Where iTunes Caches Music You Stream with Apple Music, and How to Free Up Disk Space

When you stream music using Apple Music, iTunes caches files on your computer. It does so for a couple of reasons. First, it’s not streaming “live;” it downloads the entire track you’re listening to, and plays it. Second, it probably holds onto the files so, if you play them again, it can play them more efficiently.

On Macs, iTunes stores caches in the hidden Library folder that’s inside your home folder (the one with the house icon and your user name). If you haven’t un-hidden that folder, you can view it in the Finder by pressing the Option key, and choosing Library from the Go menu.

Once you’re there, go to the Caches folder, then com.apple.itunes. (The full path is ~/Library/Caches/com.apple.itunes.) You’ll see something like this:

Screen Shot 2015 07 14 at 9 49 11 AM

On Windows, it’s (replace USERNAME with you user name):

C:\Users\USERNAME\AppData\Local\Apple Computer\iTunes\

The SubscriptionPlayCache is the folder that contains the actual music files, and fsCachedData contains album artwork. The artwork folder seems larger than it should be; it contains artwork cached from the For You section, as well as for music I’ve streamed.

Right now, I haven’t been using Apple Music a lot, and my folder is about 740 MB. I don’t know how much iTunes will hold on to, but conceivably this folder could get a lot bigger.

If you need to reclaim space, you could delete the entire folder, if you wish. Quit and re-launch iTunes so it sees that the folder is missing and recreates it.

To clear the cache on iOS, go to Settings > Music, and toggle off iCloud Music Library. Wait a couple of minutes, then turn it on again. This should clear the cache.

I’m curious; how big is your cache folder? iTunes certainly checks how much free space is on the disk it uses, so it shouldn’t let the folder get too big, but I wouldn’t be surprised that, if you use Apple Music a lot, it could take up several GB. There’s no option to choose how much space iTunes can use for its cache.

I see that one user on Apple’s support forums reported that his cache ballooned to 17 GB, leaving him with only 100 MB disk space. Wow.

16 thoughts on “Where iTunes Caches Music You Stream with Apple Music, and How to Free Up Disk Space

  1. ~1Mb for the fsCachedData folder, and ~1Gb for the SubscriptionPlayCache folder. I haven’t used the ‘forYou’ section much; mostly been streaming recently released entire albums. I have tons of disk space, and not worried, but I can imagine that people with MBA’s/MBP’s might want to keep an eye on that (I haven’t used Apple Music with my MBA11 yet, not even logged in to iTunes store).

    Worth mentioning also, iTunes 12.2.x is much more memory hungry (~3-4x more) than previous versions, particularly if you use Apple Music.

    • Right now, 12.2 is using about 1 GB on my MacBook Pro; 12.1 about 1 GB on my iMac. So I’m not seeing much of a difference. Perhaps if you stream for a long time it uses more.

  2. SubscriptionPlayCache = 1.7 GB. fsCachedData = 100.1 MB. On a MBP (mid 2012) w/250 GB HD and 102 GB available. Been streaming moderately (1-3 hours per day intermittently since 12.2 was made available.

    Assuming that the songs are also cashed in iOS, would playing back the same song(s) over and over again consume as much data as listening to it the first time? I would suspect not.

    • That’s the point of the cache you don’t need to re-download a song if you listen to it again. But with less storage on iOS, I have no idea how that is going to be managed.

  3. Thank you for the post Kirk. This is great information to know.

    I am curious…where does the iPhone and iPad cache streamed music? Do they cache? I only use Apple Music to stream music and my “iCloud Music Library” is OFF on all of my devices and MacBook.

    I’ve read on other forums that to delete the cache on iOS devices you could “toggle iCloud Music Library off and on” – can’t see this working considering ICML was never ON for me. Another option is to open the Music app; click on the red profile icon at the top left; sign out; quit the Music app and sign back in.

    • I haven’t been able to find where the cache is on iOS devices. My guess is that it’s incorporated into that mysterious “Other” storage. Perhaps signing out and back in would delete it, but I’m not even sure that’s the case. It’s worth trying after you’ve streamed a lot.

  4. Add me to the list of folks that found your article doing some research on why so much space was being used (just under 4GB!). I’m pretty sure that was all during my streaming session yesterday while working on my computer during the day.

  5. 9.2GB here. I was actually looking for a confirmation that deleting the cache folder will not affect the normal operation of iTunes. Thanks for the helpful article.

  6. I looked at my disk usage and was slightly intrigued at why is was so high. Using Disk Inventory X, had a quick look and saw iTunes was caching 20GB worth of files!

    A quick Google later lead me here. I stream through Home Sharing all the time so I wonder if this is what is causing this large amount of caching.

  7. Granted, it’s been a few years since Apple Music launched, but I just freed up 35GB of space on Windows 7. What do I win?! ;>

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