iTunes 10.5 upgrade for iOS 5 lost many playlists.

I use a lot of iTunes playlists, most of them Smart Playlists.

In the hospital for the birth of our second daughter, I decided to upgrade my iPhone 3G S from iOS 4-point-something to iOS 5. I had some odd error in iTunes, so I upgraded from whatever version I had to the latest, iTunes 10.5. Things seemed to go fine on the iTunes front.

Fast-forward a few days to today, when I opened iTunes on my MacBook Air to play a little music. I found myself staring at a very small list of playlists. Tons of  my playlists were missing. Tons.

Here’s how I solved it:

1. I googled “itunes missing smart playlists” without the quotes.

2. I followed the instructions on this page:

Which basically said (copy/pasted in case that page ever disappears and I need the steps again):

If you have updated iTunes or moved your iTunes music library you may find that your song playlists seem to have disappeared. The good news is they aren’t actually missing, iTunes just isn’t finding them. There is no bad news, because you can recover the playlists rather easily, here’s how:

Recover missing iTunes playlists

This will work to rebuild missing iTunes playlists in Mac OS X and Windows.

  • Quit iTunes
  • Open the iTunes Music folder, on a Mac this is by default in ~/Music/ and in Windows it’s in My DocumentsMy MusiciTunes or UsernameMy Music
  • Drag the file labeled “iTunes Music Library.xml” to your desktop
  • Drag the “iTunes Library” file to the desktop as well (make sure this is no longer in your iTunes folder at all)

recover itunes playlists

  • Now relaunch iTunes
  • Before doing anything else, go to File -> Library -> Import Playlist
  • Now navigate to your desktop to the “iTunes Music Library.xml” file that you placed there earlier and select it
  • iTunes will recreate your playlists, and any iOS devices you have synced with iTunes will resync their playlists as well

The reason we are ensuring these files are on the desktop is to have a backup in the odd case that the rebuild doesn’t work. You’ll notice after you have reimported the playlists that the ‘iTunes Music Library.xml’ file will be rebuilt in your iTunes Music directory, once everything is functioning you can safely delete those files from the desktop.

I’m not really sure why the iTunes playlists disappear during some transfers and updates, but it seems to happen randomly. The last time I ran into this I was moving iTunes music from a PC to a new Mac which worked wonderfully until I discovered none of the playlists were there. Just moving the file and then reimporting it did the trick though.