Fixing "iTunes Library.itl" Cannot Be Read

I’ve been experimenting with a beta release of Apple iTunes on my Mac system and decided I didn’t really want to use it after all. When I went back to my regular iTunes app, however, I hit an error and don’t know how to proceed. It said “The file iTunes Library.itl cannot be read because it was created by a newer version of iTunes.” How do I fix it?

Dave’s Answer:

I think this is where I say “don’t use beta software unless you know how to fix the problems that might crop up” but since I do the same — which is how I hit this error myself — it’d be a bit bogus. Further, the solution is pretty easy once you know how to do it, and it’s a nice demonstration of how well iTunes takes care of things for us to avoid us getting into trouble.

You will need to rename some files and poke around a bit on your system, but it’s not too bad. The basic problem is that each version of iTunes embeds its own version number into the data files it uses (.itl = iTunes library) to ensure that if anything’s been tweaked or expanded that your music and video library don’t get messed up.

To start out, here’s the error message I bet you’re seeing:

mac older version itunes library error 1

Scary and if you’re running beta software, trying to download the latest version of iTunes accomplishes nothing. Now what? First things first: quit iTunes.

Now, to fix it, you need to move an older version of the “iTunes Library.itl” file into the main iTunes folder, extracting it from a backup folder. First step is to go to your own iTunes Library (your homedirectory –> Music –> iTunes), where you’ll find this:

mac older version itunes library error 2

Click once on the “iTunes Library.itl” file and then click your cursor into the filename under the icon. Add “.old” as a suffix:

mac older version itunes library error 3

In that same directory should be a folder called “Previous iTunes Libraries”. Open it and look inside:

mac older version itunes library error 4

The most recent copy of your iTunes Library is the one with the “.itl” suffix. That’s what we want. Duplicate it (select it and choose File –> Duplicate), then drag the duplicate up to the “iTunes” folder one level above.

You can also drag the original and leave the copy behind, of course.

Either way, you’ll end up with a new file that has a name like this:

mac older version itunes library error 5

Almost done. Again, click on the filename, then click *into* the filename just once, so you can change it’s name. Remove the date stamp so that it just reads “iTunes Library.itl”, then relaunch iTunes.

mac older version itunes library error 6

Yay! We’re good and it works great now. You should be all set too.

Categorized as Mac

By Dave Taylor

Dave Taylor has been involved with the Internet since 1980 and is internationally known as an expert on both business and technology issues. Holder of an MSEd and MBA, author of twenty books and founder of four startups, he also runs a strategic marketing company and consults with firms seeking the best approach to working with weblogs and social networks. Dave is an award-winning speaker and frequent guest on radio and podcast programs.