iTunes Match is Apple's subscription music locker service. It lets you compare your entire library with the iTunes music catalog. If it finds the same song, it lets you stream or download it from iTunes, to any of your Apple devices, immediately or for as long as you stay a subscriber. If it doesn't find the same song, it uploads your version and lets you stream it just the same. Because your music is always available on the iTunes servers, it works like a backup, making sure you don't lose your collection even if you lose your device. Because it streams, it also lets you keep your music "nearline" — not taking up precious storage space on your device, but available any time you can connect. So, how does iTunes Match work?
Before subscribing to iTunes Match, it's important to understand its limitations and what that means for you. For example, first check to make sure it's available in your country. Next, be sure that it'll accommodate what you need it to. In this case, that's 25,000 songs. Also, if you have a lot of obscure artists, you may find it doesn't match everything you have. This is a very rare instance since the iTunes music catalog is so vast, but it can still happen for a few individuals. So be sure to weigh your options before subscribing.
How to subscribe to iTunes Match on your Mac or Windows PC
You can also subscribe to iTunes Match right from iTunes on your Mac or Windows desktop computer. This is typically the most convenient method as it will let you match your desktop music right away, and most people keep the bulk of their collection on the desktop.
How to subscribe to iTunes Match on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch
If you don't have a desktop or laptop computer, or your iPhone or iPad is simply more convenient, you can subscribe to iTunes Match while mobile. It'll only match the music you have on your iPhone or iPad, however, so if you have a computer you'll want to make sure to match that too as soon as you can.
How to enable iTunes Match on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch
Once you've subscribed to iTunes Match, you'll want to make sure you enable it on all of your devices, iPhone, iPad, and/or iPod touch. Not only is iTunes Match a super simple way to access your music anywhere and any time you want, it also can save tons of storage space. This makes it particularly appealing for anyone with 16 GB of storage or less. You can have up to 10 devices signed in at one time.
How to enable iTunes Match on your Mac or PC with iTunes
If you have more than one Mac and/or Windows PC, you can enable iTunes Match on up to 5 of computers as well. That means you can keep all your music downloaded on your desktop but still have access to all of it for streaming on your laptop as well. That lets you save storage space but still listen to all the songs you want whenever you want.
How to enable or disable iTunes Match downloads over cellular
If you really want all of your iTunes Match music available on your iPhone or LTE-equipped iPad everywhere you go, you'll need to enable cellular downloads. That'll make sure if a track isn't already on your device, iTunes Match can reach the server and get it for you. If you have an extremely limited cellular data plan, however, and would rather not have iTunes Match working in the background, you can also disable its automatic download functionality.
How to view and play all your iTunes Match music on your iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad
There will be times — for example, when you're on an airplane or subway and cut off from the internet — when you only want to see the music already downloaded on your device. Most times, however, you're not going to care if your music is downloaded or sitting on server just waiting to stream. You're only going to want to play it. Luckily, Apple lets you easily toggle between showing only local, and showing all music, with the flip of a settings switch.
How to manually update iTunes Match on your Mac or PC with iTunes
If iTunes Match stops updating automatically and you don't see all the songs you expect to see on all the devices you expect to see them on, you can force it to update manually. It's not something you should have to do often but it is something you should know how to do if and when the need arises.
iTunes Match, just like any service, isn't perfect. Sometimes you might see duplicate songs, or you might run out of hard disk space, or you might get stuck with music that refuses to stream or download. If an when problems arise, there are several things you can do to troubleshoot and get iTunes Match working again.
If you still have questions about iTunes Match, are having an issue we didn't discuss, or just plain want to learn more, our iTunes forums are a great place to find answers to many questions, and to ask more!