Ask LH: Why Does Everyone Hate iTunes?

Ask LH: Why Does Everyone Hate iTunes?

Dear Lifehacker, I feel like every time I browse a music forum online, people are hating on iTunes. Is it just because it’s fashionable to hate Apple, or is there actually something wrong with iTunes that I’m missing? It seems to work fine for me. Sincerely, Mob Mentality

Dear Mob,

We aren’t huge fans of iTunes here, even though many of us use it. I’m certain that part of iTunes’ reputation has to do with Apple haters just being Apple haters, with some of that mob mentality mixed in. However, if you want the actual reasons some people dislike iTunes, we’ll break it down for you.

iTunes is very slow…

Ask LH: Why Does Everyone Hate iTunes?

There’s no real getting around this. Everyone has different experiences, but an awful lot of people have found that iTunes is so slow that it’s frustrating to use. The app takes a while to start up (although this has improved in the latest version), editing metadata causes it to slow to a crawl, and syncing files to third-party iOS apps causes the entire app to stop for about 10 seconds. Overall, a lot of people have truly awful experiences trying to use the app. I’ve even seen people blame their computer for being slow when it was really just that they were using iTunes.

This effect is much more noticeable on Windows than OS X. If you’re a Mac user, iTunes really isn’t that slow. In fact, its performance is more or less acceptable. So a lot of people that “hate” iTunes are Windows users that have to use a horrible version of the app, while those that don’t hate iTunes probably run it on Macs. If you’ve ever run Microsoft Office on a Mac, you know exactly what this feels like.

…and doesn’t have a lot of advanced features…

Ask LH: Why Does Everyone Hate iTunes?

Furthermore, while iTunes caters to the iOS crowd very nicely, it doesn’t have a lot of advanced features that power users have come to love from other apps. For example, iTunes doesn’t:

  • Support a large number of file formats, like the popular FLAC
  • Sync with anything except iOS devices
  • Allow for advanced syncing options such as removing album art or converting to specific bitrates (only the ones Apple provides)
  • Let you customise keyboard shortcuts
  • Monitor multiple folders for changes to your library (just the “Add to iTunes” folder)
  • Let you manage multiple separate media collections
  • Automatically organise files according to custom rules
  • Allow for very much customisation of the interface (it only has a few predetermined “views”)

These are just some examples (and there are many others). Now you may say “I don’t want any of those!”, and that’s fine. Not everyone does (that’s why they’re called advanced features). But for those that do want them — and there are many of us — iTunes just doesn’t cut it.

…but it could be worse

iTunes isn’t the worst piece of software in the world (Flash still exists, right?). If you’re content with iTunes, then don’t listen to the haters and do whatever you damn well please. Obviously, iTunes has some good stuff going for it too — it’s pretty, it has a good music store and AirPlay is just the bee’s knees.

But for those of us who constantly curse iTunes under our breath for failing to live up to our expectations, there are a lot of other great music players out there, including MusicBee, foobar2000 or MediaMonkey (which actually syncs iOS devices — something no other player can do, thanks to Apple’s walled garden). And, while those other programs are great, they will take a little more work to set up. It’s up to you whether that’s something that matters.

Unless you’re unhappy, keep using what you’re using. But if you have some extra time, we highly recommend checking out what’s out there. Even if you don’t like other players, it will help you affirm that iTunes really is the best choice for you.

Cheers Lifehacker

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Photo by ibnadem, djniks.


  • I own one Apple product – a $60 iPod shuffle. Having to use iTunes (Windows) to load it with music has been a nightmare – intermediate usb disconnections, no automatic updating of my music library, doesn’t show battery level SOMETIMES.

    Yes, a sample size of one does not prove anything, but suffice to say, it will be my first and last Apple product, just so I can delete iTunes.

  • When it first came out on PC it wasn’t slow, its ran at the pace of a snail in a salt lake, it chewed up all your system resources even when it wasn’t open with all its resident running components, it was appalling, my hatred is based out of that.

    It also liked to hook itself into everything under the sun in windows so uninstalling never really uninstalled it unless you were keen enough to go file/registry hunting to try and remove it.

    In saying that it has improved over time, but all the points in the article are valid.

    I have moved to android for all my device requirements sometime ago and have been far happier, but as mentioned if you are happy with iTunes, don’t worry about it just keep using it, personally i avoid it like the plague after early bad experiences and continued deficiencies.

    • Exactly! When it came out it functioned exactly like a virus. If you had Quicktime installed you’d have this autoupdater that’d keep on trying to install itunes almost every day and it was extremely hard to stop it. – Not to mention the horrible way it functioned and looked.

