How to Remove DRM From Your Older iTunes Songs

Make your pre-2009 tracks easier to take with you in MP3 format

Many with headphones walking down the street listening to music with DRM removed
DaniloAndjus / Getty Images

If you purchased songs from the iTunes Store before 2009, they're likely copy-protected by Apple's FairPlay DRM system. While iTunes no longer uses FairPlay to copy-protect songs and albums, older music is still affected, preventing users from playing legally purchased pre-2009 songs on an MP3 playerportable media player, or other device.

FairPlay is no longer used to copy-protect songs and albums but is still used with some digital media products, including movies, TV shows, ebooks, and apps. The iTunes Plus format is now used for digital music downloads.

Luckily, there is a way to play your legally purchased DRM-protected music on a non-iPod. This tutorial shows how to produce DRM-free music without special software. All you need is iTunes and a blank CD (preferably a rewritable (CD-RW).

Removing DRM From Older Songs

First, configure iTunes to burn and rip an audio CD. To adjust your CD burner settings:

  1. Go to Settings and select the Edit tab on the main menu.

  2. Select Preferences from the menu list.

  3. Select the Advanced tab, followed by Burning. (Make sure your CD burner is selected from the drop-down menu alongside the CD Burner option.)

  4. Select Audio CD as the disc format.

Adjust CD Import Settings

Next, adjust the CD import settings:

  1. While still in the Preferences menu, select the Importing tab to access the CD ripping settings.

  2. Verify that the On CD Insert option is set to Ask to Import CD.

  3. Set the Import Using option to a format of your choice. (The MP3 Encoder is the best choice if you want to import audio CDs as MP3 files that play on virtually all compatible devices.)

  4. Choose an encoding bitrate from the Settings option. (128Kbps is the normal setting.)

  5. Make sure the options Automatically Retrieve CD Track Names From the Internet and Create File Names With Track Numbers are both checked.

  6. Select OK to save your settings.

    iTunes screen showing CD burner settings in first step to creating DRM free music

Making a Custom Playlist

To be able to burn your DRM copy-protected songs to an audio CD, you will need to make a custom playlist. Go to File > New Playlist.

iTunes menu to create New Playlist, a step in removing DRM from iTunes songs

Add music tracks to your playlist by dragging and dropping them from your music library to the newly created playlist.

While creating a playlist, make sure the total playing time (displayed at the bottom of the screen) doesn't exceed the capacity of your disc. Typically, the total playing time of a 700MB CD is 80 minutes.

Burning an Audio CD Using a Playlist

Now it's time to burn your songs to an audio CD.

  1. Left-click your new playlist (located under the Playlists section in the left pane).

  2. Select File on the main menu, followed by Burn Playlist to Disc.

    Apple iTunes screenshot showing Burn Playlist to Disc menu, a step in creating DRM free music
  3. The CD drive tray should now automatically eject; insert a blank disc. Ideally, use a rewritable disc (CD-RW) so you can reuse it multiple times.

  4. Read the iTunes notice that pops up, reminding you that creating an audio CD is for personal use only.

  5. Select Proceed to start burning.

Ripping an Audio CD

The final step is to import ("rip") the songs you burned onto the audio CD back to digital music files in your music library. This process is mostly automatic, as we already configured iTunes to encode any audio CD inserted into the CD drive as an MP3 file.

To start ripping your audio CD, insert it into your CD drive and select Yes.

Once you've converted your songs to a DRM-free format, delete iTunes songs with copy protection in your library if you wish.

Apple iTunes Screenshot depicting ripping non-DRM music on a CD back to the iTunes music library

Once this stage is complete, all the files in your music library will be free from DRM. Transfer them to any device that supports MP3 playback and enjoy your music while on the go.

The only downside to using this method is that if you have a lot of files to convert, it can be a slow and tedious process. With this in mind, use a legal DRM removal tool if you have a large number of files to convert.