Schedule iTunes Downloads

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Next, start iTunes. If iTunes doesn’t ask you for your iTunes Store login right away, click Store > Check for Available Downloads on the top menu bar. Enter your Apple ID and password, then click the “Check” button. Open the Downloads window by pressing the download arrow icon on the top right of the main iTunes window. Click the “Pause All” button. At this point, you can close the main iTunes window, but leave the Downloads window open. Make sure nothing is obscuring the Downloads window.

Make sure that your Energy Saver settings will not turn off your monitor until the Automator Calendar event has had a chance to run. In testing, the downloads did not resume if the monitor was off. You can adjust this setting by going to System Preferences > Energy Saver. Once the process has started, turning off the monitor will not stop downloads. Unfortunately, if your Mac is in your bedroom, this can be annoying and may wake you up.

You can now put your Mac to sleep. If everything is set up properly, your Mac will wake up at the designated time and the Automator event will trigger iTunes to download. You can re-use the same Calendar event. Simply change the date and time. Make sure to adjust the wake scheduler on your Mac. You will probably also want to turn off the scheduled wake when you’re not planning a scheduled download.

Many people can just start their iTunes downloads before they go to sleep, and it will work fine. There are situations, particularly in large households, where a night owl needs to use the Internet connection, and many people are competing to use it during the day or evening. Scheduling iTunes downloads for off-peak hours will ease demand for Internet access in a large household.

I will be writing more how-to articles featuring the Automator in the near future. Follow me on Twitter, G+ or Tumblr for updates. You can also subscribe to email updates below.

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33 comments

    1. I wrote this up using Mountain Lion, so it uses the most recent version of the Automator. What didn’t work? I tested this many times and it works for me. Perhaps I didn’t explain a step clearly. If that’s the case, I’ll update the article to clear up any ambiguities.

  1. It all worked except for the event appearing in Ical – I tried to set up an event but the saved file did not run!

    1. I tried it again and it worked, however, the calendar event it creates needs to have the date and time adjusted.

        1. I was experiencing some glitchiness around this. I would open an “iCal event” in Automator, but when saving it would instead be a “workflow”. Don’t really understand it, but somehow if I got the steps set up in the Automator window, then create a NEW “iCal event” and copy/paste them into that one, it would save as iCal and the event would pop up on my calendar. Goofy. If you have a better way of dealing with it, let me know!

          1. That is weird. When I save the calendar event, it saves it to the calendar, not as a workflow.

            Thanks for posting this workaround. It may be helpful for other users facing the same issue.

          2. So it doesn’t show up at all? What version of OS X are you using? (You can click on the Apple icon on the top menu bar and select “About This Mac” to find the OS X version).

            Hmm… Make sure the calendar event is saved with a descriptive name. Calendar should launch and show the event once the Automator task is saved.

  2. Great article – I was trying to use starting iTunes as a login startup, but of course it then sat there with a password request!
    Many thanks

    1. I know. I had to go back to the drawing board a few times to figure out a way to do this. This was the hardest article to write! The solution isn’t pretty, but it works. I understand why they force authentication. They don’t want someone else to make iTunes purchases. That said, they could at least let your downloads start without logging into iTunes. Then, all you’d have to do is startup with iTunes or leave iTunes up and schedule your Mac to wake up. Really, iTunes should have the ability to schedule downloads. Perhaps they’ll do that with PowerNap and let it run on desktop Macs too.

      If you like the article, feel free to share it!

  3. great stuff. thanks! i wish there was a way to use automator to override power saver settings too. my nighttime downloads will take more than 3 hours so i have to set my screen saver and sleep mode to “never.” not a huge deal but it would be nice for automator to allow for that. apple, excuse me! i have a request.

    1. I think it is possible to create an Automator routine to change energy saving settings. You can use the same technique — recording the mouse actions and incorporate them into the download scheduling steps. I’m not 100% sure if this will work. Unfortunately, changing energy settings is not one of the included script actions in the library. It would be great if Apple added that functionality to Automator.

      Glad to hear you like the how-to guide!

    1. Just checking — did you change the date and time on the calendar event? By default, the date and time are the same as when it was created. It won’t run unless you change that.

    1. Try setting the calendar event to a few minute into the future. Then follow the steps to get everything ready, but don’t put your machine to sleep. When the event fires off, you’ll be able to see what happens. Let me know how it goes…

    1. Weird. Let me see if I can think of anything else. Maybe try redoing the Automator script. Perhaps something went wrong with recording the steps…

  4. Same result. Do I possibly have a setting wrong in Automator? It will open Automator but does not seem to run the workflow itself. Any suggestions?

    1. Does it run if you try playing back the steps in Automator (as opposed to waiting for the Calendar event to fire)? The only thing I can think of is perhaps some permissions issue. Do you log in as administrator or another user?