      That was then, but every time I have to deal with this idiot piece of software on my boss’s comp when he has an issue with it and his iphone I regret it.
      It’s not alone, Samsung has its own piece of crap called “Kies” (for syncing only, not music), but at least that software has always been 100% redundant, you’re never forced to go through it.

  • My gripe as someone who has serviced a few old laptops for friends was that iTunes duplicated every music file into its own iTunes folder, doubling the disk space used. This behaviour could be changed but it appeared to be the default; can anyone tell me if that is still the case?

    • Not any more for Windows, unless you set it to do so when you drag and drop files into iTunes. It only does that on OSX still as far as I am aware, which is why I keep music off my Mac all together.

    • I have that feature on. It’s good because it automatically updates the folders and filenames and keeps it organised. And if I want to back up my music, I just backup the whole iTunes music folder which has my playlists and music and everything inside it.

  • I don’t think its been as bad since version 10, but until then it was the most crashtastic piece of software I’ve ever used in windows. Admittedly I have a large music collection, but I have used it on a range of machines from XP up, and it would crash frequently on all of them.

  • I use itunes to sync my iDevice because I haven’t found anything that scrobbles iPod classic plays to similarly. Apart from the incredibly slow interface and the freezing, another thing I love is how for some reason, if you’re importing something to the library, the window will take the foreground every 30 seconds or so. It also deleted my entire library the other day, and the backup was corrupted so I had to rebuild all my playlists. Yay!

    For actually listening to music, I use foobar2000.

    • Foobar is pretty good, I like it.

      But you know what? I still use Winamp. I’m old school.

      • Same actually. You can do a lot more of your own custom stuff, it’s simple, and uses far less resources.

      • With you on that, I also still use Winamp! The only thing that’s come close to replacing it for me is Music Bee.

  • Most of Office’s users are on Windows, but despite some notorious hiccoughs, Microsoft has adapted it to be more idiomatically Mac-like. Note that for a long time, Microsoft has or had been the world’s largest producer of Mac products and its Mac division if spun out as a separate company would have dwarfed Apple itself.

    On the other hand iTunes has most of its users on Windows, yet Apple has continually tried to fight Windows platform UI standards. It still ignores Windows DPI settings and in an international context demonstrates ludicrously messed up localisation string support.

    iTunes also imposes a very strong control model on users, of thou MUST do this before we allow you to do that. It has possibly the most inefficient sync engine I’ve ever encountered anywhere, and its sheer perverseness in upgrades (disabling all current Windows desktop shortcuts) is amazing. I’ve lost count of the times that iTunes has decided it has never encountered my iPhone before and that it must therefore remove everything from it and put it all back, just so that I can add a single app or music track,

    In respect of music management, Apple has absolutely no respect for composers and so finding what you need either in your own library or in iTunes store is an exasperating activity. Recent changes to the music views have only cemented this. Its abuse of metadata has basically created a lowest common denominator flagship for the industry so now music labels only supply the tags that Apple displays, even if uploading music to other online retailers.

    I could go on…

    • Re: Tags. Google is worse. Their Play Music store only fill out half the details, I’d have to assume because of how crappy their music app is (in regards to actually using tags for organising music).

      • The smaller online retailers I’ve corresponded with say that because iTunes is the 800lb gorillahynotoad of the industry, with special deals tied up with the major super-labels, the malnourished metadata that they (and presumably Google Play) get from the labels is a function of Apple’s specifications. iTunes has poisoned the metadata well.

        I’d even dare say that Spotify might dilute it further. I’ve read reports of artists and composers being unable to find their own music using the product’s search functions.

    • Anything that i’ve downloaded from iTunes has all, if not most metadata filled in, Including composer(s).

  • When my mother had her first Apple product, one of them large iPod Photo’s or whatever, she received an update for iTunes once which removed a partition from her PC and removed her CD/DVD drive. Then I repeated the installation on my PC and lost my CD / DVD drive also haha. Back then due to limited knowledge, I had to format both PC’s to bring it all back.

  • iTunes is horrible. It is slow, very basic compared to it’s free opposition, and painful. Also the only way to purchase music from Apple is through iTunes. Almost all of Apple’s competitors allow purchase of music without installing any other software. I’ve never purchased music from iTunes. I buy music from other online stores often. I have never owned an Apple product. I had an MP3 player 2 years before the iPod came out, so never forced to use iTunes, but did try it (for 30 minutes- that was enough), and working in IT often need to assist people that have issues with their phones syncing to iTunes.

