iTunes 11: Searching Is Abysmally Slow with Large Libraries [Video]

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Searching iTunes 11 is abysmally slow if you have a large library (mine has 65,000 tracks). So slow that it’s astounding. I made a screencast showing how slow it is. Note that, on my Mac, the cursor changes to a beachball; I couldn’t capture the beachball on video, so you’ll have to use your imagination.

The video below is in real time. Honest. Note that at the beginning, when I say “I just typed “Shake,” that’s when I typed the letters; it takes 30 seconds for them to show up…

I’m running these searches on a late 2010 Mac mini, with a 2.7 GHz Core i7 Processor, 16 GB RAM and an SSD (which is holding the iTunes library files, not the media files).

Update: Following a suggestion from a commenter (see below), I checked in another library I have for another user account. It has about 37,000 tracks, and the same search I tried in this video – “Shake” – took about 8 seconds in that library. So there’s clearly a scaling issue. 8 seconds is still too long; anything that beachballs is too long in my opinion, but it’s something I could live with.

Update 2: The iTunes 11.0.1 update fixes the search speed problem described above.

27 replies
  1. pjs_boston says:

    I would assume that iTunes is optimized for libraries with 25K tunes or less, as that is the track limit for iTunes in the Cloud.

    On the other hand, it’s possible that Apple is dropping you a subtle hint that stealing music is wrong.

    (My apologies if you truly did purchase $65k worth of music)

    • Goober says:

      That is quite an assumption you make.
      I have thousands of audio-clips in my library that are not music, nor do they have royalties attached.

      You must work for the RIAA, if you can hear if, they must own it right?

      The Goob hath thusly ruled this a strawman argument.

    • Derrick says:

      honestly i suffer from this too. But i wouldn’t be so quick to accuse people of stealing. i’ve got 23k songs and i didn’t steal them. They are the sum total of over 35 years of life. 20 of them buying cds. Not to mention it’s not just my music but my fathers music as well and he’s 75 and an audiophile. So your’e talking essentially two huge collections combined. And it surely didnt’ take $65k to accumulate. I’ve got plenty of cds that i got for $1.99, plus i was a dj for a radio station so i got tons for free. Not to mention as a dj i have many many mixtapes made by me and many others. Mixtapes are pretty cheap too.

      regardless, poorly performing software is no message about stealing but rather it’s a message about how bad the software is at that task. People will legitamately have huge collections if especially if they aren’t 15 years old and have a lifetime of music

  2. kirk says:

    Apologies accepted. I have a huge classical library, and thousands of CDs, as I review classical recordings.

    And it’s not worth that much, because many classical CDs in big box sets are sold for $1-2 each.

    • pjs_boston says:

      Just out of curiosity, how is the search performance with 25k songs? Any chance you can make a sub-library and post some test results?

      • kirk says:

        I have a second library with – I think – about 30K tracks. It’s in a different user account, but I’ll check that and see.

      • Chris says:

        I have a library edited down to 25K tracks + store purchases, totalling about 27K. Search is nearly instant in both full screen and minimized.

  3. rootless says:

    Even if it has to search a large library, shouldn’t the search term show up (and clear) faster?

      • pjs_boston says:

        I expect that the search field text is updated by the search results callback function. I suspect that the reason for doing this is that the text displayed in the field always reflects the search results that are currently on display.

        For smaller libraries (up to 25K apparently), the results post back nearly instantaneously so the lag is not perceptible.

        In order to deal with slow searching, Apple would need to display the search field text as entered, then clear the search results and display a spinner until the search results come back. For searches on smaller libraries, this would look bad, I suspect.

  4. Laurent says:

    Same problem with me (55,000 tracks – all from my own CDs, and still about 600 CDs to rip). At first I wondered if it worked at all, then I realized it was searching in the whole library as soon as I typed the first character, which doesn’t make any practical sense at all.

    The column browser also exhibits a weird behavior. It’s still there on playlists I created in previous versions, but I can’t change the columns. Really annoying, as I have a lot of classical music and I used to select composers or groupings (I tag classical works uing the groupings field).

    • Lee says:

      Laurent, have you told iTunes to show the sidebar? Hide the sidebar, and then see if you can add the composer column.

