Why does iTunes keep resyncing the same songs ?

Discussion in 'Mac Apps and Mac App Store' started by Dick Darlington, Jun 23, 2007.

  1. Dick Darlington macrumors newbie

    Jun 23, 2007
    Dear forum,

    I looked everywhere for a solution to a problem that has been bothering me for some time. Whenever I plug my iPod into iTunes for syncing/charging, the sync process takes a _very_ long time (even when my library did not change), and actually ~1500 songs are removed from the iPod and then put back.

    After some digging I noticed a funny fact: these songs are always the same; all of them have the word "The" as the first word of either their title, artist name or album name. In many cases iTunes will re-sync all the songs of a given album whose title begins with "the", and none of the others ...

    Am I the only one in this case ? Did I do something wrong ? Why is the entire world against me ? [OK, cancel the last one ...]

    Thanks for your help !
  2. mkrishnan Moderator emeritus


    Jan 9, 2004
    Grand Rapids, MI, USA
    I'm sorry the world hates you. It's not fair. I barely know you, and I already sort of hate you. :eek: ;) :D

    Seriously, there's something not right about this, although I'm not sure what. I know this does not happen with either of my iPods.

    Let's get some details.... what version of iTunes, which iPod, in what format are these songs, and from where did they come (iTunes Store, ripped, etc)?
  3. Dick Darlington thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jun 23, 2007
    iTunes 7.2, up to date

    Brand new iPod video 80Gb (white - you never know, the problem is so strange it could make a difference)

    Most ripped (both mp3 and m4a), some bought on the iTMS.

    Something that I thought might be an element of answer : for various reasons, I configured my iTunes to speak English and my iPod to speak French. There appears to be something funky there with the way iTunes kind of ignores "The" when sorting ... But, then I switched my iPod to English, and the same phenomenon keeps happening ...

    One last bit of info: When the dust has settles, if I do File->Sync everything is fine; if instead I unplug and re-plug, it starts all over with the same business.
  4. calculus Guest


    Dec 12, 2005
    I'm guessing that the root of your problem is something to do with this.
  5. Dick Darlington thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jun 23, 2007
    That's why I mentioned it - but it's a bug anyway ... In any case, I am trying various combinations of languages right now (French or English on each end), they all lead to the same behavior. Next I will try both in Swedish or something, see if it helps ...

    Apparently the iTunes+iPod system got confused at some point, and doesn't want to come to its senses.
  6. puckhead193 macrumors G3


    May 25, 2004
    could it be neither the above and just updating the play count/recently played
  7. Dick Darlington thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jun 23, 2007
    That was indeed my first idea, but some of these songs I haven't listened to for months, and they resynced 4 times already today ...

    BTW I believe these info are not kept in the music files themselves but in the main .xml database: I tried playing files at random, their music files on my hard drives were not modified.
  8. mkrishnan Moderator emeritus


    Jan 9, 2004
    Grand Rapids, MI, USA
    Is it possible the database is corrupt on one end or the other? I guess, the next possibility (after you make your iPod and your iTunes the same language ;) ) is to rebuild the database in iTunes? And/or restore the iPod and re-write the *entire* library to it, and then see if the syncing improves on the next sync?
  9. calculus Guest


    Dec 12, 2005
    If it were me I'd restore the iPod and start again with the same language in iTunes and on the iPod.
  10. Dick Darlington thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jun 23, 2007
    Very long post, but I do have a question in the end, sorry ...

    (Changed everything to French, and what do you know, it started resyncing over and over any song whose title began with "Le" ...)

    All right, I know (kind of) what happened, and I have a fix. I am putting all the info here so Google will find it and it may then be useful to someone else, sorry if it is too long. No guarantee that it is correct, I guessed most of it ...


