YouTube Music, the successor to Google Play Music, is among the most popular content streaming services today. Additionally, its predecessor had the ability to download and play files offline, which was only introduced to the YouTube Music app in late April 2019. Granted, it was limited to YouTube Premium users from the get-go, as it remains to this day. Unfortunately, while convenient, access to such a massive database inevitably invites carelessness. With a lack of a backup, one disastrous event is enough to send meticulously crafted playlists down the drain. While there’s no going back on that, here’s how to recover YouTube Music downloads.
1. Troubleshoot YouTube Music app problems
As always, we suggest starting with the least radical steps first. We recommend trying these 4 methods in chronological order:
1. Ensure you didn’t exceed the time limit
Signing up for a YouTube Music Premium subscription comes with both benefits and limitations. The video files from YouTube Music remain in your library indefinitely, as long as you connect to the Internet occasionally. However, the downloaded files can only be played for 30 days from the moment you disable the Internet. If you remain offline for the full duration, you’ll have to redownload them. However, if you, at any point during that period, go online, reproduction is possible again and the counter resets.
2. Refresh the app
If you’re well within the restriction above, let’s chalk it up to a temporary glitch. Exit the app, disable the Internet, and consider restarting your smart device. After coming back to the app, swipe down (top to bottom) on the screen to refresh the YouTube Music library.
3. Erase the app cache
At this point, you should clear the app cache, sign in to the Google account again, and let YouTube Music sync. While this method won’t work on iOS, on Android it looks like this:
- Open Settings, then go to Apps & notifications.
- Tap on YouTube Music under “Recently opened apps”.
- Tap on Storage & cache, then Clear Cache.
4. Double-check these two settings
We’re not accusing anyone, but the problem might lie in human error. We established this based on other users’ experiences online, and found these 2 common reasons:
1. Show device files
This setting tends to hide files within the app, even when they exist. See if that’s the culprit like this:
- In the YouTube Music app, tap on your profile picture in the upper right corner.
- Tap on Settings.
- Tap on Library and downloads.
- Enable or disable the “Show device files” option.
2. Use SD card
If you inserted an SD card recently, you or even your operating system could’ve changed the location for storing YouTube Music downloads. It’s not surprising that the library is empty, then. To fix that, follow steps 1 through 3 above, then either toggle on or off the “Use SD card” option.
2. Recover YouTube Music downloads from Google Takeout
Since June 2011, Google Takeout is the answer to the question, “where do I download a copy of everything Google knows about me?” It was also the service that allowed users to transfer their Google Play Music data to YouTube Music when the former service became defunct in December 2020. And while that data was erased by Google on February 24, 2021, we strongly believe you can still find some, if not all YouTube Music data there.
Steps to use Google Takeout for YouTube Music
Here’s how the downloads recovery in YouTube Music using Google Takeout works:
- Head on over to Google Takeout and sign in.
- Scroll down until you find YouTube and YouTube Music content options.
- Select which types of data to export.
- Put a checkmark in front of music-library-songs (library stats, spreadsheets, structure) and music-uploads (the actual YouTube music downloads files).
- Click on Next and go through the next few short steps.
- Wait for the archive preparation process. Once ready, the Download button appears in the “Details” column.
- Extract the archive after download.
- Transfer the files to the same folder on the internal storage/SD card you store your YouTube Music files in.
Note. Make sure to copy the CSV files, one per song. They contain not only title, album, artist, disc number, and duration, but also play count, tags, your rating, and more song-related information. Also, if any of the files have a “gibberish” name, they’re most likely corrupted. Try redownloading.
3. Recover YouTube Music downloads via data recovery software
Although they might refuse to play within the YouTube Music app if more than 30 days have passed, getting song information is invaluable. This is where data recovery software for Android and iPhone data restoration software swoop in to save the day. To retrieve downloads from YouTube Music using data recovery software, do one of the two:
- On Android/iOS device: Follow the steps in method 4 in our guide on recovering Snapchat photos. Choose Audio/Music in step 5 under both sub-methods.
- From PC or Mac: After connecting your Android/iOS device via USB, follow any of the sub-methods under the headline “How to recover deleted files from a Pendrive” in our Pendrive hidden file recovery article. Again, select audio-related categories within each of the software interfaces.
4. Check your YouTube Music Watch History (Last resort)
Files downloaded from YouTube Music are not synced to other devices, even if you log in with the same Google account. Ergo, if your old phone suffers hardware or software failure or you buy a new one, you must start from scratch. This is where Google Takeout is pivotal, but sometimes the archive doesn’t exist or is incomplete or corrupted. To combat this, we suggest looking through your Watch History on YouTube Music in these 2 ways:
1. From the browser
We described how this works in method 1 of restoring YouTube Watch History. Make sure to search for “YouTube” in step 2, then put a checkmark in front of both YouTube Music and YouTube in step 3.
2. Within the YouTube Music app
Follow these instructions after opening the YouTube Music app on Android or iOS:
- Tap on your profile picture in the top right corner.
- Go to Settings.
- Tap on Privacy & location.
- Go to Manage watch history.
- Look through the videos and jot the titles down.