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I have spent far too much time recently messing with my Groove collection.

Disclaimer: Ordinarily I use Mondays to post something in my Writing Journal.  Readers who are expecting some kind of update on my latest novel are going to be disappointed today since I'm going to spend an inordinate amount of time talking about MP3 software instead.  I'm neither an IT expert nor a Microsoft representative, so new visitors who stumbled here and have questions may be better served to direct them to the source; despite the detail I get into here, I'm not going to pretend to know what I'm talking about.  For everybody else who wanted a weekly dose of my neuroses, I can only apologize and say that I'll get back on topic next week.

Although, this is related to music, which I listen to while writing... so that counts, right?



I was really psyched when I upgraded the first of my three PCs to Windows 10.  (I have a tower hooked up to our TV as a media station, one laptop that I take with me to my day job to do all the stuff that can't be done effectively on Macs, and another laptop that I use for all my other general PC needs.)  The upgrade was swift, smooth, and by far the easiest transition to a new operating system I've ever had - including changes between versions of the Mac OS X at work.

Overall, I think it's a great platform.  I'm not sure what popular opinion is on the topic, but I'm really digging it - things move faster, everything responds the way I want it to, and the overall feel and experience is really wonderful.  I also love the way it syncs / communicates with all the software I use.


The only downside so far is Groove.  I've only just figured it out (sorta) after almost three weeks of screwing around.

It's important that I do.  I hate to admit it, but I'm kind of a Microsoft fanboy to some extent - or at least a Zune fanboy.  A long time ago, I lamented the death of my Zune, which was my biggest writing buddy for years.  I had my music pumping for many hours a day - sometimes quite literally all day.  I can honestly say that, not counting the computer(s) that I was physically using to write, my Zune was the most important piece of technology that I used on a day-to-day basis.

So when it suffered a hard drive failure and had to be cast aside, I finally decided to make the transition to a phone-based solution.  Fortunately, that was around the time when two very important things happened: one was that SanDisk released a high capacity micro SD card with 128 GB of memory (which my family was generous enough to gift to me for Christmas), and the other was that Windows Phone came to Virgin Mobile with a huge discount (which allowed me to buy one even though I've been under a major financial strain with Lulabelle's medical bills).

The result was that, for very little money, I was upgraded to a pretty amazing replacement for the Zune.  The Windows Phone has an Xbox Music app that allows me to keep using my Music Pass, and the high capacity SD card allows me to actually keep my whole collection on my phone.  Boom - new Zune.  But a better one, because now even if my phone dies, all I need to do is keep the SD card and I can turn any phone capable of supporting HCSDs and Xbox Music into a Zune equivalent.  And since more and more phones - even outside of Windows Phones - are supporting the software, it means I have more flexibility than ever before.

This was all good and well until Microsoft decided to introduce Groove, which took what had, up to that point, been a largely functional process to sync my collection between devices and basically introduced a shitload of technical errors.  (To be fair, Groove has been a huge step up from the original Xbox Music, but they've still got a long way to go.)

20,000 songs leaves a lot of room for error.
After upgrading to Windows 10, I found that my library was filled with hundreds of duplicate songs and sync errors, my older Zune Music Pass subscription music wasn't syncing or loading properly, and my new Groove Music Pass subscription music wasn't downloading where I wanted it to.  The upshot of this is that I spent the last two weeks or so basically just screwing around with my music collection - retagging, resyncing, and doing the best I can to make an 80 GB collection usable.

I've basically figured it out now, but at the expense of both Movies and Minutes of writing.  So today's post is kind of an elaborate way of me saying, "Sorry guys, no relevant updates today."

Anyway, I figure I'm not the only one with a Groove Music Pass and a massive collection who enjoys offline listening across multiple devices who ran into issues, and I know from my own futile attempts to Google my way out of it that it's annoying when you do a search for your problem online and you basically just see a bunch of people saying "This isn't working for me, either."  So, I figured I'd share some of my fixes for anybody else who may be in the same boat.  I'm going to list them by an approximate subject line that might show up in a search result and I'm going to write in excruciating detail just to be sure I'm not missing anything.  Hope this helps somebody and doesn't just make me look like a crazy person.

(If you're not currently / soon to be a Groove user, then you might as well stop here.  No jokes ahead, guys.  This is just going to be really dry and long-winded.)

You get an error message that says, "Groove cannot download because there are no folders in your collection that are not cloud-based" (e.g., OneDrive).

