How to Downgrade From iTunes 12 to iTunes 11

Rollback those changes that Apple introduced in iTunes 12

What to Know

  • Backup your iTunes library and download iTunes 11, then drag your iTunes music folder onto your desktop.
  • Launch App Cleaner, go to Preferences and uncheck Protect default apps. Select Applications, search for iTunes 12 and delete it.
  • Put the iTunes music folder back where it belongs, then drag the iTunes Library.xml file into it and launch iTunes while holding down Option.

With every new version of iTunes, Apple adds new features and makes changes to the program's interface. After the upgrade from iTunes 11 to iTunes 12, there were complaints about the changes. If you're one of the dissatisfied users, and if you meet certain requirements, you can downgrade from iTunes 12 to iTunes 11.

What You'll Need to Downgrade iTunes

If you're convinced that you want to downgrade, here's what you'll need:

  • A backup of your entire iTunes library.
  • An iTunes Library.xml file created by iTunes 11 (or whatever version you want to downgrade to).
  • A free program called App Cleaner (Download it here).
  • A copy of iTunes 11 (Download it here).

How to Downgrade from iTunes 12 to iTunes 11

This article only covers downgrading on macOS X. For instructions on how to do this on Windows, check out this article.

  1. Begin by quitting iTunes, if it's running on your computer.

  2. Install App Cleaner if you haven't already done so.​

  3. Next, back up your iTunes library. The downgrade shouldn't cause any problems — you shouldn't be touching your music files, movies, apps, etc. — but it always pays to be safe, especially with something as large and complex as your iTunes library. Perform whatever sort of back you prefer (external hard drive, cloud service, etc).

  4. Download iTunes 11 (or any whatever previous version of iTunes you want to use.

    For links to many old versions of iTunes, read Where to Download Every Version of iTunes.

  5. Next, drag your iTunes music folder onto your desktop. You'll find it in ~/Music/iTunes. Make sure you know where this folder is. It contains all your music, apps, books, podcasts, etc. and will need to be moved back to its original location later.

  6. Launch App Cleaner. In the App Cleaner menu, click Preferences. In the Preferences window, uncheck Protect default apps. Close the Preferences window.

  7. In App Cleaner, click Applications and then search for iTunes. Check the box next to it and then click Search. A list of all files on your computer related to the iTunes program appears. If you're sure you want to delete iTunes 12, click Delete.

  8. Double click the iTunes 11 installer you downloaded in step 4 and follow the onscreen instructions. After the installation is complete, don't open iTunes yet.

  9. The iTunes 12-compatible iTunes Library.xml file currently in ~/Music/iTunes should have been deleted by App Cleaner in step 7, but if it wasn't, drag it to the trash now. 

  10. Drag your iTunes music folder (the one you moved to your desktop back in step 5) back to its original location: ~/Music/iTunes

  11. Find your iTunes 11-compatible iTunes Library.xml file and drag it to the iTunes folder in your Music folder (~/Music/iTunes). Remember, you needed to have this to perform the downgrade. If you don't have it, the process won't work.

  12. Hold down Option and click the iTunes 11 icon to launch the program.

  13. A window pops up asking you to either create a new iTunes library or choose one. Click Choose.

  14. In the window that appears, choose Music in the left sidebar, then the iTunes folder. Click OK.

  15. iTunes 11 should now open and load your iTunes 11-compatible iTunes Library. At this point, you should be up and running with iTunes 11 and your previous iTunes library. 

If at some point, you decide you don't want iTunes 11 anymore and want to upgrade to the latest version of iTunes, you can still do that.

Downgrading Isn't Ideal

Downgrading isn't possible for a software upgrade you don't like. For instance, you generally can't return to earlier versions of the iOS after a new one is released. That's because the iOS has to be "signed," or authorized, by Apple to be installed. Luckily, iTunes doesn't have this restriction. If you want to go back, you can, but...

Why You Shouldn't Downgrade iTunes

Even though you can downgrade to iTunes 11, that doesn't mean you should. There are a few important reasons to consider sticking with iTunes 12:

  • Reverting to an older version of iTunes brings back the old interface you prefer, but it may also cause problems. For instance, iTunes upgrades are often released at the same time as new iOS devices, and the two need to work together. As a result, an older version of iTunes may cause problems syncing with newer iPhones
  • Downgrading iTunes is complex and you may not have all the data you need. For instance, the iTunes Library.xml file — which contains all of the basic information about your library, such as playlists, play counts, star ratings, song and artist names, etc. — is tied to the version of iTunes that created it. So, if you've got an iTunes Library.xml file that was created by iTunes 12, it can't be used with iTunes 11. You'll either need to recreate your library from scratch or have a version of the file created by iTunes 11.
  • Because you'll be using an older version of your iTunes Library.xml file, any changes you made to your library between making that backup and completing the downgrade to iTunes 11 will be lost. You'll need to re-add music and other media, and will lose metadata associated with those files, such as play counts or new playlists.
  • Downgrading iTunes on Windows is a somewhat more complex, and different, process.

Downgrading Caveats

Because downgrading iTunes is so complex and has so many dependencies, this article can't account for every scenario on every user's computer. These instructions provide a good general outline for how to downgrade but proceed at your own risk

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