    • I don’t understand.

      Most people do this:

      1. Open iTunes
      2. Drag and drop music into iTunes.
      3. Plug in their device (or sync wifi, or sync with itunes match). OR Listen to music.


      95% of the population don’t need to customise their music player with skins and add-ons which they will never care about. Sure, people that are into tech like to play around and customise things and do all this other junk, but we are the minority.

      • With other MP3 players. You don’t need to open anything. You plug it in, and copy the files across like an external HD. You can use the software if you want, but what’s the point?

        Transfering 1 song to the iPod is a huge pain.

        I know several people that had their iPods erased because they plugged it into another computer to transfer an album (from an upcoming artist who distributed it for free) to their device..

  • What is the purpose of iTunes? Why do you need it? The answer is “to keep you locked in”. Why??? …

    About a year ago, I tried to copy a new song to my iPhone. Whenever I copied the song, it became corrupted and would only play about 30 seconds of the song.
    I checked every media player I had … the track was good. So I tried to copy a second track. The same thing happened again. iTunes would not copy any new tracks to my phone.

    I got myself a 3rd party app and used that to copy the song to my iPhone … it worked perfectly.

    So I re-ran iTunes and iTunes knew that I’d added a “working copy of the track”. It deleted it and put the broken version of the track back.

    Now ask yourself … for what purpose would Apple do this? It wasn’t for convenience .. because the most convenient way to do this is the Android way … give me a folder and let me copy it where I want and how I want.

    iTunes is like a pair of handcuffs. It takes all types (BD/S+M), but iTunes is a fundamentally flawed product that will never tickle my fancy.

    On a side note, I managed to solve the issue by re-formatting my phone and re-installing everything. I can confidently say that my iPhone (64gb) is the only phone i’ve ever owned that takes me the better part of a day to recover 🙂

    • Oh god, phone recovery in iTunes is spectacularly painful, totally forgot about that, only did it once recently for a friends phone and it took over half a day just to restore the backup, then tell me it couldn’t restore the backup …….

      • How often have you been caught in the “You must authorise this device” / “This device is already authorised” circle of hell?

  • The Windows version of iTunes is awful but still usable. I think people hate it because they have no choice but to use it if they have any Apple product.

    • Indeed.. I love my iPad.. love it to bits.. I use it for at least 3 or 4 hours every, single, day… sometimes more! It does everything I want.. but iTunes?? Crash-fricken-city. I’ve had to roll it back to iTunes 10 just to get a tiny bit of stability and even then it will crash on certain pages over and over again. Despite googling and trying various fixes and work-arounds, some official Apple responses and some from experienced users, nothing fixes this inherit instability in the Windows version of iTunes.

      Some third party stuff works.. like for copying photos, music and video.. but for managing your device, especially documents within apps, it’s a nightmare when things keep crashing… and backing up your iPad?? Forget it with iTunes!

      I don’t mind being forced to using iTunes on principle. If it worked like any other application I have on my Windows PC, as in being stable, I wouldn’t have any major issue with it.. but as it has never worked stably in all the years I’ve had an Apple device.. I have to say that I hate the application with an absolute vengeance and despise Apple for not only forcing it on me (I didn’t buy iTunes, I bought an iPod and an iPad) but not providing the level of support that other publishers and developers do for their applications.

      If I could find an alternative that does ALL management of my iPad does, I’d switch in a heartbeat AND I’d pay money for it to boot! Unfortunately all the alternatives out there don’t include a way to manage documents within an app (like documents within Evernote for example).

  • My experience… no problems with it.

    We store all of our music, movies, books, etc in it. Can find everything easily and the family can access everything on their devices. Mind you, we’re all Apple with our computers and devices. All files are neatly organised, for eg a movie is just one file which has everything in it, movie poster, meta data, etc. Haven’t had any speed issues or crashing.

    Going from the comments, seems like it’s Windows users that are having the issues.

  • I seem to be in the minority, i’ve never had a major annoying issue with iTunes. Everything that’s happened to it that was something that broke it was my stupidity. I use it as my everyday media player, it just sits there in the background using bugger all resources, having Steam & Skype idle uses more RAM..

    Just wish I could have iCloud save my iTunes settings, like my settings, how I have things set up, play counts, playlists etc.. That would be lovely. Something like Firefox Sync or whatever Chrome calls theres, where it saves your settings and bookmarks etc.

  • As a former iPhone, iPad and iPod Nano owner / user, I can say that the fact that you pretty much have to use it to transfer media is a hassle.