For context, the situation is this: you want to host all of your music in your OneDrive Music folder, including temporary content from your Music Pass.  There's various reasons why you might want to do this even though technically that music is already on the cloud.  Unfortunately, if you try to set your download folder on the OneDrive, your subscription music will not download.

Groove simply won't allow it.  It just won't.  Your OneDrive cannot be used for your subscription music.  I think Microsoft just doesn't want to give up that much server space when the music is already cloud-based - especially since they've already had issues with users exploiting their OneDrive allowances.  It's not a major problem, but it does seem like kind of an arbitrary roadblock.

The best thing you can do is a workaround on each device that you plan to use to listen to music.  On your desktop, that means you'll have to create a folder somewhere outside of your OneDrive.  Call it "Music Pass" and put it on your C: drive, and then tell Groove to monitor that folder.  The software is smart enough that it'll put your music there.  It's annoying if you're OCD about your music like me and you want everything in one folder, but at least it's a simple solution.

Groove / OneDrive will not properly sync subscription music you downloaded through Zune.

Yeah... I don't have a good answer for you on this one.  Groove kinda hates the old Zune stuff.

To be clear, I'm referring to the music that you specifically got through the Zune app, not the Groove or Xbox Music app.  Zune used to download all your "borrowed" music to a "Subscription" folder on your hard drive - and sometimes in miscellaneous other folders, too.  It was fine at the time, but I guess Microsoft had to make some significant changes to the infrastructure for their music services, so anything you got through Zune is not going to automatically be linked to your account.  Worse: it doesn't really register properly on your OneDrive.  Not for true synchronicity, anyway.

So how do you fix it?  You don't.  You just delete all your old Zune subscription stuff and re-download through the Groove interface.

It sucks, I know.  I had 16 GB of Zune subscription music and I had to erase it all because none of it was working the way I wanted.  This is probably my biggest gripe about the transition to Groove / OneDrive, but I guess the "good" news is that I'm one of the few that really would have this problem. Most people who are going to be signing up now wouldn't have had Zune music on their hard drive for the last 5-6 years.

You can't edit album art / MP3 information.

That's because Groove is a player only, and not an organizer.  Groove has literally zero MP3 tagging capabilities.  If your music is not already tagged the way you want it, you'll have to use a different program.  Windows Media Player has a Library View that you can use, but if you prefer something faster and more lightweight, there's a ton of free options out there.  I recommend MediaMonkey.

Groove deletes your OneDrive music when trying to remove duplicates.

and/or

Groove does not actually register that music in your OneDrive folder is actually on your OneDrive.

For me, this was the most tedious part of getting Groove and OneDrive to work.  It's hard to describe exactly what I'm talking about briefly, but here are some symptoms of the problem:

1) You see duplicates of some of your songs.  Some of these will have the "Streaming" icon next to them and others don't.

2) If you right-click on the duplicate version of the song that does not have the "Streaming" icon, it will show on the path that it is in your OneDrive folder, but the "Streaming Status" will tell you, "If you want to listen to this on other devices, add this to your OneDrive."

Here's a contradiction for you.  Also, here's a sighting of one of my pseudonyms that never took off.
3) If you try to delete the Streaming version of the song - not your local version - Groove will move the local version to your Recycling Bin. If you then try to play the local version, Groove will return an error and tell you the song is not available.  (Duh... because you just deleted it, Groove.)

4) If you try to access the album through the web player interface, you'll also see duplicates - but only one of the songs will show the "OneDrive" tag on it. If you delete the non-OneDrive version on the web player and then boot up Groove, you will find that Groove once again deletes your local copy and sends it to the Recycling Bin.

5) If you open your Recycling Bin and choose the "Restore" function for your music, it will show up in your collection as a duplicate again.

I don't know the actual technical reason this happens, but what you're seeing here is some kind of sync error.  It seems to mostly affect stuff you may have bought through your Music Pass, but honestly, it can affect any album.  (My collection had about 200 albums affected by this, and only a quarter of them were ones that I bought through Microsoft.)

Basically, what happens is that Groove never actually registers that a song is actually on your OneDrive even though it will register that it's available for streaming - go figure.  How it manages to think two contradictory things at once, I have no idea.  But it results in duplicate songs and breaks the core reason to have a OneDrive in the first place, so it's a pain.

To their credit, Microsoft did program a feature to remove duplicates... but it's kinda buggy.  It only sorta works.  Unfortunately, I don't "sorta" want a cloud-based system for my music.  I want it to work.  And if that's what you want, too, then you're going to have to roll up your sleeves and do some manual cleanup.  Sigh...

