Convert iTunes to MP3
Is there a way to convert iTunes to MP3? I've purchased a bunch of music from iTunes and enjoy listening to it on my computer. But my portable music player is not an iPod, so I can't take my songs with me. Is there any way I can convert my iTunes music to MP3 format to get around this unfair restriction?
How Do I Convert iTunes to MP3?
It does seem unfair... you paid for those songs and now you can't play them outside of the iTunes environment, on hardware not supported by Apple, or on operating systems not supported by iTunes. MP3 has been an open standard for many years, but it's not always simple to convert iTunes music tracks to MP3 format.
Prior to April 2009, the iTunes tracks that you purchased were in a "DRM protected" AAC audio format. DRM (Digital Rights Management) was created by the entertainment industry so they could control the duplication and dissemination of their content. But DRM often restricts the consumer from doing perfectly valid and reasonable things with music they own, like making a backup copy, burning a CD, or converting to another audio format.
MP3 is the standard for digital audio. An MP3 music track can be played on almost ANY player, whether it's portable or computer-based. You can burn MP3s to a CD and they'll play just fine on almost any modern CD player. But Apple's iTunes software doesn't give you MP3 files when you buy a song. iTunes music tracks are proprietary and cannot be played on a computer which does not have the iTunes software. You CAN copy them to your portable music player, as long as you bought that player from Apple and it says iPod on it.
Understandably, this makes owners of non-iPod music players (as well as Linux users) a little upset. Hence, the need to convert iTunes music to the MP3 format.
Convert iTunes Music to MP3
If you right-click on a music track in iTunes, there is an option to Convert Selection or Create Version in some other format. Probably it says "Create AAC Version" or "Convert Selection to AAC", which is useless because your iTunes tracks are already in AAC format!
You'll need to change your import settings to get iTunes to import the track as MP3. In iTunes 8 or later versions, go to Edit / Preferences / General and click the Import Settings button. In older versions of iTunes, click on Edit / Preferences / Importing (or Edit / Preferences / Advanced / Importing). Your goal is to change the Import Using from the default setting to "MP3 Encoder".
Click OK to save this setting.
Now when you right-click on a music track, there is an option to Create MP3 Version or Convert Selection to MP3. Give it a try... if your music was recently purchased, iTunes will happily convert the file to MP3. The only downside is that now you have TWO copies of that song -- one in the AAC format, and one in MP3 format. They'll look identical in the iTunes library, but you can right-click and select "Get Info" to tell them apart.
If you click on File / Display Duplicates, then turn on the column labelled "Kind" you'll be able to quickly see which songs exist in both formats. Right-click in the column header area, and you can turn columns on and off. The "Kind" column will say "Purchased AAC audio file" (iTunes format) or "MPEG audio file" (MP3 format).
On the other hand... if you try to convert a track and iTunes tells you that "Protected files cannot be converted to other formats", then the song is DRM-protected and CANNOT be converted to MP3 format. You're sunk. Unless...
Converting DRM-Protected iTunes to MP3
Fortunately, there are ways to get around this annoying restriction.
Method 1: Burn the track(s) to a CD, then you can open the CD in iTunes and the Create MP3 Version or Convert Selection to MP3 option will do exactly what you want. Again, be aware that you'll have TWO copies of that song in iTunes -- one in the original AAC format and one in MP3 format. You can delete the AAC version if you like. (Note that you must burn an audio CD, not a data CD.)
Method 2: If you have lots of music, you might need a big pile of CDs to convert everything with the "burn and rip" method above. That's where software can help. A "virtual CD drive" such as NoteBurner or CD Emulator can simulate a real CD burner, eliminating the need for real CD-R discs. The Windows operating system will treat the virtual drive just like a real one, so you can tell your CD burning software to access the virtual drive by it's own drive letter. Works great, and you won't have to burn a bunch of CDs, just to toss them away.
For other DRM removal alternatives, check out my big DRM Remover list. You'll find options for Windows, Mac and Linux users at that link.
Your thoughts are welcome on this topic! Post your comment or question below...
Posted by Bob Rankin on 9 Sep 2011
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Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved