Fix the “iTunes Library.itl” Cannot Be Read Version Error When Downgrading iTunes

Sep 22, 2011 - 30 Comments


We recently showed you how to delete iTunes and uninstall iTunes from Mac OS X, which is typically done for the purposes of downgrading iTunes to a previous version. If you’ve done this and you are now encountering an error about “iTunes Library.itl” not being readable due to it’s creation by a newer version of iTunes, this tutorial will show the fix which is nice and easy.

And yes, this should work to remedy other reasons why “iTunes Library.itl Cannot Be Read” errors occur regarding differing versions of iTunes on a Mac, whether for downgrading, concurrent versions in use, or otherwise.

How to Fix “iTunes Library.itl Cannot Be Read” Error on Mac

  1. Remove the newer version of iTunes and install the older version as originally intended
  2. Hit Command+Shift+G and type ~/Music/iTunes/
  3. Rename “iTunes Library.itl” to “iTunes Library.old” – this serves as a backup in case something goes wrong
  4. Fix iTunes Library.itl Error

  5. In the same iTunes folder, open “Previous iTunes Libraries” and track down the most recent version of an iTunes Library file, these are named by dates of iTunes installations in the format of “iTunes Library 2011-08-29.itl” etc
  6. Copy the most recent version of that file to your desktop (or elsewhere, or use cut and paste)
  7. Navigate back to ~/Music/iTunes/ and move or paste the file here, renaming it to “iTunes Library.itl”
  8. Relaunch iTunes

iTunes should now load trouble-free and without the “iTunes Library.itl cannot be read because it was created by a newer version of iTunes” error message.

Note: If you have moved the iTunes Library to another location, you’ll need to enter that directory path rather than ~/Music/iTunes/. Likewise, if you’re using Windows the iTunes directory is going to be located in My Documents > My Music > iTunes.

For Windows users, you can also use the Previous iTunes Library folder and copy it just the same, but the location is slightly different within your Music folder, typically residing within My Documents.


Related articles:

Posted by: Paul Horowitz in iTunes, Troubleshooting


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  1. Angela says:

    I got it to work but now when i try to sign into itunes to download anything it says error. When i try to go to my account it says i need to download newer version… im trying to download an app so i can download it to my ipad that is not compatable.

  2. phoenix says:

    This didn’t work for me. I’ve tried it several times an renamed all my previous iTunes folders but it still hasn’t worked. Help?

  3. TO says:

    Great Post!! This solved my problem. Great work on the .itl work around (for the error opening a new version of a .itl file than the older version of itunes supports).

  4. king efno says:


  5. Carrie says:

    This worked for me! Thanks! I guess I am low tech. I seem to frequently have trouble with upgrades. I usually don’t even bother! So glad to have this fixed.

  6. ben says:

    Thank you!!! Worked like a charm!
    I was going insane trying to navigate and edit my multiple itunes libraries (i have close to 500 gb of music) and the new itunes was just one massive frustrating mess. sure it’s probably ok for lite (very lite) users, but for large collection of music it is completely useless!
    anyway, i’m happy to have the good old itunes back.
    and just a reminder to anyone doing the same: when installing the old itunes make sure to cancel the auto update option. good luck!

  7. Jens says:

    I tried all of my (6) old iTunes Library.itl files from “Previously iTunes Libraries”. Renamed them as you described, but all of them (even though the eldest is several years old) says cannot be read because created in a newer version of iTunes! I even have tried with a backup of my library folders and files, taken a few months ago. Same result.
    I have deleted 11.1 and now have installed 10.7. I use Vista.
    Help please :)

    • jacbec says:

      I have a similar problem. I have tried the precedure to downgrade a dozen or more times. The only way I can get it to work is to go back several months and select an old .itl file from the Previous Libraries folder. Then, of course I lost all of the intervening additions I have made to my iTunes Library. Can’t believe I was foolish enough to upgrade to iTunes 12.7 when it came out. Apple never tells you what the cons are in upgrading.

  8. Michael says:

    I downgraded because If I am playing music from my ipod in iTunes, I can not search it anymore. I have to go find an artist of genre by clicking the header. Inconvenient.

  9. ricky says:

    At first it didn’t work for me, but then I renamed the oldest “itl” file, and that worked.

  10. Shalini says:

    It worked. Yaay. OMG. You are a legend. Thanks so much.

