Dead iTunes tracks fix

Ever had a bunch of music files in iTunes that you decided to move to somewhere else and you end up with the ! in front of the filename since iTunes can’t find it?  Well here’s an easier way to delete them than manually selecting each one and deleting it.  Maybe someday the software engineers who develop iTunes will figure out how to allow you to sort by the ! column, but until then… 

  1. Make a smart playlist called “All Files” with this rule: “Artist” is not “123456789” (or any nonsense name that won’t be in your library).
  2. Make a static playlist called “All Live Files”.
  3. Make a smart playlist called “Missing Files” with these rules: Match all of the following rules, Playlist is “All Files”, Playlist is not “All Live Files”
  4. Select all the files from “All Files” and drag them into “All Live Files”. The dead files marked (!) will not copy over.
  5. “Missing Files” will contain all of your dead files. Select all and delete. Voila, a nice clean iTunes library. A few more steps are needed since iTunes 7.4.3 doesn’t appear to let you delete anything from a smart playlist.
  6. Make another static playlist called “Dead Files”.
  7. Select all, right-click and choose “Add to playlist” and choose the “Dead Files” static playlist.  Why don’t I have you drag them from the “Missing Files” smart playlist to the “Dead Files” static playlist?  iTunes won’t let you, but for some reason you can do it by right-clicking on them and sending them to the playlist.  Kudos to the Itunes software engineers on that one.
  8. Select all the files in the “Dead Files” and delete.  Now you have the nice clean iTunes library.

I have these four playlists in their own folder. Whenever I gather more than a couple dead tracks for whatever reason, I delete all the tracks in “All Live Files” and repeat steps 4 through 8.

Not as nice as the much needed “Sort by (!)” feature but it works like a charm and it’s pretty simple.

Steps 1-5 taken from an anonymous comment on and updated with steps 6-8.

UPDATE 1/16/08
I’m not sure when exactly this was implemented, but as of iTunes 7.6 you can now sort by the (!) column. Now you can manage your dead iTunes tracks without so much hassle.

  • Teddy

    Thank you for you help! It was much appreciated.
    P.S. I had to do an option+command+delete to actually delete them from the computer as well as the library.

    Thank you


  • Joe

    Glad I could help. Just to note, this is on Windows and may be why you had to do the extra command.

  • dreamer

    I’m running iTunes 8 and can’t seem to sort by ! .. selecting that column only pulls up the album view. This method still works however. A little bit of work, but much better than deleting/re-adding your entire library 🙂

  • pd2h

    What if i need to fix the lnk rater thn delete all the tracks?? There must be an easy way!!


    easier way:
    1. Select all files in library
    2. apple+I – to open the id3 tag thing
    3. change the rate to 1 star
    4. Done
    5. click rate column, all dead tracks are together (no stars)
    6. delete them

  • Jan

    Thanks this was clever. I am using PC too, but when you delete the files in static playlist “Missing Files” they remain in the main music library.

    Is there a special command to delete the files both from the playlist and from the main library?

  • Jan

    Do you know how you can sort by the !?

  • el anonimo

    what you need to do is to select the dead file from the “dead files” files static playlist, click-right and go to show on playlist, then you select Music and its done

  • The problem I’m having is some of those missing files also don’t show up in any other playlist so I can’t go to Music or Podcasts or any other Library section to actually delete the item in the iTunes Library, does anybody know how to fix that?

  • I followed the instructions but for some reason. When I get to the last part under the “Dead Files” play list with all the dead tracks. I select all and delete. But the dead tracks still show up in my library. In short, it only deletes the dead tracks in the playlist “Dead Files” but not the main library. Any help would be appreciated.

  • Actually I take that back. After creating sending the “Missing Files” to “Dead Files” Select all, then through the pull down menu edit/rate 1 star or whatever. Then that should show up in the main library. Then delete from main library. At first for some reason it didn’t work for me. Thanks Mad Decent! Big ups!