      • Laurent says:

        Yes! That’s it. The column browser menu (and the right-click on a colum header to select fields) is deactivated on playlists when the sidebar is on. But it works perfectly fine when the sidebard is hidden.
        As far as I can tell, the column browser only works on the tracks view in the music library when the sidebar is on.

        Another funny thing: the display/hide column browser shortcut is indicated to be Ctrl + B (on Windows), but this is the shortcut to display/hide the menu.

        As for search speed, I deselected the “search in whole library” option. This is a new problem. Searching in the whole library was pretty fast in previous versions.

  5. PierOz says:

    my library is not that huge, only 10,763 “songs”, but search results appear instantaneously. I’m on Snow Leopard though; could it be an issue with Mountain Lion?

  6. kirk says:

    Re iTunes 10: Searching in iTunes 10 was very different, but I never had more than a couple of seconds of lag.

  7. Allen says:

    I turned off search entire library and if I need to search the entire library then I just do it under songs, where there is no lag. Drawing the list under the search bar must be causing the delay.

  8. Allen says:

    I have over 59,000 songs in my library there is a 1 or 2 second delay in searching on my machine in mini player, I have the cloud turned off.

    • kirk says:

      Interesting. I have the cloud off too, so I wonder what the variable is. I see lots of posts on Apple’s forums where other people are having the same problem.

  9. Jeff says:

    I have had similar performance problems for many versions of iTunes now, again with a very large library (that I have ripped from my 20 years worth of CD collecting).

    I suspect that part of it is poor (burst) performance of USB drives, having your library on an external drive which is not optional once you get a reasonable collection going.

    On the other hand, iTunes has always been terrible at indexing *Books* – load up a bunch of epubs from somewhere like Project Gutenberg and watch how it slows to molasses on the iDevice>Books tab – I have no idea why Apple use such a crappy interface for selecting books to include on your device.

    • chaz says:

      no, being on an internal drive ONLY, that doesnt matter

      I type a letter….and wait 5 min before the second letter typed comes up. Its an indexing issue. Granted I have 145k tracks and 400gigs…but really, it was fine in 10

  10. Jess says:

    Like you I have a large library, 44,769 items, the majority classical. The changes I’ve read about make iTunes significantly less functional for classical collectors. I’ll hold on to my iTunes 10 as log as possible. I upgraded to Mountain Lion for Snow Leopard a few months ago to regain the sync function I had in MobileMe. iCloud won’t work with Snow Leopard. Ever since iTunes skips when I play music. This never happened on Snow Leopard. I gave up and bought Audirvana. It’s very nice but in no way replaces the iTunes I had on Snow Leopard. I used to tell my friends, “I have an iMac a Macbook, an iPod, an iPhone and an iPad; and if I could, I would drive an iCar, live in an iHome and be buried in an iCoffin. Those days are gone. Apple is starting to look like Windows to me. The hardware may still be elegant but OS X is being slowing gutted for the sake of integration with iOS. I makes me a little sick to my stomach.

  11. Derrick says:

    in the drop down menu in the search bar uncheck “search entire library” and it should search like it did in itunes 10. still not blazing but it will search much faster.

  12. Thom says:

    Yes, the unchecking of ‘Search Entire Library” solves the issue for people with larger collections. Thankful for these user forums that seem more and more to have Apple’s back when it comes to unquestionably greater missteps (both in frequency and in head scratching “say what” booboos) in new hardware products and software releases.

    It’s a ‘face validity’ observation I am making that might merit some investigating/real analysis (internal at Apple or external) Kirk. That said, it certainly “appears” that something is NOT good in the orchard… Apple’s QA department is making itself a major weak link in the company. The oft repeated retort that a lot of these issues are blown out of proportion because of the “big target that’s on the back of Apple for being the top innovator” has some merit, but even diehard Apple apologists are beginning to see this as inadequate cover for what is going on. I am starting to wonder if the revered creative “culture” of Apple (rooted the 80s-90s when Apple was a small boutique tech company bucking the big boys) isn’t part of the problem in 2012 as Apple has ascended to top dog and is busting at the seams with R&D projects covering much more of the spectrum of existing and new consumer electronics/technology/media markets.


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