How to Delete Songs from iTunes

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Introduction to Deleting Songs or Albums in iTunes

Deleting songs in itunes
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Deleting songs in iTunes is a great move when you no longer like a song or album or need to free up some hard drive space on your computer or iOS device.

Deleting songs is a basically simple process, but it has some hidden complexities that can cause you not to actually delete the song and therefore not save any space at all. It gets even trickier if you use Apple Music or iTunes Match.

Luckily, this article covers the most common scenarios that arise when deleting songs from iTunes.

RELATED: How to Delete Duplicate Songs in iTunes, iPhone & iPod

Selecting Songs to Delete in iTunes

To begin deleting a song, go to your iTunes library and finding the song, songs, or album you want to delete (the steps here vary slightly depending on how you're viewing iTunes, but the basic ideas are the same in all views). 

  • To select a single song, click it once.
  • To select multiple songs next to each other, hold down the Shift key while you click them.
  • To select multiple, non-contiguous songs, hold down the Command key (on a Mac) or the Control key (on Windows) while you click the songs.
  • To delete an album, click the ... icon next to the album title.
  • To delete all music by the artist, click the ... icon next to the artist's name.

When you've selected the items to delete or clicked the ... icon, you can do one of four things:

  1. Hit the Delete key on the keyboard
  2. Go to the Edit menu and choose Delete.
  3. Right-click and choose Delete
  4. Click the ... icon next to the item (if you haven't already done that) and click Delete.

So far, so good, right? Well, here's where things get more complicated. Continue to the next page for an in-depth explanation of what can happen to music files at this point.

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Choose Among Options for Deleting Songs

options for deleting songs in itunes

Here's where things can get a little tricky. When you hit the delete key, iTunes pops up a window that lets you decide what to do with the file: will it be deleted for good or just removed from iTunes?

Your options include:

  • Remove Download - This only appears if you use Apple Music or iTunes Match and have downloaded the song to your computer (the other option is that you've added the song to your library for streaming, but haven't downloaded it). If you select Remove Download, the file that is taking up space on your hard drive is deleted. However, the entry for the song in your iTunes library remains. That way, you can stream or redownload it whenever you want.
  • Delete Song - This option removes the song from your iTunes library, your iCloud Music Library, and moves the file to your trash. It clears space on your hard drive, but it also deletes the entry for the song in your iTunes library and deletes the song automatically from any device that's syncing with your iCloud Music Library. That's basically any device that connects to your Apple Music or iTunes Match account. Sometimes this is the right choice, but make sure you really understand the implications before making it. 
  • Keep File - In some instances, depending on the Apple services and version of iTunes you use, you may see this option. If you choose this, you'll remove the entry for the song from your iTunes library, but not delete the file. As a result, you'll have a ghost song taking up space on your hard drive. 
  • Move to Trash - Another option that only appears in some older versions of iTunes. Choosing this removes the song from iTunes and moves it to the trash where you can delete it.  
  • Cancel - If you've changed your mind and no longer want to delete the song or album, click this button to stop without deleting anything.

Make your choice. If you chose an option that deletes a file, you may need to empty your trash or recycling bin in order to free up space on your hard drive.

RELATED: Using iCloud to Redownload from iTunes

Deleting Songs from iTunes Playlists

If you're viewing a playlist and you want to delete a song from inside the playlist, the process is a little different. If you follow the steps already described when you're in a playlist, the song is just deleted from the playlist, not from your computer.

If you're looking at a playlist and decide you want to permanently delete a song, follow these steps:

  1. Select the song or songs you want to delete
  2. Hold down Option + Command + Delete (on a Mac) or Option + Control + Delete (on a PC)
  3. You get a slightly different pop-up window in this case. You can only choose Cancel or Delete Song. Delete Song, in this case, removes the song from both your iTunes library and from every compatible device that has it, so make sure you know what you're doing.

RELATED: How to Create and Use Playlists on iPhone

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What Happens to Your iPhone When You Delete Songs

iTunes match or apple music?
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What Happens to Your iPhone When You Delete Songs

By this point, it's pretty clear what happens to songs in iTunes when you delete them: you can remove them completely or delete the file while retaining the song for streaming or later redownloads. The situation is similar on the iPhone or other Apple devices, but it's important to understand it.

  • If you use Apple Music or iTunes Match - If you use either of these services, any changes you make to the iTunes library on your computer will be automatically made on any devices using those services (assuming your computer is connected to the Internet, that is). So, if you remove a song from iTunes—that is, both delete the file and remove the record from your library—the same change will happen on your iPhone.
  • If you only sync with your computer - If the only way you manage music on your iPhone is by syncing with your computer, the changes you make to your iTunes library will be applied to your iPhone the next time you sync.