How to Convert iTunes Songs to MP3 in 5 Easy Steps

convert iTunes to mp3
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Believe it or not, but the songs you buy from the iTunes Store aren't MP3s. People often use the term "MP3" as a generic name to refer to all digital music files, but that's not quite right. MP3 actually refers to a very specific type of music file.

The songs you've got from iTunes may not be MP3s, but they can be. Using a tool built into the iTunes program, you can convert songs from the iTunes Store format to MP3 in just a few steps.

The iTunes Music File Format: Not MP3

Songs purchased from the iTunes Store come in the AAC format. While both AAC and MP3 are digital audio files, AAC is a slightly newer format designed to provide better quality sound from files that are an equal size too, or smaller than, MP3s. Since music from iTunes comes as AAC, many people believe it is an Apple format. It's not. AAC is a generally available standard format.

AAC files work with all Apple products and products from many, many other companies, too. Still, not every MP3 player supports them, so if you want to play AACs on those devices, you need to convert the iTunes songs to the MP3 format.

There are a lot of audio programs that can perform this conversion, but since you've already got iTunes (you couldn't have bought songs from the iTunes Store without it!), using it is easiest. These instructions cover using iTunes to convert songs from the iTunes Store to MP3.

5 Steps to Converting iTunes Songs to MP3

  1. Begin by making sure your conversion settings are set to create MP3s. If they're not, or you're not sure, click that link for instructions on how to change those settings
  2. In iTunes, find the AAC song or songs you want to convert to MP3 and click on them. You can highlight one song at a time, groups of song or albums (select the first song, hold the Shift key, and select the last song), or even discontiguous songs (hold down the Command key on a Mac or Control on a PC and then click the songs).
  1. When the songs you want to convert are highlighted, click the File menu in iTunes
  2. Click on Create New Version
  3. Click Create MP3 Version. This converts the iTunes songs to MP3 files for use on other kinds of MP3 players (they'll still work on Apple devices, too). The new MP3 file appears next to the AAC version in iTunes.

How To Tell iTunes and MP3 Files Apart

Once you've got both the AAC and MP3 versions of a song in iTunes, it's not easy to tell them apart. They just look like two copies of the same song. But every song in iTunes contains information about it, such as its artist, length, size, and file type. To find out which file is the MP3 and which is the AAC, read How To Change ID3 Tags Like Artist, Genre & Other Song Info in iTunes

What To Do With Unwanted Songs

If you've converted your music to MP3, you may not want to keep the AAC version of the song taking up space on your hard drive. If so, you can delete the song from iTunes.

Since the iTunes Store version of the file is the original, make sure it's backed up before you delete it. All of your iTunes purchases should be available to redownload via iCloud. Confirm that the song is there if you need it and then you're free to delete.

Be Aware: Converting Can Reduce Sound Quality

Before you convert from iTunes to MP3, it's important to know that doing this slightly degrades the audio quality of the song. The reason for this is that both AAC and MP3 are compressed versions of the original song file (raw audio files are very large). Some quality is inevitably lost during the compression that created the original AAC or MP3. Converting from AAC or MP3 to another compressed format means, even more, compression and more loss of quality. While the quality change is so small that you probably won't notice it if you convert the same song too many times it may eventually start to sound worse.