iTunes Tutorial: How to Remove DRM From Your iTunes Songs

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Introduction

Courtesy of Apple

If you've got some older songs that were purchased from the iTunes Store that date back before 2009, then there's a good chance that they will be copy-protected by Apple's FairPlay DRM system. It's a great anti-piracy system that protects the rights of artists and publishers by making it difficult for the consumer to distribute copyrighted material. However, DRM can also be very restrictive by stopping you from playing legally purchased music on your MP3 player, PMP, and other compatible hardware devices. So, what happens if you want to play your DRM'ed music on a non-iPod?

This tutorial will show you a way to produce DRM-free music that doesn't require any special software that you would normally need to buy. Once you've created songs in a DRM-free format, you'll be able to delete iTunes songs that have copy protection in your library if you want to.

All you'll need is the iTunes software, and a blank CD (preferably a rewritable (CD-RW)). The only downside to using this method is that if you have a lot of files that you need to convert, then it ends up a slow and tedious process. With this in mind, use a legal DRM removal tool if you have a large quantity that you need to convert.

Before we begin, check for any updates that are available for your iTunes installation, or download the latest version from the iTunes website.

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Configuring iTunes to burn and rip an audio CD

Image © 2008 Mark Harris - Licensed to About.com, Inc.

CD Burner Settings: In order to set up the iTunes software to burn an audio CD, you first need to go into the settings menu and select the correct disc format. To do this, click on the Edit tab on the main menu and select Preferences from the menu list. On the preferences screen, select the Advanced tab, followed by the Burning tab. First, make sure your CD burner is selected from the drop-down menu alongside the CD Burner option. Next, Select audio CD as the disc format that is to be written by your CD drive.

CD Import Settings: While you are still in the preferences menu, click on the Importing tab to access the CD ripping settings. Verify that the On CD Insert option is set to Ask to Import CD. Next, set the Import Using option to a format of your choice; the MP3 Encoder is your best choice if you want to import audio CDs as MP3 files that play on virtually all compatible devices. Choose an encoding bitrate from the Setting option; 128Kbps is the normal setting that is good enough for the average listener. And finally, make sure the Automatically Retrieve CD Track Names From the Internet and Create File Names With Track Numbers and both checked. Click the OK button to save your settings.

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Making a custom playlist

To be able to burn your DRM copy-protected songs to audio CD you will need to make a custom playlist (File > New Playlist). You can add music tracks to a playlist easily by dragging and dropping them from your music library to your newly created playlist. For instructions on how to achieve this, why not follow our tutorial on How to Create a Custom Playlist Using iTunes.

While creating a playlist, make sure that the total playing time (displayed at the bottom of the screen) doesn't exceed the capacity of the CD-R or CD-RW you are using; typically, the total playing time of a 700Mb CD is 80 minutes.

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Burning an Audio CD Using a Playlist

Image © 2008 Mark Harris - Licensed to About.com, Inc.

Once you have created a playlist, simply left-click it (located under the playlists section in the left pane), and then click on the File tab on the main menu, followed by Burn Playlist to Disc. The CD drive tray should now automatically eject so you can insert a blank disc; ideally use a rewritable disc ( CD-RW) so you can reuse it multiple times. Before iTunes starts burning the DRM protected songs, it will remind you that creating an audio CD is for your own personal use only; once you have read this notice, click on the Proceed button to start burning.

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Ripping an audio CD

The final step in this tutorial is to import (rip) the songs that you burned onto audio CD, back to digital music files. We have already configured iTunes (step 1) to encode any audio CD that is inserted into the CD drive as MP3 files and so this stage of the process will be mostly automatic. To start ripping your audio CD, simply insert it into your CD drive and click the Yes button to start. For a more in-depth look at this process, read the tutorial on How to Import CD Tracks Using iTunes.

Once this stage is complete, all the files that have been imported into your music library will be free from DRM; you will be able to transfer them to any device that supports MP3 playback.