How to Set Up Minimal iTunes for Music Only

Note: Since iTunes 12.5 has changed a lot of the settings and interface elements, I’ve written a new version of this article that is up to date for iTunes 12.5

iTunes is often criticized for having strayed from its initially intended use, that of playing music. Lots of people like to say that iTunes is bloated, but I disagree. If you’re not using the other features, they don’t get in your way.

But you may be irked by even seeing the features you don’t want to use. If you want to use iTunes just for playing music (and, perhaps, syncing iOS devices), then you can hide many of the unwanted features and turn it into a lean music-playing app. Here’s how.

Hide other media libraries

Itunes media iconsAt the top left to the iTunes window, you see a number of icons for the various media libraries: Music, Movies, TV Shows, Apps, etc. You can hide any or all of these icons, with the exception of the Music icon.

To do this, click the ••• button to the right of the media icons, and then click Edit. Uncheck the icons you don’t want to see, and then click Done. Note that if you want to use Home Sharing to load an iTunes library from another computer, you should leave Shared Libraries checked.

The ••• button will remain visible, and you can, at any time, choose to display any of the other libraries. Hiding them does not affect their content, so you may have movies in your iTunes library, but simply not want to see the icon. (You may, for example, have an Apple TV that streams them.)

Hide the iTunes Store and Apple Music

Update: With the release of iTunes 12.3.3, this has changed slightly. There are now two options in Restrictions, which allow you to choose to block either Apple Music or Connect, or both. I’m leaving the rest of the post as it was before the update, for those who may not have updated yet.

You can hide the iTunes Store and Apple Music, freeing up the navigation bar at the top center of the iTunes window. To do this, choose iTunes > Preferences, and then click Restrictions. Check iTunes Store, and then click OK. You’ll see that this also hides the Connect button; you know, that Apple Music thing where you’re supposed to “interact” with artists, but that you’ve probably never looked at…

Turning off the iTunes Store also turns off Apple Music, and removes the Radio button from the navigation bar. This is odd, but I guess it makes sense: Apple Music is related to the iTunes Store, in the sense that it is a subscription service. However, it does not turn off Apple Music entirely.

Itunes restrictions

Hide iCloud Music Library and Apple Music

When you turn off access to the iTunes Store, you also hide Apple Music, even though it is technically still turned on. You can turn off Apple Music and iCloud Music Library if you wish. You may want to use either or both of these features; in that case, skip this step. If you use iTunes Match, you need iCloud Music Library to be active.

If you want to turn off iCloud Music Library, choose iTunes > Preferences, and then click General. Uncheck iCloud Music Library. You’ll note that if you hide the iTunes Store, then, even if Apple Music is checked in these preferences, it won’t display. So you can leave this checked or not; it won’t change the way iTunes looks.

If you want to retain access to the iTunes Store, but hide Apple Music, then don’t turn off the iTunes Store in the Restrictions pane, and uncheck Apple Music in the General pane.

Itunes general prefs

What minimal iTunes looks like

After making all of the above changes, here’s what iTunes looks like:

Minimal itunes

As you can see, with the Music library selected, there are only two buttons in the navigation bar: My Music and Playlists. The iTunes Store doesn’t get in the way, nor do the media buttons at the left.

So, if all you want to do is play music, and not have to worry about accidentally clicking any of the many buttons, this minimal iTunes layout may be exactly what you need.


Learn how to get the most out of iTunes with my ebook, Take Control of iTunes 12:



17 thoughts on “How to Set Up Minimal iTunes for Music Only

  1. Ditto to the above comment.

    I’ve been meaning to do this for a while, and your useful article was the kick I needed.

    iTunes is a much happier place with all the cruft gone.

    Thanks, Kirk.

  2. Nice, Kirk!

    It does clean things up a bit. I notice that “Genius Mixes” still shows in the left column – intentional?

    I still do a lot of CD ripping, playlist grooming, iPod syncing, etc and my main complaint about the newer versions of iTunes is the so-called LCD area that serves as a readout for current activity. Your screenshot has the big, fat Apple logo happily sitting there, no other distractions. Even if I accidentally start a tune playing, and stop it, the LCD keeps showing the paused track progress – forever! Or at least until I quit the program or start a different tune. But then that tune stays there.

    In earlier versions of iTunes I used to ‘purge’ the LCD by clicking on another media type (ie. Audiobooks or Movies) to go back to the logo and reduce the clutter, but no more.

    • You can get rid of the Genius Mixes by turning off Genius in the Store menu. But I want to leave Genius on.

      As for the LCD, press Command-period to clear it. (But that doesn’t clear the Up Next queue, just the visible playing track.)

        • Oh, really? That doesn’t make sense. Try signing out of your iTunes Store account and signing back in again.

          • Hm, it didn’t work. I tried disabling Internet Radio in Restrictions, but that just turns off the *other* radio.

            I just figured it out. The Radio button goes away if you disable iTunes Store in Restrictions, not by turning off Apple Music.

            • Interesting. I will amend my article. Since I turned off everything at the same time, I just assumed that it was related to Apple Music.

            • It seems that the preferences have been updated since Kirk wrote this (excellent!) article. In my ‘Restrictions’ preferences, there is now an entry for ‘Apple Music’ and a separate entry for ‘Connect’. In my case, I want to keep the iTunes Store, but get rid of Apple Music and its associated Radio tab. So I have ticked the boxes to disable ‘Apple Music’ and ‘Connect’ in the restrictions tab. I now see My Music, Playlists, and iTunes Store in the main window. Perfect for me.

              And thanks, Kirk, for this excellent article – I am pretty happy with iTunes (I think the current version is loads better than where it has been for years), but never thought to go and clear up the features I never used. It’s lovely to use now!

            • Yes, thanks for the reminder about the change in the latest update. I’ll add something at the beginning of the post about it.

            • As an addendum to my previous comment, if you disable Apple Music in the ‘Restrictions’ preferences, the option to display it (or not) in the ‘General’ preferences disappears. To get it back, you first have to re-enable Apple Music in ‘Restrictions’, click OK, then go back to Preferences and select the ‘General’ tab.

  3. I’m also one of the few, who don’t think that iTunes is too big or has to be split up.
    Was drives me mad are the unbelievably obvious little bugs, that every trainee should be able to fix within an hour, but at Apple nobody seems to care.
    No. 1 pet hate is the sequence in which iTunes jump from field to field in the “Information” window via the key. It follows no logic whatsoever.
    Or the missing logic when iTunes fills tags like “album for sort” by itself – with exactly the same content as “album”. Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes it doesn’t do it at first, but when you play the title or change another tag, it fills an unnecessary sort tag as well.
    Do you have this things as well or are these just special treats for the windows version to demonstrate the “superiority” of the Mac?

    • Oh, about in the middle it should say
      “jump from field to field in the “Information” window via the TAB key.”
      I used a “smaller” and “greater” sign as brackets, which resulted in filtering “TAB” out completely.

    • The Sorting tags should be filled by default with the current tags, since that’s how things sort unless you change them.

      As for the tab order of fields in the Info window, on Mac, it is logical. It goes top to bottom, left to right.

  4. Hi Kirk. I love the detailed reports you give. Like many people last year, I upgraded, mindlessly, to the disatterous iTunes 12.2. Luckily, I was able to use Timemachine to restore my library. Since then, I am still using iTunes 12.1.2.27 but am getting to the point where I will have to upgrade if I want to interact with my other devices. I might have missed it if you reported it, but you have apparently moved on to 12.3. Did you do this with your big library as well, and do you now recommend it? Thanks.

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