Convert iTunes to MP3

Category: Audio

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.

convert itunes to mp3

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...

 
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Most recent comments on "Convert iTunes to MP3"

(See all 49 comments for this article.)

Posted by:

Melanie
30 May 2012

I bought a SanDisk Sansa Clip and was despondent to discover that it could not "translate" iTunes. But, I stumbled onto iTunes Sync freeware http://www.binaryfortress.com/iTunes-Sync/
and have been a happy camper ever since. (I had already loaded each and every CD I owned into iTunes so I was hoping to avoid repeating the effort).

So far I have not suffered any ill effects nor snagged any malware or viruses as a result! Yeay!


Posted by:

Peggy Corbet
09 Jun 2012

This was extremely helpful and I thank you for posting it. My husband has a new car and he is able to use a USB but all my music was on iTunes in AAC format and therefore not readable on the USB. I did just what you said and it worked perfect.


Posted by:

Asad Hamid
09 Jun 2012

Can you recommend a DRM removal software for Mac Apple? Tunebite seems to only run on Windows. Thanks


Posted by:

Caroline
31 Jul 2012

Thanks so much, I followed your instructions and success. Cheers


Posted by:

Miles
02 Aug 2012

I have also used Audials Moviebox, I think it's also from the guys with Tunebite, actually maybe they changed the name?
U can find a small how to do so also on their page:http://audials.com/en/how_to_record_stream_capture_music_videos_movies_from/apple_itunes.html
I don't know any solution for Mac though....


Posted by:

Claire
13 Aug 2012

It worked! So happy. I would never have been able to work this out by myself. A thousand thanks!


Posted by:

Willa
14 Aug 2012

Thank you so very much. Now I can download my kids favorite songs to his FisherPrice iXL. iTunes owes you cause I was seriously considering a change of venue.


Posted by:

mrl0007
28 Aug 2012

You saved me so much hassle! Thank you very much! I have downloaded all my itunes to my new swimming headphones (since no one has invented a waterproof iphone yet!) and i can't wait to try them out. Thank you!!!!


Posted by:

Pahjquinut
26 Sep 2012

I'm gonna have to try this out later, my 8gb ipod died the other day and I don't want to spend $200 on anything apple anymore. Saw some other 8gb mp3 player at target for $64!!! I just need to see if my computer has enough memory to convert my files before I buy a new player. And in the future, I think I'll try out Amazon.com music, I'm assuming they don't have their own file format


Posted by:

k
13 Nov 2012

Thank you I was getting really frustrated that I couldn't copy the stupid music to my new MP3 player but you solved all my problems! :)


Posted by:

Jeanne
08 Dec 2012

OH My Thank you sooooo much. I thought my music was "lost" forever int eh Itunes sea!!!!!!


Posted by:

Sanne
16 Jan 2013

GREAT!
Greetings from Amsterdam


Posted by:

Miki
12 Feb 2013

I had to put some music to a cd for a funeral and they could only play mp3 and I didn't know how to do it, thanks to you it was so easy! Greetings from somebody else in Holland.


Posted by:

Brenda V.
02 Apr 2013

Thanks a Million!! I was able to turn my ITunes songs into MP3's. Now that I have 2 copies of each song I would like to delete the other one but am afraid to. At a glance I can't tell which one is which. Any suggestions?

EDITOR'S NOTE: From the article:

"The only downside is that now you have TWO copies of that song -- one in the AAC format, and one in MP3 format. 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)."


Posted by:

Paul
01 Sep 2013

It works and I can use it again anytime I want in the future, thanks!!


Posted by:

Havacyn
04 Jan 2014

There is a way to convert all your purchased iTunes AAC files to MP3 without downloading or buying any program to convert it. I will try to simplify the steps below, but I am in a hurry...
1. Open iTunes, click edit, then preferences, on general tab click on import settings and change the Import Using to MP3 encoder
2. In upper left corner there is an arrow, click on arrow and then click on "show menu", then click on the "view" tab and click on "show sidebar"
3. Under Library click on "music", then you will see a column "Name", right click on it and look for "Kind" and "Artist" and make sure you click a check mark next to them. This will now create "Kind" & "Artist" columns if you do not already have them.
4. click on the Artist column to put them in artist order, then look for the song under the artist (not the song name and you will find your song which will also show it is in AAC format.
4. highlight the song, then right click and hit "Create MP3 version" and it will create the same song to MP3 and you will now have 2 copies of that song, one in AAC format and the other in MP3 format.

Hope this helps!!!


Posted by:

Julie
18 Jan 2014

Havacyn - your idea is great. I have an iPod which I use, but have lost music many times. It just vanished inside my iMac, usually when I do an IOS upgrade. I use iTunes to load music. I have been getting rid of all my apple products. I am now using a Samsung Galaxy 3. I have a 16G memory card in the phone. I want to put my music in mp3 format. I want to put it on this memory card to play thru my phone, and to pull it out when I get a new phone….and move the music w me. If I make duplicates of most of my songs in my iTunes library (about 3500 songs I would like to convert to mp3) will I still be able to use the iPod. Will they load to the iPod if I now change the iTunes import preference to mp3? Will this screw up my iTunes library? I just spent hours deleting duplicates and locating lost ("!") songs in my iMac.


Posted by:

Nicole
22 Apr 2014

I have been trying to download these things for months. You are awesome!! Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!


Posted by:

Cheryl S
17 May 2014

You are a lifesaver! I can't thank you enough.


Posted by:

Jaki
22 Sep 2014

Thank You, Thank You,Thank You, Reloading the CD in MP3 format into itunes, my MP3 player finally has music on it


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