How to Downgrade From iTunes 12 to iTunes 11

downgrade from iTunes 12 to 11
If you hate iTunes 12, you can downgrade to iTunes 11. iTunes logo copyright Apple Inc.

Last Updated: Jan. 1, 2015

With every new version of iTunes, Apple adds new features and makes changes to the program's interface. Sometimes those changes are minor, other times they can be dramatic. While those new features are generally embraced by users, the interface changes can be more controversial. 

The upgrade to iTunes 12 was that kind of change: users began complaining almost immediately about the changes it introduced.

If you're one of the dissatisfied users—and you meet certain requirements that I'll explain in a moment—I have good news for you: you can downgrade from iTunes 12 to iTunes 11.

Downgrading isn't possible in all software-update scenarios: for instance, once Apple releases a new version of the iOS, you generally can't return to earlier versions. That's because the iOS has to be "signed," or authorized, by Apple in order to be installed. ITunes doesn't have this restriction, so if you want to go back, you can do so, but...

Why You Shouldn't Downgrade 

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:

  1. Reverting to an older version of iTunes will bring back the old interface you prefer, but it may also cause problems. For instance, iTunes upgrades are usually released in conjunction with new iOS devices and iPods, and the two are required to work together. As a result, an older version of iTunes may cause problems syncing with newer iPhones
  1. It's very 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, playcounts, 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 in iTunes 11. You'll either need to recreate your library from scratch or have a version of the file created by iTunes 11 that you can use instead.
  1. Because you'll be using an older version of your iTunes Library.xml file, any changes you made to your library between making that back up and beginning the downgrade process will be lost. You'll need to re-add music and other media, and will lose metadata associated with those files, such as playcounts or new playlists.
  2. Downgrading iTunes on Windows is a somewhat more complex, and different, process. This article only covers downgrading on Mac OS X.

Because this 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 perform the downgrade, but proceed at your own risk

What You'll Need

If you've still convinced you want to downgrade, here's what you'll need:

  • A backup of your iTunes library
  • An iTunes Library.xml file created by iTunes 11
  • A free program called App Cleaner. Download it here
  • A copy of iTunes 11. Download it here

How To Downgrade to iTunes 11

  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, movies, apps, etc. at all, actually—but it always pays to be safe, especially with something as large and complex as your iTunes library. However you prefer to back up your data—locally, external hard drive, cloud service—do it now.
  1. With that done, download iTunes 11 (or any whatever previous version of iTunes you want to use) from Apple's website. 
  2. 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.
  3. Launch App Cleaner. In the App Cleaner menu, click Preferences. In the Preferences window, uncheck Protect default apps. Close the window.
  4. 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 related to the iTunes program on your computer appears. All files are marked for deletion by default. If you're sure you want to delete iTunes 12, click Delete.
  5. Double click the iTunes 11 installer and follow the instructions. After the installation is complete, don't open iTunes yet.
  6. Drag your iTunes music folder (the one you moved to your desktop back in step 5) back to its original location: ~/Music/iTunes. 
  7. 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. 
  8. Find your iTunes 11-compatible iTunes Library.xml file and drag it to the iTunes folder in your Music folder (~/Music/iTunes). 
  9. Hold down Option and click the iTunes 11 icon to launch the program.
  10. A window pops up asking you to either create a new iTunes library or choose one. Click Choose.
  11. In the window that appears, choose Music in the left sidebar, then the iTunes folder. Click OK.
  12. 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, follow these instructions.


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