How to Stop iTunes AutoFilling Unwanted Music Onto an iPhone / iPod touch / iPad

May 26, 2014 - 5 Comments

Stop Unwanted Music Autofill in iTunes to iOS

Have you ever wanted to just copy a song or two over to your iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad from iTunes, only to have iTunes try to sync a whole barrage of unwanted music to the iOS device? That happens due to iTunes AutoFill, a feature that some users may enjoy as it will fill up an iOS device automatically with music, but it can be very annoying if you just want to manually add a few songs over yourself without having a whole set go along with it.

Typically if you manually manage music, you can add some music with a simple drag and drop song transfer that will not force syncing of everything in iTunes. But if the iOS devices music library has been pre filled through a recent sync or backup, it will try to autofill more stuff along with that action, regardless of whether you are manually managing music or not. The simplest way to identify this is happening is that when you try to copy a single song over in iTunes, you’ll see the iTunes progress bar indicating something like “Updating Files on iPhone – Copying 1 of 254: Song Name”, so what we’re aiming to do here is to remove those 254 songs that iTunes wants to autofill over to the iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch.

Unwanted music autofill to iOS from iTunes

Sure, you can get around this by copying music to iOS devices from the desktop instead, but most users don’t manage their music that way. We’re offering two solutions to this nuisance, one is quite simple, and the other is a little more convoluted simply because the AutoFill behavior is overly quirky.

Solution 1: Create a New Updated iOS Backup with iTunes

This is the easiest way to go. Because the iTunes Music AutoFill list populates itself based upon your most recent iOS backup made to iTunes, you can simply make a backup in iTunes that is new and freshly updated to get around the weird autofill behavior. This works because the backed up playlist into iTunes now matches the playlist on the iOS device, preventing the behavior of the unmatched playlists trying to match each other.

  1. Launch iTunes on the computer
  2. Connect the iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch to the computer with wi-fi sync or USB
  3. Go to the “Summary” tab and choose “Back Up Now” and let the process complete

This will backup everything, and along with it, the Music playlist that is on the iOS device, with a side effect of matching the two music libraries, thereby preventing autofill from dumping unwanted stuff onto your iPhone / iPod / iPad.

Remember, if the current backup doesn’t match up with your current music playlist, the difference in music will be what is attempted to transfer over. This is why making a new backup is important, it will remove any difference in the playlists.

Don’t want to do a backup with iTunes for some reason? You can also just trash the AutoFill library and all the music that is trying to sync to the device.

Solution 2: Clearing Out the iTunes AutoFill List to Prevent Random Music Copying to iOS Devices

Note: This process will remove the autofill library list, and as a result, may also remove music from the iPhone / iPod / iPad in the process as well. This is because the autofill list is, by default, the same list of music on the device – or that wants to be on the device – the discrepancy of whats currently stored on the iOS device versus what’s in this list is what accounts for the unwanted autofilling music that gets copied over when trying to add a single song or two. Make sense? Yes, it’s confusing, mostly because it’s a weirdly implemented feature that doesn’t make a lot of sense. Unfortunately, there’s no simple “Disable Autofill Completely” option, so if you want to stop the random music copying over along with a single song or two this is what we’re left with for the time being. Due to the way this works (or rather, doesn’t work), this is best used if you are starting off with a blank iTunes library on the iOS device, or if you don’t mind simply re-adding the songs you do want back to the iOS device.

  1. Open iTunes and connect the iOS device to the computer (either with USB or Wi-Fi Sync)
  2. Show the sidebar in iTunes so that you can see the ‘Device’ list by going to the ‘View’ menu and choosing “Show Sidebar” – many users may have the sidebar already enabled and you can skip this step if so
  3. Select the iPhone / iPad / iPod touch from that “Devices” list in iTunes and choose the “Music” library listed under the device name – this is important, do NOT choose the “Music” tab
  4. Shown is a list of songs and music that are either currently stored on the iOS device or that are in the Music AutoFill queue – basically if what you see here is not currently on the iPhone / iPod, this is the list of songs that will ALL try to copy over when you are simply attempting a single song or two – this leaves you with two options:
    • Option 1: Remove only the unwanted songs from this autofill sync list by selecting them and deleting them manually
    • Option 2: Delete all songs from this list by hitting Command+A and remove them by hitting the “Delete” key and confirming the removal – again if you have these songs stored on the iOS device they will also be removed from the iOS device
  5. Now use the normal drag and drop trick to copy music over from iTunes to the iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch as usual – only the songs you dragged and dropped will now transfer over without the entire Autofill library going with it

Obviously this is kind of weird, and it could use some serious improvement for usability sake. But this does work, so if you’re trying to copy a single song or a group of songs from iTunes to an iPhone and a whole ton of music is trying to go along with it, this is probably why, and this is how you can prevent it.

Again, the autofill list is typically based upon the most recent device backup, so if you backed up an iPhone to the computer with a different set of music than what’s currently stored on the phone, or if it doesn’t match because you deleted some songs from the Music app in iOS, that discrepancy in the two libraries will make iTunes try to autofill what was based upon the most recent backup. That’s why the first solution offered is simply making a recent backup.

Know of a better way to clear the autofill list and prevent it from trying to populate an iPhone even with manual music management enabled? Do let us know in the comments!

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Posted by: Paul Horowitz in iPad, iPhone, iTunes, Tips & Tricks

5 Comments

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  1. Matt says:

    - Under the ‘Summary’ tab make sure “Manually manage music” is checked

    – Now go to Music tab on your iOS device in iTunes, and uncheck “Sync Music”

    Then as long as you keep regular backups to iTunes, you can copy or remove music however you want and nothing extra will try to sync over. This drove me nuts until I figured that out… Apple should probably change the behavior (or just force an automatic backup to iCloud if they weren’t so stingy with storage)

  2. Chris Cheng says:

    How about disassociating music from backups completely? Silly to require that just to manually manage music

  3. MacNanny14 says:

    Service workers, leave your phones at home. When you are at work, you should be working, not worrying about when your BFF replied to your text message. And Bartenders and Servers, if you have not yet gotten the hint that the refill of my water is more important than your texting, don’t wonder why you only got a penny for a tip. I saw you. I’m watching and videoing you. You will be stuck on that minimum wage job for life, and when the minimum wage hits $9.00 an hour, no more tips for you.

    Text that to your BFF. Now go get me another pad of butter, Chop Chop!

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