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 60 comments for this article.)

Posted by:

16 Jan 2013

Greetings from Amsterdam

Posted by:

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:

01 Sep 2013

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

Posted by:

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:

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:

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:

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

Posted by:

17 Jan 2015

Several years ago, all my music (about 1,500 songs) was suddenly not on my ipod touch anymore, and the thing is it was own personal music burned from my own extensive collection of cd's. I called iTunes and they told me they could "rescue" my music for a $75.00 fee!! Really?! I started surfing the net and found a site which gave a 30 day free trial to download my music from my own personal cd's onto my ipod touch without going through iTunes. I had to work super hard to get it done in the free trial period, but I got it done. Now, I want to transfer the music to a card so I can put it in a new sport mp3 player I got for my grandson, but I have no idea where to even start. I'm 61 years old and not that computer savvy, but I can usually get through things with detailed instructions. Any help would be most appreciated, and thanks so much in advance!!!

Posted by:

15 Feb 2015

I have been doing some research on this exact thing, and I thought I read that you can create a playlist and then convert those songs to mp3. This sounds like it might get away from the duplicates issue if you can indeed do this and then copy that playlist to an SD card.

Posted by:

03 Jun 2015

This was super helpful! Thanks!

Posted by:

18 Aug 2015

Theres a great piece of free software called Mp3 my Mp3 and records anything your able to hear on your computer. It also works to record streaming services. I also recommend using a Mp3 encoder device. I've got an old Audible product that takes analog in and encodes into several formats including mp3 which is very handy and I've seen them on ebay or Amazon for cheap.

Posted by:

20 Sep 2015

The world should be warned that APPLE ITunes is a major problem. I have over 10,000 songs downloaded from my CD's and it is next to impossible to make a flash drive to play in the car. Unfortunately I had most in Windows and for some stupid reason listened to all the Apple Bull S*&^( Everyone should be warned Apple ITunes S U C K S!

Posted by:

23 Oct 2015

Thanks a lot Mate it really resolved my concerns and frustration....cheers

Posted by:

21 May 2016

Music is part of our life. So most of us want to demand our digital rights. But Apple music is a big problem. I came across iTunes DRM music converter ( It can convert DRM-Protected iTunes to MP3 easily.

Posted by:

Laura Rankin
11 Sep 2018

This was very informative! Thank you,
Also I wonder if we are related! Don't meet many Rankins :)

Posted by:

Jerry Smith
08 Mar 2019

Thanks for your sharing. As for me, the best iTunes to MP3 converter is DRmare Audio Converter for Windows, which not only supports to convert DRM protected iTunes songs but also can stream Apple Music, Audible audiobooks to MP3. Then you will able to play them on any device without limitations.

Posted by:

11 Jul 2019

Avdshare Audio Converter is a professional MP3 to iTunes converter which can easily convert the MP3 file to iTunes supported AAC, Apple Lossless, etc. What is better is that, Avdshare Audio Converter can also convert iTunes unsupported audio formats, like WMA, FLAC, OGG, MP2, RM, etc to iTunes supported audio formats.

Posted by:

Bella Gorden
07 Aug 2020

I really want to share Tunelf Audio Converter with you. Really great and charming! Via that, I download my favorite tracks from Apple Music to my device. What's more, it help you to convert Apple music to mp3 and then I could listen to them on any device.

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