The Dork Report

The Dork Report Special Edition: My iTunes 7 Nightmare

As Engadget reports, iTunes 7 may be more than a little flakey, and I have a nightmare story of my own.

First, some background: I use a PowerBook G4 17″, with a very, very large iTunes library of 16,000 plus tracks, stored on an external 250 GB LaCie Firewire hard drive. Perhaps unwisely, I was doing several things at once shortly after downloading the brand new iTunes 7: listening to a smart playlist on shuffle, and batch editing tags in another smart playlist (specifically, editing the Album Artist tags of all my compilations to read “Various Artists” — see The Dork Report for September 13 for more information). To complicate matters, I was running in background (itself freshly updated to Version 1.0.6).

After batch editing tags for several minutes, I opening the batch info window for another dozen or so. iTunes suddenly stopped playing a few seconds into Pink Floyd’s “Time” from The Dark Side of the Moon, and then froze. I noticed had frozen as well. I waited until it seemed neither would free up on their own, then I force quit both. I relaunched iTunes, but it was noticably sluggish (many spinning psychedelic pizzas of death for me). I selected a song to get info, and nothing happened. I tried another and a tiny exclamation mark appeared next to it (which I know from experience to mean that a track has been manually deleted or moved on your hard drive and iTunes can no longer locate it). I nervously switched to the Finder and clicked on the music folder on my external drive. To my horror, the folder was empty, and the custom icon I had applied long ago had disappeared!

Needless to say, I feared the worst: several gigabytes and years worth of music collecting (not to mention irreplaceable tracks purchased on the iTunes Store) gone. Not knowing what else to do, in fact thinking doing anything else might make matters worse, I quit iTunes and restarted my Powerbook. The external drive took longer to mount than usual (I’ve read that Mac OS X checks disks for errors on startup, so perhaps it sensed a problem and was running a repair). Once everything had started up and settled, I used Disk Utility to verify both my internal and external drives, with no errors reported. Taking the proverbial deep breath, I opened up my external Firewire drive… and the folder was back to normal. I launched iTunes, and again, everything was normal. As if nothing had happened. Thank god, right? But terrifying that several gigabytes of files could disappear and reappear so easily.

Shaken, I ran Backup to bring my Home folder backups up to date, and promptly went to bed to try and calm myself down with a nap.

There are a bevy of other problems being reported on Macintouch, including the very odd case of large chunks of people’s libraries being flagged as “Explicit.” But I think my story wins.

So. Lessons learned:

  1. For crying out loud, buy SuperDuper already! I’ve never properly backed up my music collection for the simple reason that I don’t have another drive big enough to duplicate it. Time, I think, to start deleting crap I never listen to nor wish to keep, and bring it down to a size more easily backed up.
  2. Resist the temptation to download new software as soon as it comes out. At the very least, don’t stress-test it with precious, irreplaceable computer data.

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