    One morning, before a big trip to Melbourne, I wanted to add ONE song to my iPhone. I didn’t hit the cancel button on the backup stage quickly enough, and before long, it was backing up 14gb of phone. Hitting cancel took 5 minutes to stop.

    This was in the days before wireless sync, but it was a breath of fresh air when I got my Samsung Galaxy S — I plugged it in, copied one song on, and was done in 1 minute flat.

    As a media player, iTunes wasn’t too bad. It ran alright on my (now) outdated work machine and installing apps was rather easy, but I wouldn’t ever go back.

    • yeah, that’s my only problem with iTunes – if you want to sync a single song/album, it insists on syncing the entire phone, meaning phone and app backups, etc, etc.

      To play devil’s advocate, I doubt most people would ever back up their phone if they weren’t forced to on sync, but we should still be given the choice (which has never been Apple’s gig).

      Aside from that, it runs well for me on both my PC and my Macbook. I choose to use it as a media player over everything else. One of the reasons is that it automatically downloads all of my iTunes music purchases onto every Apple or iTunes-running device, which saves me a lot of hassle.

      • It does give you the option of backing up on sync, but it’s an on or off option — not really a “On if a backup hasn’t been done in x days” or “On if you’re syncing more than x amount of items”

        On the Mac, iTunes was really quick, and I enjoyed using it (on my Hackintosh). But I suspected that it was playing favourites, or the developers built for Mac primarily, and knew it best. It still didn’t win out against VLC, but at the time, it ran what I wanted it to run

  • I honestly don’t know ANYONE that uses iTunes by choice.

    Everyone I know that uses iTunes pretty much HAS to because they own an iOS device and virtually nothing else can be used to sync it.

    I just get around that problem by avoiding Apple entirely. I’ll copy stuff to my phone by plugging in a standard USB cable then clicking and dragging it across, kthnx.

    • I tried to avoid getting an iPad for this reason.. but the app support (as in the amount of apps and quality of apps on the AppStore) for the types of apps I use (mainly games, media and language) is what sold me on it.. I had tried a few of the same apps on my Samsung Galaxy phone and the difference in quality was profound.. so I bit the bullet and bought an iPad.. I don’t regret the iPad purchase… but iTunes.. yeh..

      • There’s plenty of good quality apps on Google Play and that’s only expanding every single day. The games you can get on there now that work great with tablets is pretty high. Some of them are even better than the iOS versions and some are exclusive to Android too.

        • Yes.. but the language support apps are crap by comparison.. and really my only justification for getting a tablet at all was this.. the games are a bonus and while I factored games and media playing in to the equation, it was really about the difference in quality between the Android and iOS versions of the language apps I was using. I already had an iPod Touch at that point for a few years. I did, genuinely give Android a go.. heck I have a Galaxy S3.. and I totally didn’t want to have to put up with iTunes.. but at the end of the day an iPad is not about playing music (that’s what iPods and MP3 players are for) or even playing games, which I could have continued to do on the iPod or even phone..

    • I use it by choice. It runs fine on both of my systems (one of which I never sync the phone with, so there’s no forced attachment there). I also like the way it handles my music library. It’s not perfect, but it’s my preferred option.

      I’m not a fan of the interfaces for Winamp, Foobar and the like. The Artist view from iTunes is only really replicated in WMP, which is kinda horrible.

  • ITunes is the devil… First question I ask when troubleshooting a windows PC usually is have they installed iTunes writes a by xh of shite to the registry that brings the whole PC to a hault

    Sell your iPod on eBay and buy a 40 dollar mp3 player that will last forever on battery life and will let you drag and drop files easy as.. No retarded syncing necessary.

    Download winamp…and use tagscan

    • Show me a 40 dollar MP3 player that can hold my 130gb music library and i’ll happily oblige 🙂

      • You need to have access to all 130GB of your music library at any given time do you?

        Cause when I go out exercising, I totally go out for about 13 weeks at a time, and I do NOT want to hear the same song twice!

        • LoL, exactly. Personally I now use a cheapass MP3 player for my exercising music and the smallest size I can get is about 4GB. I kinda wish I could get a smaller one as it’ll force me to change the mixes on it more often. 130GB of music to choose from on a portable device sounds like a nightmare to this fellow (for what I use said device for at least). Sure on my PC I want ALL THE TUNES! But when I’m going out running I wanna just click go, and then GO!

          • The iPod classic is actually great to have hooked up to the car stereo can hold enough of everything. Also has a decent DAC built in to the 30 pin dock connector if you buy the correct model.

