How to Back Up and Restore your Music Library Album Artwork

Last updated on December 9th, 2018

If you’ve ever been a victim of the ‘Windows Media Player destroyed my high-resolution album artwork’ problem,  you know how frustrating it is to lose years of accumulated art covers. Though finding album artwork is now easier than ever, automated tools are still far from perfect. If you want to guarantee the preservation of your album covers for years to come, your best bet is to make redundant copies of them. Here’s how to back up and restore your music library album artwork using MediaMonkey.

What You’ll Need

MediaMonkey's arguably the best music collection manager out there. If you haven't, give it a try.
MediaMonkey’s arguably the best music collection manager out there. If you haven’t, give it a try.

To do this, we’ll use a pair of tools. The software is free so no need to worry about that. You might even be using it already if you’re an avid audiophile.

  • MediaMonkey for WindowsThis software is the best music library management software, bar none. If you have hundreds of hours of offline music and haven’t tried it yet, give it a chance – it’s just freakin’ awesome! Though a bit intimidating at the beginning, the features and customization options are absolutely worth it. I’ve been a fan of the program for over a decade now. In any case, it’s needed to pull off the music cover backup. Regrettably, MM doesn’t run on Mac yet as far as I’m aware, so you’ll need a PC.
  • Album Art Tagger plugin – This free MediaMonkey plugin is what we’ll use to delete, manage, backup or restore all the album art. In general, it’s super useful for managing your music cover art.

Nonetheless, if you prefer using different audio library management software, no worries. You can just download and run MediaMonkey as ‘Portable’ and do the backup that way. Afterwards you can delete it and keep using your software as normal.

Notes

Just to clarify, I’m running Windows 10. It’s probably irrelevant, but worth mentioning nonetheless. Also, my installation of MediaMonkey probably looks different from yours if you just installed it. That’s because I have the Eclipse skin active. It’s an older skin, still awesome and my favorite. Nonetheless, everything should apply regardless of minor changes in how the screenshots look. Or you could just install the skin I have if that makes things easier for you.

Another thing I might as well mention is that I’m using MediaMonkey Gold, the full-featured premium version of the program. It’s definitely worth it in my opinion, and I haven’t used the free version in years. I don’t think you need the premium version to do anything shown in this post – at least as far as I know – but just in case there is, now you know.

Finally, as a precaution, before making global changes to your music library (like restoring artwork as a test), back the whole thing up first. Accidents happen and you don’t want to do anything irreversible.

Backing Up your Album Cover Artwork

The process to back up your album covers will vary depending on your particular situation. Namely if you already use MediaMonkey and have your music library properly organized and tagged. For the sake of completeness, I’m going to go over the whole process and you can skip over any step that doesn’t apply.

Step 1 – Import your Music Library into MediaMonkey

If you’re already a MediaMonkey user, you can skip this step. If not, the first thing you’ll want to do is import your music library into MediaMonkey.

Click on ‘File > Add/Rescan files to the Library’ up at the top. Then, select the music folders you want to import. If you are continuously adding music to your collection and intend to keep using MediaMonkey, you can consider selecting the ‘Folder Monitoring’ options. But in any case it is not necessary – you can always scan manually instead if you want.

Once you’ve imported your music library into MediaMonkey, consider switching the ‘View’ to ‘Show Art with Details’. I find that view the most useful for reviewing, adding and editing artwork.

Step 2 – Review the Album Cover Artwork

Before backing up all the art, make sure everything’s correct. A few things you’ll want to review are:

  • The main album cover’s ‘Image type’ is set to ‘Cover (front)’ – This is normally the default. It’s not absolutely necessary though.
  • Verify that the album art is large enough to be worth backing up – Ideally over 1000px squared, as opposed to 300x300px or smaller.
  • Make sure Windows Media Player hasn’t screwed up the artwork – WMP has a horrible habit of replacing your high quality artwork with 200px thumbnails – without asking or telling you.
  • Check that your ‘Album’ and ‘Album Artist’ tags are correctly defined, and if necessary, combine them as needed – Over time, errors in your music library tend to creep in leading to duplicate albums. If that’s the case, now’s a good time to correct them.

NoteThis guide is based on embedded album artwork.I personally prefer to store my album art embedded in the track tags, as opposed to linked as ‘folder.jpg’. If you hover your mouse over the thumbnail in the ‘Edit Artwork Properties…’ window, it will tell you if the artwork is linked or embedded (alongside the image dimensions). If you have linked album covers, you can simply use ‘Album Art Tagger’ to embed the images first. Then you can follow along as normal.

Step 3 – Make sure each album has its own folder / Auto-Organize

It’s conventional good practice to keep every album in its own folder – as opposed to all your songs dumped into the same folder. Make sure each album is in a different folder – Each album (as defined per its album artist) has to have its own separate folder to avoid overwriting backed up album art.

MediaMonkey has a great feature to do this automatically. Select ‘Tools > Auto Organize Files…’ and set it up to your preferences. Personally I prefer to have one folder per artist (technically, album artist) with one folder for each of their albums. Regardless of how you choose to do it, the important thing is to not mix tracks from different albums in the same folder.

Keep in mind that Auto-Organize is an extremely powerful featureIt has the potential to irreversibly screw up your music library. However that’s only if you select the wrong settings. Before using it, always make a copy of your music folder to an external hard drive or USB flash drive. Just as a precaution.

Step 4 – Install the ‘Album Art Tagger’ plugin

Album Art Tagger is one of MediaMonkey's most useful plugins. We'll be using it to back up and restore the album artwork.
Album Art Tagger is one of MediaMonkey’s most useful plugins. We’ll be using it to back up and restore the album artwork.

I use the Album Art Tagger plugin for MediaMonkey to back up and restore my album art. If you already have it, great – you can skip this step. If not, download the file and install the plugin.

It’s an extremely versatile plugin that is useful for so much more than what’s shown in this how-to. You should check it out in detail after all this backup work is said and done.

Step 5 – Back up all your cover art

Back up the album art in MediaMonkey using Album Art Tagger

Now the moment we’ve all been waiting for. Back up all your music library’s album artwork. That way you’ll make sure it never gets lost. At least not permanently, anyway.

  1. Select the albums whose album art you wish to back up. Note – You can just select them all and unselect the option to overwrite any files that already exist.
  2. Click ‘Tools > Scripts > Album Art Tagger’
  3. Select the option ‘01. Extract artwork (copy from tag to mask)’
  4. Select the options shown in the screenshot above:
    • Path: <path>\AlbumArt_Backup
    • ‘Extract original image’
    • ‘.jpg’
    • ‘Suppress Unchanged’
    • ‘Any’ or ‘Front cover’ – ‘Any’ will back up the first image in the artwork list for each track (which is generally marked as ‘Front cover’ anyway). Selecting ‘Front cover’ will back up the first illustration specifically marked as ‘Front cover’.

I chose the name “AlbumArt_Backup” for all my backed up JPGs. If you prefer another name, select that instead. Also, by default only the front cover image is backed up. While you could backup all the other files, I personally didn’t deem it worthwhile, for better or worse.

After you hit ‘Go!’, MediaMonkey will create a full-size JPG copy of the album art named ‘AlbumArt_Backup.jpg’ (or whatever) in each album folder. This copy is solely for backup purposes and won’t be used for showing a track’s album art in any audio player. Ideally, when you sync your audio library to other devices you shouldn’t include the ‘AlbumArt_Backup.jpg’ files.

NoteRemember to periodically backup any artwork from new tracks or albums in your music library. You can just select all your tracks and run the same process shown here after unchecking the box to overwrite any existing files.

Checking the dimensions of the backed up artwork

A heads up. To check the dimensions of currently backed up album art, first open up File Explorer and go to your audio library folder. Next, search for ‘AlbumArt_Backup.jpg’ (or whatever you chose). Select the ‘View’ as ‘Detail’, and sort by ‘Dimensions’. If ‘Dimensions’ is not visible, right-click and click ‘More’ to find it in the list.

There you can scroll up and down to quickly see what image dimensions you’ve backed up. You can even sort it from low to high to identify the tracks with the smallest artwork in order to update them.

How to Restore the Album Cover Artwork

The process to restore your cover art depends on the reason why you have to restore it. Namely, if the tracks have no artwork at all or if they have the wrong artwork.

Restore missing artwork

WMP Album Cover Art Problem Fix w MediaMonkey - Restoring the album art

If for whatever reason your tracks are outright missing the artwork (like deleting it by mistake), the process is easy.

  1. Open MediaMonkey
  2. Go to ‘Music > Files to Edit > Unknown Artwork’ and select all the files.
  3. Now click ‘Tools > Scripts > Album Art Tagger’.
  4. Finally, run ‘02. Embed artwork (copy from mask to tag)’ selecting the options shown in the screenshot above (the appropriate path, Embed in tag, Add tags at the beginning, Suppress unchanged, front cover).
  5. Hit ‘Go!’ and before clicking ‘Ok’ review the confirmation screen make sure that everything makes sense.

This will assign the missing or changed artwork from the backup to the tracks. Be careful, as it might overwrite any “better” artwork if both the backup and track artwork already exist. You only have to worry about that if you updated the artwork after backing it up, though. If the back up and the embedded image are the same, the tool should leave it alone.

Restore artwork that WMP has overwritten

If on the other hand you have to restore artwork because Windows Media Player overwrote it, then the process differs slightly. First we’ll have to remove the downgraded album cover art.

  1. First, open MediaMonkey and select all of the tracks you suspect are affected.
  2. Then click ‘Tools > Scripts > Album Art Tagger’.
  3. Choose ’06. Remove artwork not matching size’ with the settings ‘Less than’,’201×201′ and ‘Delete image files. This should delete all the 200x200px image files WMP created.
  4. Hit ‘Go!’ and review the confirmation screen before proceeding.
  5. Once the small album art is gone, go to ‘Music > Files to Edit > Unknown Artwork’ and select all the files.
  6. Finally, run ‘02. Embed artwork (copy from mask to tag)’ selecting the options shown in the screenshot above (Embed in tag, add tags at the beginning, Suppress unchanged, front cover). Once everything is set up hit ‘Go!’ and before clicking ‘Ok’, review the confirmation screen.

With that we’ll have deleted all the tiny album covers and replaced them with the backup album art.

Restore artwork that WMP has overwritten – Method II

You can also fix the album covers WMP created by deleting them directly in the file explorer. But only if you’ve already set all those .jpg files to visible – by default they’re hidden as system files.

  1. Navigate to the folder where your audio library is.
  2. Do a search and delete the messed up album art JPGs and their associated ‘desktop.ini’. You might wanna delete any .log files while you’re at it. You’ll recognize the files that WMP created by their file names. It will be something such as ‘AlbumArt_{C5001601-512E-4722-7741-A520F174F408}_Large’ or ‘AlbumArtSmall.jpg’. There may be more than one ‘*.jpg’ file depending on the dimensions of the image or how many there are.
  3. Open MediaMonkey, select all tracks (Ctrl+A).
  4. Click ‘Tools > Scripts > Album Art Tagger’.
  5. Run ‘07. Remove artwork which is invalid’.
  6. Then navigate to ‘Music > Files to Edit > Unknown Artwork’ and select all the files.
  7. To restore and re-embed the backed-up images to the tracks, run ‘02. Embed artwork (copy from mask to tag)’ selecting the options shown in the screenshot above (the appropriate path, Embed in tag, Add tags at the beginning, Suppress unchanged, Front cover). After reviewing the confirmation screen one last time, click ‘Ok’ to make the change.

In short, delete all the auto-linked album art, delete the links from the tracks, and then reassign the missing artwork.

Some tips if you still have missing cover artTips & Tricks for Assigning Album Cover Art to your Music Library - Title

Searching for and setting album art can get messy when you’re doing it for dozens of albums at a time. If you want some tips and tricks, as well as what type of images you should look for, here’s a great post for that:

Tips & Best Practices for your Music Library Cover Art

If you’re goal is 100% tagged album covers, definitely give it a look. It’s a pretty thorough perspective on what’s normally an obscure topic.

The Takeaway

Backing up (and learning how to restore) your album art might not be the sexiest thing you've done today, but it's worth the effort.
Backing up (and learning how to restore) your album art might not be the sexiest thing you’ve done today, but it’s worth the effort.

Hopefully you’ll never need to restore your music library album artwork with a backup. But if you’ve spent decades accumulating and tagging tracks, you’ll probably sleep better at night knowing there’s a contingency plan. I know I do. And if you tried and liked MediaMonkey, I’m definitely glad. It really is one useful tool that I hope keeps gaining popularity.

Anyway, thanks for reading! If you found this interesting, check out the homepage for other oddball projects.

Got any tips, suggestions or questions? Leave a comment below.