    At some point in the past, iTunes would sort songs according to whichever field you chose, and tried to be clever at it: for some fields (artist, album, title at least), according to the language selected, it would ignore the first word if it was an article (i.e. in English it would ignore 'the', 'a', probably 'an'; in French it would ignore 'le', 'la' and 'les'). That was convenient, but not very flexible.

    As of 7.1 or so, they added "shadow fields" to the tags for each song, which you can find under "sorting" in the File Info dialog. If e.g. the "Title for sorting" is defined, iTunes will sort according to that. That is very flexible, but not very convenient if you have to fill it by hand.

    So, as part of the update procedure from 7.0 to 7.1, iTunes will automatically find the fields for which there is a sorting analog, and for which the contents begins with 'the', and it will fill the sorting field accordingly. Then, after this is done, it will completely ignore the cleverness of 7.0 and rely solely on the contents of the sorting fields. Apparently this did not proceed as expected in my system, probably because my language was set to some unlikely combination.

    It all makes sense, except that the iPod firmware needs to be compatible with both 7.0 and 7.1, so it needs to decide which algorithm to use somehow. So (I am guessing here) if the sorting field if filled, the iPod will use it, and if it isn't, it will be clever and strip articles from names.

    The problem arises then if iTunes, version 7.1 or more, sees a song whose title starts with 'the' but whose sorting title is empty. It will follow its algorithm: sorting title is empty, I sort using the title, but I am not clever => sorting key is "The Journey". The iPod sees the same file, no sorting title, so (and I am still guessing here) it tries to be clever => sorting key is "Journey". Different sorting keys, the synchronization algorithm sees this as an inconsistency / as a sign that the local file was updated to change the sorting order, removes the "old" file from the iPod and puts the "new" one in its place.

    OK, but since all the info is in the .mp3 file, the "old" and "new" files are absolutely identical ! So copying the file over to the iPod did not fix anything, and the problem accurs again next time you plug your iPod. And of course no amount of restoring the iPod will change a thing; rebuilding the iTunes database won't either, because removing a sorting title generated automatically by the iTunes update can make sense, and rebuilding the database will preserve it. The only fix is to fill the sorting fields to make iTunes and the iPod agree on what to do - and I did exactly that, on every song for which all the sorting fields are non-empty the problem disappears.


    OK, short version : restoring the iPod doesn't fix it, rebuilding the iTunes db doesn't fix it, filling the sorting keys by hand fixes it on a file per file basis. Except I have 1300 or so files where the title is the field beginning with 'the', so I won't fix each one by hand. I see 3 solutions :

    - set the language to some obscure one, to be sure that none of the first words in my songs is an article. Well, except that then my iTunes and iPod will talk gibberish to me :-( For every language I kind of speak, I have a ferw songs in that language ...

    - wait for the next iPod firmware to follow iTunes and stop being clever about sorting. Not going to happen, I guess ...

    - Somehow trigger iTunes into doing whatever it does on an upgrade, so that it fills whatever needs to be filled.

    Does anyone around here know how to do that ?

    Anyway, thanks for your help ! (Well. to those who are still reading anyway ;->)
  11. Dick Darlington thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jun 23, 2007
    OK, last post, I promise: If you change the title of a song to something beginning with 'the', iTunes will happily fill the sorting key, stripping the 'the'. I guess I could fix my situation with some AppleScript : add a '_' or whatever to the end of each title (automatic update of the sort key), then strip it (same), and hop I should be done. I will look into it.
  12. mkrishnan Moderator emeritus


    Jan 9, 2004
    Grand Rapids, MI, USA
    Wow, that's very interesting. I wonder if you could use some ID3 tag utility or perhaps an automator workflow to finish the job? However it's still not really clear why the fields, which should be solely determined by iTunes, should be messed up by your language choices. I mean, for instance, probably more than one of us who is in an English country has song titles in French or Italian that begin with "La"....
  13. Dick Darlington thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jun 23, 2007
    Well I tried, and the "Sort Artist" etc. fields don't appear with the ones I tested (id3v2 and 1d3tool from fink). Any suggestion ? (As far as automator is involved, that's a bit beyond my Mac knowledge, do you have a solution involving perl by any chance ? :) In any case I am not frightened by the idea of writing some AppleScript with my bare hands ...)

