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How to download all your music from iCloud Music Library to your Mac

iMac
iMac

Apple's iCloud Music Library service can be great for letting you stream content from multiple music libraries (say, your work Mac's library and home Mac's library) on one computer; even better, you can also use it to consolidate your iTunes library if you're trying to make a manual backup.

What you need to know before downloading

iCloud Music Library stores music you've purchased on any device, uploaded or matched from your Macs, and any subscription content you may have downloaded from Apple Music. It won't store items like PDFs or full uploads of WAV files you may have recorded, however. If you have some of those types of files on a work computer you're trying to consolidate to your home library, you'll need to manually move them to your other Mac.

Purchased, uploaded, and matched music remains yours forever after you've downloaded it — it can't be removed from your library or rendered unplayable. (Purchased music may need to be authorized with your Apple ID, however.) In contrast, Apple Music-branded subscription tracks are only downloadable and playable while you have an active Apple Music subscription; cancel your subscription, and those tracks are rendered inert.You can check to see which songs fall under which categories on your Mac before downloading, and even organize them by type.

If your Mac's hard drive is too small to fit your entire music collection, you may need to move your iTunes Library to an external hard drive.

How to download all your music to your Mac

  1. Pick the computer you want your canonical library to live on.
  2. Open iTunes.
  3. Make sure iCloud Music Library is enabled in iTunes > Preferences > General.
  4. Select Music from the dropdown menu, and select the Library tab.
  5. Go to View > Show View Options.
  6. Click on the checkboxes next to iCloud Download.

The iCloud Download status icon (shaped like a cloud) shows you whether those songs are downloaded locally to your Mac or not; if not, you'll see a cloud with a downward arrow. You can download tracks one-by-one by clicking on the cloud icon, or by selecting multiple songs and control-clicking on them, then selecting Download.

Once everything's downloaded to your satisfaction, you can then make a backup of your iTunes Library.

Questions?

Let us know in the comments.

Serenity was formerly the Managing Editor at iMore, and now works for Apple. She's been talking, writing about, and tinkering with Apple products since she was old enough to double-click. In her spare time, she sketches, sings, and in her secret superhero life, plays roller derby. Follow her on Twitter @settern.

6 Comments
  • Can you download straight to an external USB drive - or do you have to download it to the PC/Mac first, then move them over?
  • There is no way to download to different devices.... Everything is stored where ever your iTunes library points to.. May be eaiser just to move folder first, and open itunes after. Copy/move iTunes folder to external drive, Hold down OPTION key which clicking iTunes to and select "Choose library" to point to drive u copied to.
  • I'd actually like to do the opposite: have Apple Music recognize my music library, then automatically use the Apple Music version of my music. The reason for this, is that lyric functionality seems to only work with Apple Music tracks. I used Eminem's "Lose Yourself" to test this theory. I first attempted to look at the lyrics with my track, from the 8 Mile Soundtrack I've had for more than a decade - no lyrics. Then I played the Apple Music version of the song, also from the 8 Mile Soundtrack (not just some compilation album) - BOOM... lyrics. I'd rather not have to completely rebuild my library from within the Apple Music catalog, just so that all of my music can have lyrics attached, but my OCD isn't happy with the current implementation.
  • This is a risky process for 2 reasons:
    1. The matching process used by Apple is not well understood and often makes mistakes. One ends up with different versions of the track, especially if there are multiple recordings (live, different studio versions). If you download from what Apple thinks it has matched, you could end up with the wrong track.
    2. Apple's matched tracks won't have the same meta-data (tags) saved in the mp3 headers. For those if us who have taken pains to add tags to our files, this loss can be significant.
    (Aside: it still bothers me that the Apple music player will not let me display or search on these tags, like lyricist or others. Nor will it allow 3rd party players to access music tracks). Bottom line: keep careful backups of your tracks. Be prepared to use your own backups to get back the files you have collected and maintained/enhanced over the years. Sent from the iMore App
  • I thought Apple updated Apple music with the same fringer-print scanning iTunes Match uses for 'better matching' Haven't matched anything on Apple music in a while, so i dunno if it has made a difference https://9to5mac.com/2016/07/18/apple-rolling-out-more-accurate-song-matc... However, it doesn't really matter how good it is, if the song is not even there to be matched.
  • After doing this, I'm having problems connecting my iphone to my mac. The moment I connect it, the phone starts "binging" repeatedly. The wires are fine. I tried new wires. they all do the same thing.
    Any ideas?