinkstone wrote that 122 GB of music had been deleted from his computer, including original tracks he created himself. At the time, he suspected that his Apple Music subscription was to blame. That post went viral, and theories abounded. Some claimed that there was a software bug at hand, having experienced similar troubles themselves, while others put forth an alternate scenario which basically boiled down to user error.

In the end, Apple acknowledged the issue with a statement provided to TechCrunch and other news outlets, which said:

In an extremely small number of cases users have reported that music files saved on their computer were removed without their permission. We’re taking these reports seriously as we know how important music is to our customers and our teams are focused on identifying the cause. We have not been able to reproduce this issue, however, we’re releasing an update to iTunes early next week which includes additional safeguards. If a user experiences this issue they should contact AppleCare.

The iTunes update that aims to correct this problem is version 12.4, released just yesterday, TechCrunch has confirmed with sources familiar with the matter.

What’s odd is that Apple has not been able to cause music deletions to happen in internal testing. Without being able to reproduce the problem, it’s unclear at this time if the fix being shipped will actually solve this issue for good. It’s also unclear whether the issue is tied to Apple Music’s subscription service, as suspected, or if it could affect regular iTunes users as well.

Apple has not released documentation detailing the fix at hand, though it does offer guidance to those who lose files in between iTunes upgrades.

But the lack of documentation also hints that Apple believes this is a very minor issue affecting very few users, as its statement indicates. One of those users is James Pinkstone, who received personal attention from Apple engineers over the weekend related to his music deletion problem, we understand. Apple knows of very few live cases that are like James’, as most music deletion issues are things that can be attributed to other causes and resolved with help from Apple’s tech support.

It’s also important to note the language at hand in Apple’s statement.

“Additional safeguards” implies some sort of protection from deletions – perhaps accidental deletions, which supports the theory put forth by iMore that it was a confusing dialog box that’s to blame here. That means there may not be a bug fix, exactly, but rather a change to how iTunes interacts with users before deleting music tracks permanently.

However, in testing, we found that the “Delete Song” box is still the default in the new version of iTunes, and the “Remove Download” button still sends files to your Trash. So it’s unclear what these “safeguards” entail. (James tells us that Apple sent two engineers to his house, but they couldn’t replicate the problem. He says Apple didn’t offer any explanation or detail the fix. He’s also now updated his blog with this information.)

In the meantime, the @AppleSupport Twitter account is responding to some userscomplaints that their music library and playlists disappeared after installing iTunes 12.4, but these could be run-of-the-mill upgrade issues unrelated to this specific music deletion bug.