  5. Using automator:
    In system preferences, after putting the calendar event in iCal, in Security & Privacy/Accessibility, check the automator file that is in the box (it should be the last one)

    Your ical alert should be a banner, that goes away, not an alert as that will block the path to the downloads button. Delay the step so that it is gone before the pointer gets there.

    This is what I have:
    — Click “iTunes” in the Dock.
    delay 2.839700
    set timeoutSeconds to 1.000000
    set uiScript to “click UI Element \”iTunes\” of list 1 of application process \”Dock\””
    my doWithTimeout( uiScript, timeoutSeconds )

    — Click the “” button.
    delay 4.085038
    set timeoutSeconds to 2.000000
    set uiScript to “click UI Element 10 of window \”iTunes\” of application process \”iTunes\””
    my doWithTimeout( uiScript, timeoutSeconds )

    — Bring the window “Downloads” to the front.
    delay 2.251765
    set timeoutSeconds to 2.000000
    set uiScript to “click window \”Downloads\” of application process \”iTunes\””
    my doWithTimeout( uiScript, timeoutSeconds )

    — Click the “Resume All” button.
    delay 1.079834
    set timeoutSeconds to 2.000000
    set uiScript to “click UI Element \”Resume All\” of window \”Downloads\” of application process \”iTunes\””
    my doWithTimeout( uiScript, timeoutSeconds )

    on doWithTimeout(uiScript, timeoutSeconds)
    set endDate to (current date) + timeoutSeconds
    repeat
    try
    run script “tell application \”System Events\”
    ” & uiScript & ”
    end tell”
    exit repeat
    on error errorMessage
    if ((current date) > endDate) then
    error “Can not ” & uiScript
    end if
    end try
    end repeat
    end doWithTimeout

    It doesn’t look that complicated. I just recorded doing it.

    1. Thanks for this comment. Is this so it will work with older versions of OS X? I wrote this using Mountain Lion and checked it again with Mavericks. There isn’t a Security & Privacy/Accessibility panel in Settings on these versions of OS X. Also, alerts show up in Notification Center. So I am assuming this is for backward compatibility. Thanks again for posting this. This is probably why some users are having problems. I will update the article when I have a chance.

  6. Hi,
    I read your article with great interest as I live in southern France and have internet by satellite.
    I tried setting up the automator as you described in you article and everything worked fine except the download didn’t start.
    My Mac woke up midnight (asking for login) and calendar event appeared in top right hand corner, however downloading did not start.
    What am I doing wrong?
    I also get an error warning (non-specified) from automator when saving created calendar event.
    I’m using OS X El Capitan, version 10.11.2

    Thanks for any ideas…..

    1. I’m not running OS X El Capitan yet, but I believe the login is thwarting the process. You can have it login automatically, but if your computer is in a public place, it’s not advisable.

      You can enable automatic login by opening System Preferences and then clicking Users & Groups and then click Login Options. Enable automatic login for your account, and it should work. You can always put this setting back when your computer is in a public location.

      1. Hi,
        Thanks for feedback
        In account options, unable to activate automatic login for principal user account (admin)
        Any ideas?

        1. If it’s grayed out, you just need to click the lock icon and authenticate with your admin password. The lock prevents unauthorized users from changing secure settings.

          If that’s not the issue, you could always just leave your Mac running overnight, with the screen unlocked. It’s not ideal, but Macs are very power efficient, so it shouldn’t cause a noticeable bump in your electricity bill.

  7. It’s not grayed out, apparently it’s for security reasons you can’t use auto login for admin
    I’ll try leaving on overnight, see what happens. Pretty sure that will solve issue though less than ideal…
    It would be so much easier if iTunes had a download schedule like (hic) microsoft Office

    1. That’s strange. I am running Yosemite, but I can auto login using my admin account. Perhaps that is a new security feature with El Capitan. Can you create a new user that has permissions to run the Automation task?

      I agree. Scheduling downloads seems like a useful feature that you would find in mature software. iTunes has been around for over a decade, yet they have never implemented it. They do have a method for overnight iOS updates. You’d think they would do it for the return on investment alone. More people would make iTunes purchases if they could run the downloads overnight. Even people with unlimited Internet access have slow speeds during peak hours. Their whole families are using the network during the day. I think a lot of people would like to schedule iTunes downloads, whether it be overnight or during the day when they are at work.

      I doubt it will ever happen, as Apple likes to keep things “simple”.

    2. I think it may be an issue with initial configuration. If you set it up to allow the iCloud password and admin password to be the same, it will not allow auto logins. If you uncheck the “use iCloud password” checkbox, you will be prompted to enter a new admin password. You can use your iCloud password as this new password, for the sake of convenience. After this change, you should be able to allow your admin account to login automatically.

  8. iTunes 12.4.2.4 with OS 10.11.6 – substitute Window>Activity for the Downloads folder in your process. And yes, the calendar event defaults to the date and time it is created. Just pause the download and change the date/time.

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