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FAQ:  Why iTunes Match can NOT be used as a backup!

8597 Views 15 Replies Latest reply: Jan 14, 2014 4:08 PM by TekLord1 RSS
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JiminMissouri Level 2 Level 2 (465 points)
Currently Being Moderated
Feb 2, 2012 7:20 AM

Q: If I buy iTunes Match, can I use it as a backup?  Better yet can I just delete all my music and rely on iTunes Match?


A:  No.  Seriously you can't.  What is in the cloud via iTunes Match is NOT a copy of your music library and it probably never will be.  Apple has never advertised iTunes Match as a backup service.  They are under no obligation to continue the service.  They could easily scuttle the whole thing after a year, and your less-than-exact "backup" would just disappear. 


Now to that phrase, "less than exact."


• iTunes Match is a mix of music copied from your hard drive and uploaded to the cloud and music for sale in the iTunes store that iTunes Match has identified as being the same songs as what you own.  Putting aside for a moment the fact that iTunes Match often mis-matches what you own, there are often major differences in quality and playback volume between matched tracks and those that are uploaded.  It is common for iTunes Match to upload some tracks of an album and match others, so this difference in quality may be apparent to you.


* iTunes Match does not upload lossless file formats.  It does "support" certain lossless formats, but it does so by creating a 256 AAC file and uploading that temp file to the cloud.  Even if a lossless track gets matched, the copy available to you in the cloud is 256 AAC, so any sonic benefit you gain from your original lossless file is, well, lost.


• iTunes Match incorrectly identifies some types of AAC files created outside of iTunes as "eligible" and if the file needs to be uploaded, will do so.  However, these files apparently are corrupted in some way and will neither play back from the cloud, nor play back if downloaded.


• iTunes Match currently replaces some explicit content with "clean" versions.  There are even reports of instances where the explicit track will play from the cloud, but if an attempt is made to download a copy, the user gets the clean version.


• iTunes Match occasionally will match an album-length track with a shorter version. 


•  If you have mono versions of some music, it may be matched with stereo versions.  The Beatles' mono issues are a prime example of this.


Get yourself an external hard drive.  Make a backup of ALL of your files, not just your music.  You owe it to yourself to do so.  If you don't eventually you will lose everything and have no way to get it back.

MacBook Pro, Mac OS X (10.7.2)
  • Michael Allbritton Level 6 Level 6 (16,140 points)

    Like. Like. Like. Oh, and yeah Like!


    For those folks looking for a true cloud backup solution try Mozy or Backblaze. But these cloud backup solutions should only be used as a backup to a regular, ongoing, incremental backup done to at least one local external HDD using Time Machine. Seriously, people, iTunes Match is not a backup service.

  • roebeet Level 2 Level 2 (430 points)

    Should be a stickied User Tip (@the mods, if you happen to read this).

  • Michael Allbritton Level 6 Level 6 (16,140 points)

    Hahahahahaha! Yeah, you actually beat me to it. I was writing a draft post when I saw yours.

  • Michael Allbritton Level 6 Level 6 (16,140 points)

    JiminMissouri wrote:


    Doesn't surprise me at all you were working on it too.  I could just tell you were about to lose it!  I guess my old 90 WPM fingers still move pretty quickly.

    I know I shouldn't let the question annoy me but it does. Why people don't backup when it is just brain-dead simple (at least in Mac OS X with Time Machine) just confounds me. I would never trust that some other entity would keep my data safe. That's my responsiblity.


    I have TM backup my internal HDD to my Time Capsule. I also have an online, full HDD backup, along with other files to Backblaze which is my backup of my backup. iTunes in the Cloud would be my backup of my backup of my backup.


    Ok, enough of that...

  • Michael Allbritton Level 6 Level 6 (16,140 points)


  • Michael Allbritton Level 6 Level 6 (16,140 points)

    bump for the new folks coming along.

  • puppetj Level 1 Level 1 (10 points)

    as listening to security now podcast on the twit network, i'd stay away from backblaze as they dont has the best security if you need more details watch/listen to the last episode. but yeah itunes match is not a backup

  • Chris993 Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)

    So I can appreciate the limitations of itunes match and the suggestions to use an external hard drive to back up and transfer.  however, my problem was that I had a hard drive going bad, with about 1500 purchased songs and 4000 uploaded songs from CD's I bought before ipods existed.  After several hours of waiting for the files to copy onto the external hard drive, then figuring out what other library files I had to copy over for my playlists to shows up too, and so on, I thought I had successfully migrated it to my new computer and resynched with my ipod.  Then I begin to play the songs and the last half of most of the songs is missing.  After researching the forums, I realized I should have done a backup instead of dragging and dropping the files.  Guess the clipboard couldnt handle all that.  Anyway, I did it the right way and 3 more hours later it appears the migration was much more successful.  However about 5-10% of the songs, the last minute or two is STILL missing.  I dont know if this is just the perils of transferring 5500 songs at a time or if it was a product of the bad hard drive I was transferring them from, but Im getting tired of wasting time and I was hoping iTunes Match would solve this problem, i.e. I could replace any corrupted/partially missing files with matches.  Ive subscribed to match and it appears it matched most of them up, but I dont know how to go about restoring them.  Do I just do a full restore of my itunes from icloud?  Is there someway to identify the messed up songs other than just writing them down on a piece of paper as I notice they are bad?

  • Opusmle Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)

    Wow ... great answer! Wish I'd known this before buying it. It's basically worthless to me then, since I don't have multiple devices to share music with. And don't anticipate having them. Thanks for the good info!

  • wmcneil Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)

    Thanks for info. It did crash and everything was already backed up on Carbonite and subsequently restored. I was just curious about icloud. Sorry to annoy.

  • moonseolnyeo Level 1 Level 1 (5 points)

    I wish I had read this a year ago; I'm feeling pretty stupid right now. Not long after subscribing to iTunes Match, I repurposed my old external HDDs, effectively removing all my local copies of purchased music, movies and tv shows. A lot of this stuff was on my iMac HDD, but not all of it, and after upgrading my desktop, and wiping and selling the old one, I began the process of redownloading certain favorite content only to discover than hundreds of albums bought from iTunes since the store was created, and about a dozen TV series worth over $1000, were gone--completely gone from my purchased content. Sure, I still have receipts for the lost seasons and albums, but they're simply no longer available for redownload. The iTunes CS response was to remind me I should always backup my purchases, and that Apple wasn't responsible (nor would they help). I've since invested in a couple 3TB external HDDs, which are used solely as backups for all purchased content. I suggest everyone do this.

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