Even with our huge 100+ gigabyte hard drives, space eventually becomes an issue. Anything you can do to save space is helpful. As your music collection grows it becomes more and more important to control your music library. For the most part iTunes does a great job. If you have iTunes set to automatically manage your library then you probably already have things pretty organized.
There is one major flaw, however, that you may or may not be aware of. When you delete a song from iTunes it asks you if “you want to move the selected song to the Trash, or keep it in the iTunes Music folder?”
By default iTunes will keep the file and just delete it from iTunes memory. Unfortunately, this creates an orphaned file somewhere in your Music Folder. ITunes no longer knows that it exists and unless you have the patience to manually go through your folders these files are doing nothing but taking up space. Even if you are pretty careful about clicking “Move to Trash” every time you delete a music file there will inevitably be times when you accidently keep the files.
It is pretty easy to see how much space the orphaned iTunes files on your computer take up. At the bottom of your iTunes screen you should see a line saying something like “14118 items, 37.6 days, 66.88 GB.” Compare that last number to the size of the folder where iTunes saves your music. Unless you changed your settings that would be in user/Music/iTunes/iTunes Music/. If the size of that folder is larger than what iTunes is telling you then you have some orphaned files.
In my case, my music folder was 3 gigabytes larger than my iTunes library so it was definitely worth it to recover the disk space. Unfortunately, iTunes doesn’t have a built in way of fixing this problem. You could try moving your library then reimporting all the music. That will work, but you might lose your playlists and if you have a large library this will take a long time.
Luckily there is another solution. Doug’s Applescripts for iTunes is a great place to find scripts that extend the features of iTunes. The script that will help us consolidate our music library is called “List Music Folder Files Not Added v2.0.” Follow the instructions on Doug’s site to install the script. It will show up in the iTunes menu bar under the little script icon. Click on it to run the script and then follow the directions. If your library is pretty large it may take several minutes for the script to complete. When it is complete you will have a text file containing paths to all the orphaned file in your music folder.
Now that you have a list of orphaned files you can delete them. You can do that manually, but that could take a while. A better way to eliminate them is to add them all back into your library and the delete them. To do that, change the extension on the text document from “.txt” to “.m3u”. Next, double click on the file and it should open in iTunes and begin adding all the orphaned files to iTunes. Then all you have to do is go to “View” and click “View Options.” Make sure that “Date Added” is checked and click “ok.” This gives you an extra column with “Date Added” as the header. Click on this heading and your library will be listed with the most recent additions at the top. You should see all the orphaned files that you just re-added to your library. Now delete them and make extra sure that you click “Move to Trash.” Empty your trash and you are done.
I hope that helps you clear up some space on your computer. I am on a Mac, so if you are on a PC and find that this doesn’t work please add your advice to the comments. Good luck!