Here's how I got it to work, in probably too much detail:

1) First, make sure your OneDrive status if currently "up to date" and then just let your local version of Groove run for awhile.  It will try to automatically fix any sync issues as best as it can, so you want to give it a try and let it do what it can.  It may actually resolve a lot of things on its own - but it will take a long time to process.  Especially if you have a huge collection.  I'm talking about hours.  Just walk away.  Go watch Seven Samurai.  Twice.  Maybe three times.  I'm not kidding about this.  Groove is trying its hardest to fix your sync issues, but it needs tons of time.

2) When you've either given it enough time to process or you're tired of waiting, come back and use the filter view on your Collection to see which of your songs are listed as "Streaming" and which are listed as "Only on this device."  These two sorting options will be a quick way to check if there's a sync issue.  Below is a screenshot of where you can switch between the views:


"Streaming" means that the song is (supposedly) on your OneDrive or linked to your account, but not stored on your local machine.  "Only on this device" means that the file is not associated with your OneDrive account and is not available for playback on other devices.  Practically speaking, these are opposites - so if a song appears in both categories, then it means something went wrong.

3) Make a note of all the songs / albums (or a reasonable batch of songs / albums) that have a sync error.  I used screen captures for this.

4) Exit Groove.  Open File Explorer and navigate to your OneDrive music folder.  Referring to your notes, pull any songs / albums affected by the sync error out of your OneDrive and save somewhere else you can work with them.

5) Wait for your OneDrive to notice the changes in your library and process them.  It shouldn't take long.

6) Restart Groove and go into both the "Streaming" and "Only on this device" screens and delete the affected songs / albums.  What you're trying to do here is force Groove to remove these from its library.  In theory it should remove them automatically if you give it time since they were already removed from OneDrive, but the reason you're doing this manually is because you don't trust Groove, so... delete them.  You may want to also go into the "All" view and make sure that the song / album does not appear.

7) Exit Groove again.  Check again to make sure your OneDrive is up to date.  (Just hover over the OneDrive icon on the system tray and it should say "up to date.")


8) At this point, Groove and OneDrive should have processed the changes enough to realize that you no longer "own" that song.  It should be completely gone from your collection.  If you aren't sure, you can open the Groove Web Player to check.

9) Re-add your files to your OneDrive folder and do not open Groove.  I repeat: do not open Groove.  Groove can get confused if you're too eager; just let OneDrive re-sync.

10) After OneDrive says its status is "up to date" again, open Groove.  Now let Groove refresh the library.  It should show that it is adding songs and you may have to wait 15-20 minutes for it to process - or longer, depending on how many songs you're trying to re-sync.

11) When you think it may be fixed, check the "Streaming" and "Only on this device" screens.  If it synced to your OneDrive properly, then you should not see the song listed in either of those categories.

12) Before you pat yourself on the back... open your Recyling Bin.  Make sure Groove didn't delete anything.  If it did, pull it out of the Recyling Bin and put it in a separate folder, then reintegrate it into your collection one song/album at a time.  (Do not choose the "Restore" option.  For some reason, OneDrive gets totally confused when you restore deleted files to it directly - you have to drag to a different folder first, and then put it on your OneDrive.)

13) If you noticed that any songs or albums appear in either the "Streaming" collection or the "Only on this device" collection, then you'll have to do the hardest thing of all:

Wait.

Sometimes it just takes awhile to register that there's not actually a problem.  (Remember Step 1?)  I eventually resynced my music to a point where everything was fine except for about 15 songs, which just refused to sync properly.  And I tried going through the process above multiple times - one of them, Meat Loaf's "Bat Out of Hell," went through this a good 8-9 times before I finally just walked away.  Lo and behold, Groove figured it out on its own after I just let it run for about two hours.

If you can't wait and you do decide to repeat the process over again, just make sure you remember that you always want to keep Groove closed when you are adding files to your OneDrive, and you only open Groove after OneDrive says it's up to date.  If you try doing both at the same time, you're likely to have the same errors.

The good news is that once you finally have it synced, you shouldn't have to do this again for that song.  Once it's actually registered as being on your OneDrive collection, it's golden.  It will then sync to other devices smoothly. (Or at least, it did for me.)

Pretend that I'm another version of you that has a Music Pass and a large music collection.  I want to set up a cloud-based backup with OneDrive so that I can sync my music and listen to everything offline, but I haven't made the leap to Groove yet.  Walk me through a detailed process of what you recommend so I get the least amount of frustrated.

