Making iTunes Match Not Suck for iOS Restores

iTunes Match is a neat service that has people subscribing for different reasons. A friend of mine wanted to convert his old 128 Kbps MP3  CD rips to 256 Kbps. I like being able to access my library but not need to put it all on my phone. No matter the reason you subscribe to iTunes Match, if you’ve had to restore your device for some reason, you probably found the fact that you can’t push the music from your iTunes library to your device to be rather frustrating.


Here’s the set up: your phone’s battery went belly up, or your phone went for a swim, or took a digger on the sidewalk, or however your phone broke, you got it replaced. Maybe for free with AppleCare or maybe you paid. The good news is that you took a backup yesterday or you had iCloud backup turned on, so you just quick restore to your new phone and you’re up and running like it never happened.

And then you go driving…and a couple miles down the interstate you realize that none of your music is on your phone. You can either blow your data plan by downloading some tunes, or press the FM button on your radio and listen to commercials until you get there.

Maybe you saw this coming and crafted some plan to load a playlist with the tunes you want and then download that overnight. Maybe that plan worked.

Or, maybe you’re like me and blasted away the music on your phone a couple times to see if there was a better way to do this, and then wrote a blog post about it.

There Is a Better Way

Searching the web about this topic reveals a range of experiences. Some people indicate that they have a way to keep music on their device when enabling iTunes Match, and others comment right back, saying they did the procedure and it wiped everything out.

I’ve done a couple tests, and I have some results to share that will corroborate some of what’s out there on the web and help define the different cases in which it works. The summary is: you can preload your device with music from iTunes so that you won’t have to download it all from the cloud.

How It Works

First, the exceptions. There is no way to load music from your computer that is not in iCloud. If you want a song on your phone that has the Slashy Cloud™ by it in iTunes, you must first add it to iTunes Match (right click, then “Add to iCloud”). Second, the process where all of your songs get replaced by iCloud versions must complete. Only the iCloud versions of songs will remain on the device after enabling iTunes Match on it.

So, the main exceptional case is when you first delve into iTunes Match. At this time, all of the music on your device is the original file, whether you ripped it or bought it or whatever. I think that some (maybe all?) purchased songs may survive the initial activation of iTunes Match on the device, but absolutely none of the ripped songs will. Approach the initial activation of iTunes Match on the device with the expectation that all of your music will disappear, and you will not be disappointed if  a few tunes make the cut.

Once iTunes Match is enabled on both your device and your computer and the setup process including matching all of your tunes, downloading high-quality versions and replacing your lower quality files, and uploading any unmatched tracks is complete on your computer, you’re ready to pre-load some music.

Basically it works like this: when you enable iTunes Match, any of the tunes on the device that are from iTunes Match/iCloud will remain on the device. Any that are not will be purged. When you turn off iTunes Match, any songs that are still on the device will stay there. So as long as the songs you want to load from iTunes on to your device are in iCloud, this procedure should work.

The Procedure

  1. Enable iTunes Match on your computer and allow the process to fully complete.
  2. Enable iTunes Match on your device
  3. Open the Music app and wait until the iTunes Match setup process is fully complete (you should see all of your music)
  4. Disable iTunes Match on your device
  5. Open the Music app and verify that most or all of your music has disappeared from your device.
  6. Connect your device to iTunes and sync whatever music you want loaded on your device the same way as you did. Remember, songs with the Slashy Cloud™ will be purged once iTunes Match is turned back on.
  7. Once the sync is complete, turn iTunes Match back on on the device.
  8. Open the Music app and wait until the iTunes Match setup process is fully complete. You should see all of your music, but you should not see the download from iCloud button beside any songs you loaded from iTunes.

Potential Caveats

This worked for me, but I may be operating in specific set of circumstances that don’t apply generally. I’ve been using iTunes Match since it first came out, and so it’s been over a year since I last manually synced music to my phone. Also, I’m using the iOS 7 GM seed on my iPhone, which is probably the same as the generally released update, but perhaps not. Lastly, I’m still using the iTunes 10.1b48 beta and not the new release, so perhaps this could have changed, but again, probably not. Chances are, this will work just fine for the general public.

Thanks for reading!

Comments (3)

  1. Pablo Fuchs

    Hello Aaron,

    I left you a note here last week, but it hasn’t showed up, so I’m not sure if it went through.

    I really wanted to thank you for this. I subscribed to iTunes Match in iOS 6.1 and never had a problem keeping my songs on the device following a sync. This was important for me because I’m in the subway a lot and travel quite a bit as well. Obviously, I don’t have access to data in such spots.

    I was in horror recently after I received a replacement phone and it deleted all my tracks after turning on iTunes Match on iOS 7.0.3. I did some searches online and most showed that once you turn on match, you have to accept the fact that the music on the device would be wiped out.

    I considered this a major step backward as I loved having a big chunk of the music on the phone in onboard storage while being able to access the rest of it via the cloud.

    So, when I found your site, I followed the steps you noted and was absolutely delighted it worked like a charm! I don’t know if it’s helped anyone else, but I’m extremely thankful that it did for me. I will certainly be doing this now anytime I either restore a device or get a new one.

    • Hi Pablo,
      I don’t think your previous comment went through…comment moderation is enabled, but I didn’t get a notice that any other comments were left.

      Anyway, I’m glad to hear it worked out for you! It worked for me several times as I was testing the procedure, but for one of my friends it did not. I’m not sure what the difference is between his situation and ours that makes it fail for him.

      Whatever the case, the reality is that a chance at being able to side load gigabytes of music is better than the certainty of waiting hours or days for your whole collection to download from the cloud. It’s great that we’re on the winning side of that gamble!

      Thanks for commenting!

      • Pablo

        Very true, Aaron. I wish this was a built-in functionality of iTunes Match. I don’t understand why they make it so complicated and secretive to load music on the device from your library. If the music is in our iTunes Match account, it should totally be allowed.

        This isn’t only about the time wasted on downloading collections to your devices; it’s also about data usage. My home plan only allows for 80 GB a month and my mobile plan is 6 GB. What’s the point in using up this bandwidth when a simple sync from my computer will do the trick.

        Luckily, your procedure worked. Hopefully, I won’t have to do it again soon, but if I do, I’ll do it with baited breath given what happened to your friend

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