How to Set Up iTunes Genius

Turn off iTunes Genius
image credit: David Crockett/Moment/Getty Images

Every get tired of your iTunes music library and your habits for listening to it? Did you know that iTunes has a built-in feature that can analyze the music you like and, by combining that with information from millions of other iTunes users, suggest new music to you and create great-sounding playlists from your current songs?

That feature is called iTunes Genius. Once Genius is set up, it's super-easy to use and can help you enjoy your music in new ways. Luckily, setting it up is just as easy as using it. Here's a step-by-step guide to turning on iTunes Genius.

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Setting up iTunes Genius

itunes screenshot: setting up itunes genius, step 1
  1. Begin by downloading and installing the latest version of iTunes if you don't already have it (Genius works in iTunes 8 and higher).
  2. When that's done, launch iTunes.
  3. Click on the File menu at the top of iTunes.
  4. Click Library.
  5. Click Turn On Genius.
  6. This takes you to a screen where you're asked to turn on Genius. Click Turn on Genius.
  7. If you're asked to do so, sign into your Apple ID (or create one) and agree to the terms and conditions of the service.
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iTunes Genius Gathers Info and Delivers Results

itunes screenshot: setting up itunes genius, step 2

In older versions of iTunes, the process of setting up Genius involved a number of onscreen steps to gather information about your music library and listening, send it to Apple, and then send Genius results back to you. That still happens in recent versions of iTunes, but it mostly happens in the background. Here's what's happening:

  • Gathering information about your iTunes library: iTunes scans your library to collect information about your music, such as how often you play songs, the star ratings you've assigned to them, the songs you've marked as loved, and more.
  • Sharing that information with Apple: With that information collected, iTunes then sends this information to Apple. Apple stores this information in its databases and uses it to create your Genius results.
  • Delivering the Genius results: After running algorithms to figure out what music you'll like based on your current tastes, Apple's servers send data back to your iTunes. That data includes music that other people with tastes similar to yours enjoy, suggestions for music you can buy that's similar to what you already own, and more.

These days, there are only two clear indications that Genius is doing anything: a progress bar at the top of the screen and a progress wheel in the top right corner. The bar doesn't tell you much, but clicking the wheel in the corner reveals a menu that updates you on what Genius is doing. 

How long the process of setting up Genius takes depends on the size of your library. My library, with 7518 songs, took about 20 minutes to complete the setup process the first time I did it.

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You're Ready to Start Using iTunes Genius

itunes screenshot: setting up itunes genius, step 3

When the initial set up process is done, iTunes will let you know Genius is ready to show you new music. Once you see this screen, you can begin using it to create new playlists or suggest new music to you.

With Genius set up, read these articles for tips on how to use it or fix problems with it: