Having trouble joining cd tracks in iTunes? Try this.

For the last few months, I’ve had trouble joining cd tracks before importing a cd into iTunes. I do very little book-reading these days, so instead I listen to audiobooks. I’ve enjoyed being an audible customer, but in an effort to cut down on expenses, I have since re-discovered the public library. The Phoenix Public Library in particular does a great job of getting in new audiobooks or books on cd. However, books on cd are annoying split into dozens of tracks per disc – well, annoying only if you’re going to listen to them on an ipod as opposed to a cd player. The key is to select all of those cd tracks, head up to the Advanced menu in iTunes and select “Join CD Tracks.” Voila, all of the tracks are ready to be imported as one. That simplifies playback significantly, as now you only need to manage a few tracks (equal to the number of cds the book required), which is a helluva lot easier than managing hundreds of individual tracks (some of which are seriously short – like less than :10 short).

This has worked quite well for me for, well, years. At least until last month, when the “Join CD Tracks” command was dimmed. I tried everything I could think of: different discs, restarting iTunes, reinstalling iTunes, searching the Apple help and support files, even calling AppleCare. No luck – I couldn’t figure out what was wrong.

I was following the instructions and the only caveat seemed to be that you had to select contiguous tracks. I wondered if there was some sort of new anti-piracy inclusions that were preventing me from copying the files – nope, iTunes would still let me copy the tracks, it just wouldn’t let me join them first.

And then I managed to stumble on the answer. The key is that the files must sorted properly for the “Join CD Tracks” menu item to be available. This seems weird, and certainly didn’t seem like a problem – the track numbers were in order from 1 to 99. But since this was a book on cd, it was not in the track name database. iTunes was simply giving the tracks a temporary number in what appeared to be the proper order, while in reality it was sorting by a different column. This is really difficult to spot unless you put in a music disc that’s in the name database and you notice the track order is different.

The solution here is to sort by filename until the “Join CD Tracks” command is active again. That usually involves two or three clicks on the first column. You should find that this solves the problem.

28 thoughts on “Having trouble joining cd tracks in iTunes? Try this.”

  1. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! I was having the same problem with my audio books. Like you, it was a recent “Problem”. I was making playlist for my audiobooks just to manage them in my IPod.
    My I also suggest to you to look at OnTheGoBooks for audiobooks.

  2. Help!! Exactly the same thing happened to me just this week. I love to listen to books, have a fabulous local library and an iPod that has become an appendage to my ear. Had not actually imported a book for a few weeks; yesterday I tried but found the same problem you had when iTunes refused to join my tracks. Thought it was a problem w/just that one book, but no indeed, a new book is doing the same thing. So I can relate (also I noticed that my iTunes is now updated to 8.02–could that be a contributing factor?), BUT I don’t understand what you did to fix it. I have tried clicking on that first column that lists the tracks; I clicked and clicked but “join tracks” is still dark. I have many books on my iPod but eventually I will need more and I feel frantic. What do you mean “sort by filename?” If it means to click on the column, it is not working for me.
    Ellaine, did you get on the gobooks? I saw something about that today on the web today. I have been using Doug’s Applescripts to get my books into the iPod audiobooks file. It works great but not if I can’t join the tracks. Thanks. Marcia

    1. I’m on the road and don’t have a CD to insert to double-check, but what I mean by sort by column is to click on the blank column header “cell” that is just to the left of the name column header and above the numbers. Email me if you still have problems.

      1. Thank you SO much. While I was importing an audiobook, this only happened on some of the CD’s. I would NEVER have figured this out by myself. You are a wizard!!

  3. Thank-you Thank-you!!!! I was in the middle of importing a book when this happened to me. I thought I would never solve this issue. You have made my audiobook listening a joy again!!

  4. Glad I could help so many – I had a helluva time finding this easy answer on my own, and the AppleCare folks didn’t know how to fix it, so I’m glad I actually posted about it.

    And no worries, Jeani, I don’t share any personal info. ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. Also if you rename the files in explorer(win) or finder(mac) from .m4a file extension to .m4b you can have book marking(you can change the track and it will pick up where you left off when you come back to listen) This is really helpful with long audio books if you cant finish them.

  6. Also if you rename the files in explorer(win) or finder(mac) from .m4a file extension to .m4b you can have book marking(you can change the track and it will pick up where you left off when you come back to listen) This is really helpful with long audio books if you cant finish them. I haven’t figured out how to get the files in to my audio books section of itunes so they don’t come up in my music playlists.

