How to Authorize Computers in iTunes

Playing some media from iTunes requires the computer to be authorized

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Authorizing a PC or Mac in iTunes grants your computer permission to play media purchased at the iTunes Store and protected by DRM (digital rights management) technology.

The kinds of media that you need iTunes authorization in order to play can include movies, TV shows, audiobooks, and ebooks. Music used to be on that list, but with the removal of DRM from music bought at the iTunes Store in 2009, it's no longer necessary to authorize computers to play music from iTunes.

The Limits of iTunes Authorization

Apple allows you to authorize up to five computers to use content purchased from a single Apple ID. The computer you buy the media on from the iTunes Store is the first computer of your total five that is authorized to play it. After that one, you could authorize a computer at work, in a vacation home, or in some other location to also use the same media.

How to Authorize a Computer to Play iTunes Media

To authorize other computers to play your iTunes purchases, follow these steps:

For a quicker version of the process described below, go to the Account menu in iTunes. Hover over Authorizations and select Authorize This Computer... from the slide-out menu.

  1. Add the file you want to use to the new computer. Besides buying from iTunes, options for moving files from one computer to another include:
    1. Home Sharing
    2. Transferring purchases from iPod or iPhone
    3. iPod copy programs
    4. External hard drive
  2. Once you've added the file into the second iTunes library, double-click it to play. Before playing the file, an iTunes prompt will pop up asking you to authorize the computer.
  3. At this point, you need to log into the Apple ID that was originally used to purchase the media you want to play. This may or may not be the Apple ID associated with the computer you're on and to which you are currently adding the media file (unless you are transferring your media files to a new computer that replaces the old one that you have deauthorized.)
  4. If the entered Apple ID information is correct, the file will be authorized and will play. If not, you'll be asked again to log in to the Apple ID used to buy the file. If the iTunes account used to purchase the media has reached its maximum of five authorized computers, the authorization attempt will fail. To resolve this, you will need to deauthorize one of the other computers that are currently associated with the file's Apple ID (more on that later in this article).

    iTunes allows only one Apple ID to be associated with the iTunes program at a time. That means that if you authorize a computer with an Apple ID other than your primary one, any items you bought with your primary ID won't be playable until you log back in under the first Apple ID (which consequently will cause the new items that were purchased under the other Apple ID not to work). 

    How to Deauthorize a Computer in iTunes

    Since you only get five authorizations, you may from time to time want to free up one of your activations or prevent playback of your files on another computer. To do this, in iTunes go to the Account menu and then to Authorizations, and choose Deauthorize This Computer... from the slide-out menu.

    How to Deauthorize Computers You No Longer Have

    If you no longer have access to a computer that you previously authorized with your Apple ID (because it is dead or you sold it, for example), and it is taking up one of the five authorization slots that you now need for a new computer, you can deauthorize all computers under that Apple ID, freeing up all five of those slots so you may reauthorize your computers.