Wow, you're in the exact same position as me?  Cool.  'Sup, offline buddy?

Here's what I would do if I could start over again:

1) Make sure you have an external backup of your music collection before you start.  (This is just a good rule of thumb in general, even with a cloud-based backup.)

2) If time permits, make sure all your MP3s are properly tagged and have album art before you attempt any import.

3) If you have an older "Subscription" folder for music you downloaded through the Zune interface years ago, take a screenshot of all the artists / albums, then delete the entire thing.

4) If you have any Groove Music Pass music on your local drive already, go ahead and delete that, too.  Your account will still keep it linked to your collection, so don't worry about having to tell Groove to add it to your collection - it should download automatically as long as you want it to be stored locally.  (Or, if you don't want offline playing, just don't worry about it.)

5) Create a folder on your C: drive labeled "Music Pass."  Do not put anything in it.

6) Create your OneDrive account.

7) Open Groove and tell it to monitor your OneDrive Music folder and your C:/Music Pass folders for music.

8) Turn on the following settings:


You don't have to have both automatic download options turned on if you aren't interested in offline playback, but turn off the "Media Info" and turn on the "OneDrive" options.  This way Groove doesn't mess up your carefully organized data, but it will attempt to resolve duplicates when it can.

9) Wait a little while to see if Groove auto-imports anything.  If you've ever added music to your collection from the Groove catalog (specifically Groove or Xbox Music, not Zune), it should auto-detect this based on your Music Pass account and start auto-downloading to your Music Pass folder.  Let it run until it seems like it's no longer working.  (Hard to tell because there's no status indicator, but an hour should be long enough unless you've got a ton of Music Pass music.)

10) Close Groove.

11) In small batches, move your primary music collection - that is, your non-subscription music - into your OneDrive folder.  I recommend you do this in chunks of only about 2-3 GB at a time.  Yes, it's tedious.

12) Give your computer and OneDrive enough time to finish syncing to the cloud.  Make sure you check the little icon in the corner for the "OneDrive - Up to date" message.

13) Only after OneDrive has synced should you open Groove again to let it import into your local library.  You'll have to give it time to scan all tracks and check to make sure they're on your OneDrive.  If you open Groove while OneDrive is still syncing, you run the risk of getting into that weird sync error situation I mentioned above.

14) Once it looks like Groove has finished refreshing, check the "Streaming" and "Only on this device" options on your library to see if there's any albums on your OneDrive that didn't connect properly.  (Note that if you don't want your Music Pass music stored locally, it will appear in the "Streaming" section.  However, if you want everything available for offline playing and you want all of your non-subscription music to be stored on your OneDrive, then you should have zero songs in both the "Streaming" and "Only on this device" screens.)

15) If any songs appear in either of the screens from Step 14, then you'll need to manually delete from your library and re-add through the process I described earlier.

16) After you finish getting your entire library added to OneDrive and it's clear that it's all synced up properly, turn on / activate Groove or Xbox Music on your other devices, and you should finally have a properly synced collection that is legitimately backed up on the cloud.

Special note to users trying to sync on your phone... it takes forever.  As in days.  Or at least, it did for me. I guess it depends on how much music is in your OneDrive.

Why even bother at this point?  Everything you've written so far sounds like a major pain in the ass.

Oh, it is.  Definitely.

I'll be the first to say that Groove's execution left a lot to be desired.  The syncing was slow, I hate that you can't tag / edit artist information directly in the software, and I'm annoyed that something that should have been automated ended up being so hands-on.

But let me tell you... when it's working, it's amazing.  Groove is one of the fastest music players I've ever used and it has a sleek, beautiful interface.  And the OneDrive functionality is amazing - being able to access my full music collection on virtually any device is incredible.

And Microsoft has a secret weapon here that really makes all the difference: the Groove Web Player.


I used Google Music for a long time and found it to be an okay experience, but not terrific.  It took forever to load, stuttered, and had a clumsy interface.  But the Groove Web Player is a totally streamlined, fast, and reliable experience.  There have been times when I started listening to my music on the Web Player just to test it out, and then I found the interface so intuitive and enjoyable that I actually forgot I was in a browser.  The fact that I can pull up the Web Player on any desktop or laptop means that I'm never going to be apart from my music - including all of my Music Pass music - and that is invaluable.

It actually is a pretty great system once you get it working.  And for that reason, I do think all the tedium is worth it.  Just make sure you have the time and patience to get that far.

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