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Chapter 4. The iTunes Music Store > Playing with Your Purchases

Playing with Your Purchases

After the purchased music has found a home on your hard drive, you have several ways to put it to work.

Play It

If you're like 99 percent of the people who shop at The Store, the first thing you'll want to do is play the music you've purchased. When you first play a purchased song, iTunes checks to see that your computer is authorized to play purchased music.

As you may recall, you are allowed to play purchased music on up to three computers. When you play a purchased song for the first time, iTunes checks to see whether the computer is authorized to play purchased music. If so, the music plays back with no problem. If the computer hasn't been authorized, you'll be prompted for your Apple ID or AOL screen name and password. That name and password, along with some information that identifies your computer, are sent to Apple, where that Mac or PC is counted against your limit of five authorizations.

If you've used up your authorizations on five other computers, you'll be notified that you must deauthorize one of your computers before you're allowed to play the purchased music. Fortunately, deauthorizing a computer is as simple as choosing Deauthorize Computer from iTunes' Advanced menu (Figure 4.25). When you select this command, your computer connects to the Internet, and Apple's database is updated to reflect the deauthorization of that particular computer.

Figure 4.25. The Deauthorize Computer command.

After you deauthorize a computer, of course, you can't use it to play back purchased music until you authorize it again. (Yes, this means that if you own more than five computers and intend to play purchased music on all of them, you're going to spend some time playing the deauthorization shuffle.)

Reformatting the computer's hard drive (or replacing that hard drive) does not deauthorize the machine. Before passing your computer along to someone else, be sure to deauthorize it.

One way to gain additional authorizations is to maintain both an Apple ID and an AOL account at The Store. Each account allows you to authorize five computers, for a total of ten authorizations—and yes, they can be the same computers. Of course, songs purchased with a particular account—your AOL account, for example—will play only on a computer authorized for that account. But this scheme does allow you a neat way to purchase music from the office PC, if you've already used up your five authorizations among the family's computers at home.

Lost Authorizations

When working on an earlier edition of this book, my PC crashed badly, making it impossible for me to log on to my usual user account in Windows XP. After I created a new user account, I attempted to play some of the music I'd purchased from The Store on that PC.

No go. According to iTunes, I'd exhausted the three authorizations allowed at the time. (Apple now allows you to authorize as many as five computers.)

Counting on my fingers, I checked the tally of my authorizations against Apple's:

My Power Mac G4. That would be authorization one (index finger).

My PowerBook G4. Authorization two (ring finger).

My PC. Uh-oh, my PC! The third authorization had died along with the corrupted user account (middle finger).


Dashing to iTunes, I quickly selected Music Store Customer Service from iTunes' Help menu in the hope that somehow, Apple would take pity on me and heft me out of the soup.

This command launched my Web browser and whisked me to a page where (after the site identified my computer as a PC) I entered my Apple ID and password. Toward the bottom of the page, I found the Get Help With Computer Authorization link. On the resulting Computer Authorization page, I looked under the Still Having Trouble? heading (because the trouble I was having was not addressed elsewhere on the page); chose Computer Authorization from the Specific Request pop-up menu; and, in the politest terms possible, described my situation in the provided field. Then I clicked the Submit button and crossed my fingers.

A few hours later, I received this reply:

Dear Mr. Breen,

Thank you for contacting iTunes Music Store Customer Service.

We have manually deauthorized your registered systems from the Music Store. You can now reauthorize the computers that you intend to use. To protect our customers' privacy, this is not a service that is generally performed. However, given the nature of your situation, we have made an exception. If you're selling a computer or plan to no longer use it, make sure you've deauthorized it before you no longer have access to it.


The iTunes Music Store Team

Had I the opportunity to respond to that Team, I might have written:

Dear iTMST,

Thank you for your prompt attention. Having a provision in place for a regrettable (though inevitable) situation such as this saved my bacon (and will undoubtedly do the same for others). Your efforts shall not go unnoticed (except by those readers who stubbornly refuse to read helpful sidebars). Keep up the good work!

Your pal,


Burn It

People play music on all kinds of devices and in all kinds of environments—on computers, boom boxes, home stereos, and portable music players, and in cars, boats, and planes. (I've even seen a system that allows you to play music in your hot tub.) Forcing you to listen to music only on your computer is silly. And because Apple Computer is anything but silly, it made sure that you'd be able to take your purchased music with you on something other than an iPod, iBook, or Windows PC. It does so by allowing you to burn purchased music to CD.

When you do so, the .m4p files are converted to red-book audio files—the file format used by commercial audio CDs. These CDs are not copy-protected in any way and behave just like regular ol' audio CDs. Pop 'em into a standard CD player, press Play, and out comes the music.

As I indicated earlier in this chapter, burning your music to CD involves a few limitations. You can burn up to seven copies of a particular playlist. If you attempt to burn an eighth copy, you'll be told that you can't. If you alter that playlist after the seventh burn—by adding or removing a song—you can burn another seven copies. Alter that playlist, and you get seven more copies. Also, you cannot burn purchased music to MP3-formatted CDs. (MP3 CD is one of the options in the Burning section of iTunes Preferences.)

From .m4p to AIFF to MP3

Technically adept readers are undoubtedly thinking, “Wait a sec. If the protected .m4p files are converted to unprotected AIFF files when they're burned to CD, what's to keep me from turning around and using iTunes to re-rip the files on that CD as unprotected AAC or MP3 files?”

Not a darned thing.

Yes, you'll lose some quality by going from a compressed format (.m4p) to an uncompressed format (AIFF) back to another compressed format (AAC or MP3), but the files will still sound remarkably good.

Why would you want to do such a thing?

Devices other than the iPod use MP3 files. My TiVo video recorder offers an option that allows me to stream music wirelessly from my computer to my TiVo (which is connected to my home stereo). The catch is that it will stream only MP3 files—not the encrypted AAC files that I've purchased from The Store. If I want to listen to those files on TiVo, I must convert them to MP3.

And if I dare suggest such a thing in a book devoted to the iPod, there are other (lesser-quality, of course) MP3 players in the world. If I want to play my purchased music on an old Rio device that I picked up at a garage sale for a couple of bucks, I must convert that music to MP3.

By the way, you needn't go to the trouble of burning a CD and then re-ripping it if you have a Macintosh and have installed Apple's $49 iLife'04 suite. iTunes and QuickTime Pro are configured in such a way that they refuse to convert an .m4p file to MP3. But you can use Apple's own applications, iMovie 4 and GarageBand, to import .m4p files as audio tracks and export just those audio tracks as AIFF files.

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