Thursday, March 4, 2010

How to Solve the iTunes Slow Download Problem

I love my iPod touch, it's an amazing tool. I can surf the web, read email, read ebooks, read pdfs, listen to music, audiobooks and podcasts, and watch movies and TV shows. You can even go to iTunesU and watch courses from schools and universities from around the country. Its also a great place to keep parts of my document kit information.

I like to listen to podcasts when in the car and doing things like laundry, but lately iTunes has been very slow to download my podcasts. It would estimate hours of download time instead of the seconds or minutes it normally takes. But browsing the web was still fine. A quick search didn't find anything helpful on the web.

So I started to apply some simple troubleshooting techniques:
First, a simple reboot. That solves most problems, but not this one.

Then, is it my iTunes library? I open iTunes with the option/alt key down and created a new library with a different name, like test. I went to the iTunes Store podcast directory and started downloading one of my favorite podcasts from scratch. Still horribly slow. So I quit and went back to my regular library using option/alt again.

Next, was it my user. I created a new user in System Preferences/Accounts, logged in and loaded up iTunes and downloaded a favorite podcast. Fast as lightning again, so something was wrong with my user settings somewhere.

So I log back in to my regular user and went looking for any iTunes related files like preferences and caches to delete to see if that was the problem. It is not unusual for a corrupted file to do something really weird to an application.

Spotlight is great for finding such files. This is on a Mac so if you're on Windows you'll have to find the equivalent places yourself using Windows Explorer. Make sure iTunes is not running.

The first thing to try is deleting the cache files which I found in my /Library/Caches/ folder, those are not critical but are some of the first to get corrupted but that didn't fix the problem. So I exited iTunes.

Then I went looking for any preference files and deleted /Library/Preferences/ and /Library/Preferences/ Restarted iTunes, still no joy, exit iTunes again.

Then I found /Library/Preferences/ByHost/< lots of numbers>.plist. I deleted that and restarted iTunes again, that did it. Downloads were fast again. 10 meg downloads took only about 15 seconds, actually a little faster then before, nice.

Troubleshooting skills are basic to resolving any problem.