            I don’t know about everyone else but myself & a few friends would rather have our entire music collections in our pockets or in the car being readily available than only having a portion of it..

          • Fair enough. For all my music in my pocket I just have my tunes on my Google Drive, then I use CloudAround on my droid to stream it.

            Personally though I can find it hard to choose what to listen to when my entire library is in front of me, that’s why I like to have various subsets.

        • Well actually I like to listen to anything from my library at a given time. So yes. Yes I do.

  • For me it’s that I no longer own any Apple devices (I used to have an iPod, now for tunes while running I use a cheapass MP3 player which I can just drop MP3 files onto), I much prefer Winamp as a music player, and I was organizing my music files via filenames and directory structure long before iTunes existed. On that last point; when I used to have an iPod I noticed that iTunes didn’t like files without tags, and as such my nicely organized collection turned into an utterly munted mess when it was translated into iTunes because I’d end up with a whole lot of “Unknown Artist – Unknown Album” on files that had all the info written in their filename.

    More recently, thanks to friends and such using iTunes, I’ve noticed I don’t like it as a music player at all. There are a few other reasons, but generally I’m happier avoiding it where I can. I only ever ran it cause I had an iPod, and it did not endear itself to me 😛

  • Why is that these “why doesn’t everyone hate iTunes” style articles always revolve around iTunes as a Media Player…. who in their right mind would use it as a media player.. that’s not why the vast majority of people hate iTunes.. it’s got nothing to do with iTunes as a media player.. nothing.

  • I’m not a hater or liker of iMac or PC, I have been using my 27″ iMac with iTunes for 7 years (longest lasting computer without a virus), iTunes is very slow to load up, but I’d rather put up with this than viruses.

  • iTunes is only just usable for me now, but like many others would also say, it’s only still on my computer because I have no choice. Older versions were absolutely terrible and back when I had an iPod mini and later on, an iPod classic, they were near impossible to sync using iTunes. Once I found out Winamp could sync the old iDevices I gave it a go, and it did a better job managing them than iTunes did (worked flawlessly and more features).

    Now that I have an iPhone and nothing except iTunes can properly sync with it, I still have to use it, but at least it’s not as bad as it used to be. I still have a 160GB iPod classic but it hardly gets used – only for long trips, so I’m back to using iTunes if I want to sync it, seeing as it’s only once in a blue moon I do so.

    For actually listening to music though I’m still with Winamp (unless I want to just play one song, then VLC handles that) and probably will be for a while. I’ve switched to Music Bee a few times but always ended up coming back.

  • Frankly I don’t know what people are whinging about.
    I have used iTunes since v1.0 on a Mac (2001) then on PC since 2003 and I think it is the best music jukebox for a simple reason – it enforces right metadata in your tracks, and is able to organize your folder structures to match that metadata.
    I have not had Apple portable devices until late 2008, but I always used iTunes for other reason – Visualizers. They have been great in v2.0 but since v3 they kind of “stayed there” but thanks to I have often enjoyed terrific scenery to go with my tunes.
    Oh and it never crashed on my PCs, although I agree it is slower there than on MacOS X.
    Included Radio gave me greatly integrated musical discovery landscape, smart playlist and especially sync of playlists to devices cannot be underestimated either.
    I guess the real issue is how slack WMP11 is, not really iTunes.
    For those who do not like the new iTunes 11 UI, just press Ctrl+S then Ctrl+/ and you’re set.
    I must admit I am not into FLAC or OGG, AAC is fine thank you very much.
    And if you want a better sound quality of your iOS device, grab an iPod 5th gen on ebay or something from like I did.


    • How does it (or can it) “enforce right metadata in your tracks”?

      “I guess the real issue is how slack WMP11 is, not really iTunes” … and no reasons? I admit it has its problems, but at least it’s more transparent in its function, and can be usefully extended to support FLAC and other formats.

  • WMP works for me, install a codec pack and you’re done. Syncs all my media (pictures, music, video all the Win 7 libraries) with my Android. Plays any file under the sun, integrates naturally with my home network so I can stream files to other computers, etc, etc.

  • Many of us hate iTunes Au because they’re so slow to get overseas shows. Their new policy seems to be that they wont put new shows up til they’ve finished their often belated and slow runs on Aussie pay TV. This means that it can be up to a 6 month delay to see some hit shows, which is not good enough. Most of us would prefer to do the right (and convenient) thing and pay for our content but when we’re treated like the 2nd class global citizens that we used to be, then it’s no wonder that Aussies are the biggest illegal downloaders of content.

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