  7. Jacob, I think you can also do that within iTunes. Select a track, right click on it, and go to Get Info. Under the Options tab, you can “remember playback position” which will start up the track where you left off – perfect for audiobooks or podcasts – and you also select “skip when shuffling” on that same screen. To move the audiobook files out of your music library and into the audiobooks library, change the media type dropdown to audiobook. On this same screen you can also set the equilizer option to spoken word and “part of a gapless album,” along with increase the track volume…also useful for audiobooks. Hope that helps!

  8. Thankyou! This worked for me, it seems when the cd is read in, Apple reads the names of the cd, but then does not recognize it put the tracks in order, so just clicking the first column seems to reassure itunes they are in order and can be joined!

  9. Just wanted to say thanks. I have never had this happen. Oddly the system recognized the first CD (knew the book title, the tracks, etc.) but didn’t recognize the next CD at all. I was getting very annoyed until I came upon your solution. Thank you for helping a fellow audiobook listener get her fix on her iPod (and get all these CDs back to the library before they are overdue).

    1. Thanks Rebecca! I’m glad to help – I was very frustrated at not being able to get it to work, so I know how you felt. And yes, some cds seem to work fine and others don’t – even from the same book. Annoying. Oh well, that’s what you get from the library.

  10. your advise for joining tracks seems not to be working for me, I have a classic ipod, & not having any problems, my wife has the nano using the same cd’s the nano refuses to join tracks, going crazy….hope your not tired of answering the same questions. Thanks

    1. Sorry it’s not working for you Gene. Keep in mind that you’re joining tracks in iTunes, so it doesn’t matter what device you end up connecting to it. Can you walk through the problem your wife is having in more detail?

  11. Scott thanks for your very prompt reply. We are separate users on the pc, I have no problem on my side w/the classic. On her side Im unable to join the tracts, Ive tried matching my settings to my wifes & still no luck, however it will do all the tracks singular. Any ideas…Thanks once again

  12. @Gene –

    When you say two users, what exactly do you mean? You both use the same iTunes library, or you both have separate windows logins with different iTunes libraries?

  13. Scott: We have individual window logins, and separate iTunes Libraries. I used the same CD’s, dont know what else i can add?

  14. @Gene

    Wow, that does seem pretty weird. You should try calling Apple Support. Obviously a quick workaround is to export the working file after its been copied and then import it into the other library. In fact, that’s probably significantly quicker of a process than re-importing the CDs anyway. Good luck.

  15. I just had the same problem (after many months of joining tracks problem-free),did a search and tried your suggestion and…wow, it works! So here’s another thank you.

    I noticed that, for no particular reason, when importing cds the tracks are in jumbled order (whereas they used to be sequential)…but that is another problem (along with the fact that my burner can never complete the burning process for the last five seconds of the last track…but only if it is chock-filled, for it won’t have a problem if it is only a thirty-minute cd)…oh, well, TWO other problems!

    But thanks for solving this one. I too have been mining the public libraries for audiobooks (in Vic), but for those with an insatiable appetite for audiobooks who want a FREE alternative to audible, there is librivox, which is volunteer-based and has thousands of audiobooks (fiction and non-fiction). It is free because they only do books for which the copyright no longer applies. Hence if any of you guys are into classic 19th. Century Lit. it is the place to go!

  16. Thank you so much! I was about to backup my libray and uninstall and reinstall iTunes. But thanks to your posting, no need to do it now.

  17. Thanks, Scott! I, too, had the same problem with suddenly not being able to join tracks when importing books on CD. Your simple trick worked perfectly. I hope the AppleCare staff has read your post! And, as a librarian, I want to put in a good word for libraries, where you can not only find a large selection of books on CD but also download digital audio books from their websites directly to your mobile device.

  18. Help! this still doesn’t work. I have 32 tracks (originally fits on one CD) That I need to combine. I tried sorting by the number several times. An ideas? I have it in a play list and the files are sitting on my hard drive.

    This is extremely urgent please help!

    1. Wish I could help you. Obviously if you still have the CD, you can make sure to combine them from the start. Otherwise, I did see some software options when I searched before, but I found the solution I posted about before resorting to downloading any apps. Good luck!

  19. ITunes is really screwing things up for reasons unknown. I’ve been trying everything folks are saying worked for then with no success. The CD’s I make is from tracks I purchase and I have to join them in order to put them a podcast. Things use to be simple now some bored nerd has to go and screw things up for everyone…Some things are well left alone… If they is any other software tool out there that can join tracks please let me know. Definitely considering leaving iTunes alone….greed in the name of anti-piracy is also shameful.

  20. So glad this post was still available. Frustration was building when I could not “join tracks” as I had been doing…especially when it started on disc 7 of 9! With your suggestion tracks can now be joined and books are once again going to my iPod for listening on long drives. Thanks for the information that could not be found on iTunes. This would not have been such an issue if my new car had a CD player which is no longer part of an audio package option.

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