Way to move songs from Mac Time Machine drive to iPad Music app?

Using the new hub I got for my iPad Pro I was able to connect a friend’s Time Machine external drive to his iPad Pro and go into old Photos backups and save the Photos to his iPad Photos app, which then also synced to his iPhone. He was happy to recover the old Photos.

He also had some old songs from CDs that he had on his Mac and you can see them in Time Machine as well. But I haven’t been successful yet in saving the Music to his iPad Music app the same way.

Anybody know the best way to do this?


The only way: restore the songs to a music library on a computer that you sync to the iPad, either by iTunes sync, iTunes Music Match, or syncing via iCloud music library with an Apple Music subscription. There is no way to add music media to an iOS or iPad os device from external storage.

If you want, you could copy the music files to iPad storage and use a third party app like VLC to play the media, but it won’t be in the iPad music library from the music app.

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You’ll have to use a desktop or laptop computer as an intermediary. iOS/iPadOS Music recognizes music only when it was either directly downloaded onto the device or synced from a computer. You can sync it via iTunes (on Windows or an older Mac) or the Finder (on a newer Mac).

His old iMac is broken. So he was trying to see what he could recover from that. I have a MBP Pro, but our Apple IDs are, of course, different. I don’t want it to get all confused. Plus I have my own Time Machine drive.

I guess the idea of putting it in regular iPad storage and using a 3rd party app isn’t the worst idea. Or he could download it to iCloud in his files and make the songs available that way on his iPhone too.

That gives me me an idea - without using my MBP 2021 M1 as an intermediary. I have an older MBP 2013 that is just sitting in a drawer right now. I could initialize it with his iTunes account and use Time Machine to restore it there I bet.

There is no reason why you couldn’t create a user account for him on your MBP and use that account to add a music library and sync to the iPad using Finder b


True. Good idea. Thanks.

As indicated above iTunes on a Windows PC (:skull_and_crossbones:) could install music on an iPad. This is an alternative to using an old Mac computer.

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The old Mac computer, or creating an extra user on my new Mac computer to do this would be better because I don’t have a Windows PC. But good to know.


As others have said, the most straightforward way is to create an iTunes/Music library on a Mac or PC. Then sync it to the iPad.

I think you can also configure the iPad to “manually manage music, movies and TV shows” via its Finder view:

With that selected, you won’t be able to sync music, movies or TV shows, but you should be able to drag/drop files into the iPad’s Finder icon to manually add them to it.

These settings should be local to your Mac. If you connect the iPad to another Mac that is configured to synchronize Music, then (I think) it will give you the option to transfer those songs to that Mac’s Music library the next time you sync it with that Mac.

That definitely looks interesting. I’m not sure if it’s the most practical approach in this situation since my friend doesn’t have a working Mac or PC. He just has his iPad and iPhone.

It sounds like either connecting the Time Machine drive to one of my Macs with his Apple ID set and syncing to his iCloud (probably simplest) or downloading the music on the drive directly to Files on his iPad (but then no access directly from Music) might be best.


My surmise would be that you could connect your friend’s Time Machine drive to either of your MacBooks and access the music files the same way you did from his iPad without regard for the user account—if the TM backup is encrypted just provide that password. Copy all the desired music files to a folder outside the TM backup. Since the files are from CDs they will not be encumbered with any DRM.

Next, get a free download of iMazing for Mac if you don’t already have it. Here is a link to the official support page with the steps to drag & drop music into any iOS device via the iMazing app… Transfer music from a computer to an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch This page also includes a link to download an installer which will allow this music transfer process without need for a license or registration.

If the availability of a suitable Mac is the only problem, just keep in mind that Apple is — at least here in the States — very reasonable about returns.

Get a brand new Mac, set it up as usual, do all the TM copying and iPad sync shenanigans you need to get things to work as desired, and then just make sure to return that Mac to Apple (or if you do it online, start the return process) within 14 days of purchase. They’ll take the machine back (provided it hasn’t been damaged) and issue a full refund. It’s a quick and hassle-free process. Think of it as a free loaner. Apple is indeed here as generous as it sounds. These days there’s no restocking fee or anything like that. If you use a CC or Apple Card to pay for the “loaner” the refund should be in before you have to pay any balance so you’ll never even have to upfront any cash.

Just don’t break the new Mac. :wink:

I’ve used this trick a few times when an Apple device needed to be repaired or replaced under warranty, but Apple needed a week or so to process the item. For example, my Apple Watch developed a stuck pixel. The Apple Store could not certify the replacement but needed to send it back to HQ and then be authorized to give me a new old-series watch. With the store’s encouragement, I ‘bought’ the next-generation watch and used it for a few days until the exchange was authorized. At that point, I returned the new watch for a full refund.

The nice thing was that it let me see that the improvements in the new series were nothing to be lusted over.

It’s interesting that Apple not only tolerates that, but actually sometimes encourages it.

One reason is that in retail stores, each sales employee has a daily goal to meet. Futher, when the return happens several days later, there’s a pretty good chance somebody other than the original employee will handle the transaction.

Back to helping my friend get his music over from his old Time Machine drive to his Apple Music.

He brought it over today and I ran into some problems trying to help him.

  1. I could not mount his USB drive to his iPad using his adapter (plugs into the USB-C port on his iPad and USB cable on the WD drive). It never appeared in Files like it did when he was here before and I moved photos over.

  2. I also tried my adapter. Same problem.

  3. I also tried connecting it to my iPad. Same problem.

  4. Then I tried connecting it to my Mac. Not only wouldn’t it mount but I noticed that Time Machine hadn’t run since the 17th because it had become unmounted! CCC was mounted and had been working though. I tried mounting Time Machine and it mounted and started working. But when I then connected his drive to my Mac (while Time Machine was still backing up my Mac) the Mac froze and restarted multiple times, Finally I disconnected his drive and my Mac started up again, but Time Machine didn’t automatically mount. I had to manually mount it via Disk Utility.

Currently I’m waiting for Time Machine to finish up before attempting to connect his drive again (if I dare - I don’t want my Mac restarting yet again), but I wonder what the problem might be.

And why Time Machine is no longer auto-mounting.

Suggestions welcome.

Things are fine on my MBP M1 (2021) now. Time Machine caught up (still don’t know why it doesn’t automatically mount though) and CCC caught up.

I think I’ll dig out my 2013 MBP and use my friend’s Time Machine drive and try to restore from that and set it up with his iCloud so it will sync. That might be the easiest thing.

Agh. It looks like my friend’s Time Machine drive went wonky.

  1. It won’t mount on his or my iPad.
  2. If I connect it to my MBP M1 2021 it causes it to constantly restart.
  3. I got my MBP 2013 all set up and working well with an account in his name. But when I connect his Time Machine drive to it, that MBP also starts constantly restarting.

Oh well.