    Yes, and their sort fields would be empty, and the iPod would not try to be intelligent because it is not set in their language, so that would work. Or so I'm assuming.

    Thinking about it, and investigating, I noticed that in fact my iTunes was (supposed to be) speaking to me in _British_ English; not sure why I chose this one instead of standard (= US ...) English, I suppos it sounded cool or something, but it's a real possibility that iTunes does not actually know that 'the' is an article in _British_ English.

    To sum it up, (1) I was kind of looking for trouble, (2) I found it, even if I still believe that there is a bug somewhere, (3) now I am kinda stuck. I set everything to French, so now it syncs about 40 songs every time, I can live with that, and maybe I will end up touching up those 40 by hand, that would be doable.
  14. gerlich macrumors newbie

    Jul 16, 2007
    iTunes resyncs all titles with non-standard case genres


    i had a similar problem with my iTunes constantly resyncing some tracks. However, i would not have to disconnect and reconnect to force resyncing. It would be sufficient to delete or modify any single track. Additionally, after syncing, the tracks in question would have a grey dot in front of them, just like what it looks like for yet to be synced tracks, if syncing is being interupted manually.

    I found the problem for this scenario to be caused by mis-spelled genres. All tracks being resynced had genres in all lowercase, where such a genre was already in the library, bit with an uppercase first letter. Changing the genre to an uppercase first letter resolved the problem.

    Such behaviour however makes me wonder about the underlying logic in the software... As suspected by others in this thread, i would agree that tracks appear to have changed in the eye of the syncing logic under specific circumstances.



  15. unity311mu macrumors newbie

    Oct 23, 2007
    Solution to the resync problem!

    I have tried every method on every forum to get rid of this bothersome resyncing problem, and after spending countless hours trying to figure it out (not all at once), I figured out it has nothing to do with non-standard case genres, the use of 'the', play counts, etc. You HAVE to make sure every song on a given album [Album Name] has the SAME EXACT info besides track number, rating, and song name. Simple as that. To do this, highlight every song on a given album, right-click (or whatever you mac users do to get a context menu), and press 'Get Info'. On albums with different info, the conflicting fields will be blank and unchecked (note that fields that were never filled in in the first place will also remain blank, such as "Grouping" which doesn't seem to be used that often). Now edit and save. I figured this out by looking at the names of the songs it resyncs, adding the albums those songs were on to a playlist, then comparing a bunch of the tags with each other. Finally I noticed some of the songs on some of the albums had conflicting genres, some had conflicting album art, album artists, album years, etc. To test the album art, make sure the album art preview in the bottom left is on "Selected Song" and not now playing, and click individually on each track; sometimes the first song on the album will have different art for some reason. This worked flawlessly for me, I hope this is the solution to others' problems too!

    Let me know if it works...
  16. Dick Darlington thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jun 23, 2007
    Thanks, that explains a lot ! (I was quite proud of my previous interpretation though, too bad it seems to be wrong ...;))

    And BTW, it also explains why the problems appeared at an iTunes update : somehow iTunes seems to create or update "artist for sorting" fields contents whenever it reads a file. It happened to me than an album appears in full, and when you start a song in it, it promptly disappears only to be sorted into the same album but sorted according to the current language settings.

    Add "party shuffle" to that, change language settings, and in a short time all your albums (those whose name starts with "the" anyway) will be split into two sub albums, one with English sorting key, the other with French sorting key. Hence the meta-data don't match, and the sync gets confused.

    Well, automatic massaging of the songs with a "the" somewhere and manual fixing for the few others put me back in the initial state, but I certainly won't ever change language settings again :)

    Thanks to all, and hopefully this thread will be of use to others.

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