Using iTunes Movie Rentals on a Computer

Woman watching a movie on her computer at night
Guido Mieth / Getty Images

The iTunes movie rental service works smoothly. Visit the iTunes Store, find the content you want to rent, pay, and download the movie to your computer. This step-by-step guide walks you through the process of renting movies from the iTunes Store.

If you don't already have an Apple ID, you'll need to set up an iTunes Store account.

Finding iTunes Movies to Rent

  1. Launch iTunes on your computer, and click the Store heading at the top of the window.

    How to use iTunes rentals
  2. Go to the movies section of the iTunes Store by clicking on the drop-down media menu and selecting Movies.

    iTunes rentals
  3. Click any movie icon to open its information page. The information page contains trailers for the movie, cast information, and prices to buy and rent the movie.

    The newest movies may only display a buy price, but many of those movies will include a date that rentals will be available.

    iTunes rentals
  4. Click the Rent HD or Rent SD button to rent a movie. If Also available in SD/HD appears below the buttons, click it to switch which version you want to rent.

    The rental price for the HD version is usually higher than for the SD version.

    iTunes rental
  5. iTunes will charge your account, and the rental will become available.

Downloading Movies From iTunes to Your Computer

As the iTunes movie rental begins to download, a new tab appears at the top of iTunes Movies screen entitled Rented. Click on the Rented tab to open a screen with your rental movies on it, including the one you just rented.

If you don't see the Rented tab, make sure you have Movies selected in the iTunes drop-down media menu.

It takes a while for a movie to download—how long depends on the speed of your internet connection. You don't have to download your movie to watch it; as long as you have an internet connection, you can also stream it.

If you are in the habit of watching movies while you are offline, however, you'll need to complete the download of the movie to your laptop before you go offline. 

When You're Ready to Watch

Hover your mouse over the movie poster and click the Play button that appears to start watching the movie on your computer. Don't click on the rental movie until you are ready to watch it, though. You have 30 days to click on the rental, but once you click on it, you have only 48 hours to complete watching the movie. The rented movie expires after 30 days or 48 hours after you begin watching it, whichever comes first.

If you aren't ready to watch the movie, you can click on the movie poster—not the Play button—for information about the movie and the cast.

Using the Onscreen Controls

When you click the Play button on your movie, iTunes asks you to confirm you are ready to watch and gives you a reminder that you have a limited time to watch the movie.

When the movie begins to play, move your mouse over the window to see the controls. You can play or pause the movie, fast forward or reverse, adjust the volume, or take it full-screen by clicking the arrows on the far right. Most movies also include a menu of chapter bookmarks and language and captioning options.

Streaming Movies From iTunes to Your Computer

Before you stream a movie on your computer, set the playback quality on your Mac or PC:

  1. In iTunes, select iTunes > Preferences from the menu bar. You can also press Command+comma on a Mac or Ctrl+comma on a PC.

    iTunes rentals
  2. Click the Playback tab.

    iTunes movie rentals
  3. Select Best Available in the drop-down menu next to Playback Quality. This option will stream the movie at the highest quality that your computer's internet connection allows.

    iTunes movie rentals
  4. Click OK to save your changes.

When You Finish

When you finish watching the movie, you can watch it again if you like as long as you do it within the 48-hour window. The movie disappears from your computer automatically 48 hours after you first start to watch it, or 30 days after you rented it if you never watch it.

How to Stream a Rented iTunes Movie on Other iOS Devices

Apple's TV app provides a centralized system that lets you access your iTunes rentals and purchases in one place. Once you rent or buy a movie on iTunes, it will show up in the Apple TV app of every device that's signed in to the same Apple ID that rented the film.

Streaming a Rented Movie From Your Computer to an Apple TV with AirPlay

If you aren't at home, but your laptop is on the same wireless network as an Apple TV, you can use AirPlay to stream the movie you rented on your computer to the Apple TV. Here's how:

  1. Start playing the movie in iTunes.

  2. Click the AirPlay icon at the bottom of the screen.

    iTunes movie rentals
  3. Click the name of the Apple TV in the menu that appears.

    iTunes movie rentals
  4. When you press Play, the movie will start playing on your TV screen. Leave the computer on while it plays.