  11. Ashley says:

    I’ve followed these directions and others like it and the problem still occurs.
    At first I deleted Itunes Library.itl because another site said it would work just the same. Of course it didn’t. So I just went to previous Previous Itunes Libraries and took the most recent file and renamed it as Itunes Library.itl and moved it to Itunes- didn’t work. Then renamed it Itunes Library.old. Still did not work.

  12. Derek says:

    Thanks a lot! I upgraded to iOS6 and needed to downgrade back to iOS 5. This site provided me the tools to do so! Many thanks!

  13. Kode says:

    Hello i recently just followed those steps, and i went to open itunes and none of my songs are present in the itunes library!? What should i do?

  14. Mukund says:

    Thanks a lot it works for the changing name if library.

  15. Miguel says:

    this still doesn’t work for me. i renamed it and everything…
    is this because i first downloaded itunes after the version i want initially came out?
    i think i may have started using 10.5 and i want to use 10.3.

    any help would be appreciated. thanks

  16. Nick says:

    My iTunes corrupted whilst upgrading to the newer version. Very simple instuctions and a quick fix until I try to upgrade again! (worked fine on XP by the way)

  17. CuddlyD says:

    Although this was a tip for MacOS users, I used it to fix the same issue on my Vista system.

    Thanks, you saved me a lot of pain.

  18. Deborah says:

    Thank you so much for this easy solution – worked perfectly for non-technical minded person like me!! BTW, icebreaker, no, I’m not autistic but my son was given an unused but old iPod to replace his broken one and I for one am grateful that I did not have to pay for a new one. Get a life.

  19. kevinkendall says:

    Do a search for the filename “iTunes” on your HDD.

    If you’ve got 2 or more versions of “” in different folders/areas of your hdd, & you’ve got old shortcuts to iTunes that you’re unwittingly using to try & fire up iTunes after, say, a Software Update which may have downloaded & auto-installed the newest iTunes into OSX’s default apps folder “/Applications” (when you’ve still got an older iTunes somewhere else in some other folder also) that’ll cause problems.
    Multiple versions of apps, scattered around a hard drive, is the cause of some odd kinds of problems, many times.

  20. Monique says:

    I dont have the previous itunes library thing

  21. Martin says:

    Downgrading from iT10 to iT9 makes a lot of rational sense for some folk. Somewhere along the release path, iT became disconnected from the work ethic and sunk into chronic teenage type procrastination when asked to do simple tasks like copying, retagging, renaming and remained in that state despite applying various theoretical fixes. Anyway my downgrade difficulty was that I had done major smart playlist revisions to a large enough 800gb library, sometime in an earlier IT10. So downgrading to 9.2.1 the regular way as explained here, meant I had to revert back to my inadequate library playlists saved from June 2010, that was not a desired option for me.
    I found iT 9.2.1 would import the saved library playlist info file from IT10.5 but it would bloat up the library file from 32mb to 10 times that and would then freeze on start up. I deleted the application and library files and reinstalled IT 9.2.1. I imported the saved iT10.5 Library.xml again and again it bloated the iTunes Music Library.xml to >350mb in the User/music folder. But this time I found out where the issue was. I discovered that each folder in the playlist menu contained all the tag info from each song in the library, regardless of what playlist I had in the folder. I could have a folder with only 2 recordings inside, but clicking on the folder revealed all the songs I had, in the main iT window. As soon as the import was finished I could work on this issue, but I had to do it before closing the program.
    I had to create new playlist folders, move the playlists into the new folders and delete the old folder. As each old folder was deleted, the iTunes Music Library.xml got smaller by ca 3mb, until eventually it dropped in size to 35mb after about 90 folders were replaced and deleted. I am quite content with iT9.2.1 and it’s a safe place to look after my smart playlists. Am running Lion with a Quad Core 2.4 on a WD Caviar Black start up disk.

  22. Albert says:

    Although, I am happy with the current iTunes I can easily see why people would want to use and earlier version of iTunes. The other posts need to understand that their perspective is……well… the only one. Speaking of downgrading, I downgraded from Lion to SNL and couldn’t be happier.

  23. iDunc says:

    Thanks this is really helpful..

    @Icebreaker – I had the problem of using iOS5 beta and the iTunes beta on my Lion DP4 partition, my main iTunes couldn’t read above, now it can and all is back to normal

  24. icebreaker says:

    What would be the reason to downgrade iTunes, other then being autistic?…

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