Sunday, January 15, 2012

How to remove DRM from iTunes purchases : Part II

This post concludes the discussion on how to remove DRM from iTunes purchases.  We outline some solutions to common problems.

Erasing CD-RW
In Part I, we explained how to remove DRM from an entire album of songs.  However, many people have multiple albums to convert.  Here's how to erase the CD-RW for re-use:
  • Open Finder Utilities (In Finder, Go > Utilities).
  • Select "Disk":
  • Double-click to open:
  • Under "SuperDrive", select the CD that is in the drive.
  • Click the "Erase" tab and then the "Erase" button:
    • Make sure it is not your hard drive!
    • When prompted, confirm you wish to erase the CD
    • Wait for Disk Utility to erase the CD.
      Yay!  Now you have a blank CD-RW in the drive.  Restart the process to remove DRM from each protected album in your library.

      Multi-Disc Albums
      The above technique works great for single-disc albums.  However, when you have an album which spans multiple discs, it may cause confusion for iTunes.  Specifically, when you burn the tracks and try to re-import them, iTunes will not offer to "Replace Existing" tracks.  Instead, it will simply import them alongside the protected ones, resulting in duplicate tracks.

      Here is a technique to remove DRM from multi-disc albums and correctly "Replace Existing" tracks.  Consider this album, which spans two discs:
      Make two separate playlists, one for each album.  Although not required, you may give them each a slightly different name so that they are easier to remember:
      Burn the first playlist to a CD as you normally would.  When it is done, click on the CD and select all the tracks, like this:
      Now open the file info for the selection (File > Get Info). Notice the "Disc Number" field is empty:
      We just burned the first CD of two, so enter those values for the "Disc Number" field:
      (The boxes will check automatically.)  Click "OK" to accept the changes.
      Yay!  Now when you re-import the first disc, it will offer to "Replace Existing" songs.  Erase the CD and repeat the steps for the second playlist.  This time however, remember it is the second disc of two.

      Partial Albums
      Sometimes it is the case that you only bought a handful of tracks from an album.  In other words, you did not buy the entire album from iTunes.  Consider this example, where I bought only tracks 2 and 12:
      If you were to follow the steps from Part I and burn just these tracks, the resulting CD would only contain two tracks, numbered 1 and 2.  If you proceeded to import the CD, iTunes will again not offer to "Replace Existing" tracks because the track numbers don't match.  This would result in duplicate songs with incorrect track information.

      Fortunately, there is a workaound.  First, go ahead and create a playlist as you normally would:
      Then, fill in the gaps by dragging in some songs from another (complete) album:
      Now go ahead and burn the CD as you normally would.  However, when iTunes is done, do not import the entire album.  Rather, hand-select only those songs that were originally protected:
      Drag the selection over to your Music library and drop them in.  iTunes will recognize the tracks and offer to "Replace Existing" ones as you'd expect.  (The other songs on the CD will be skipped.)

      Yay!  Now you can remove DRM from partial albums as well.  With all these techniques, I was able to remove DRM from over 400 songs in about a week.

      Sunday, January 01, 2012

      How to remove DRM from iTunes purchases : Part I

      This technique is basically writing the album to a CD and then importing it back into iTunes.  It is time-consuming but free.  Also, you won't have to keep ejecting and re-inserting the CD.  Note the AAC decoding/encoding process is lossy, meaning it removes some audio quality from the track.  However, all DRM-removal software suffers from this drawback.
      As of April 2009, all songs on the iTunes Store are available without Digital Rights Management (DRM). DRM-free songs can play on non-Apple devices such as Android phones, and be uploaded to non-Apple "cloud" services such as Google Music

      However, this was not always the case. Several years ago, you may have purchased some music on iTunes that was protected with DRM and it is now stranded in your Music library. Here is a reliable way to remove DRM without buying any special software.

      Identifying Songs with DRM
      First, how can you tell if a song has DRM? These songs are easily identified by their 'Kind' property. To view all of a song's properties, find it in your iTunes Music library:
      • Select the song
      • Right-click
      • Select "Get Info"
      You will see the 'Kind' attribute has the value "Protected AAC audio file":
      (Circled in red).  If it were DRM-free, it would simply say "AAC audio file" (or "MPEG audio file", or something like that).  It would not say "Protected".

      You may also add the 'Kind' column to your Music library view.  Right-click the columns at the top and select the 'Kind' attribute:
      Afterwards, the library will show what kind of track the song is:

      Smart Playlist
      It can be tedious to go through the whole library looking for protected songs.  A convenient way to gather all in one place is to create a Smart Playlist.  Go to File > New Smart Playlist... and when the dialog appears, specify the rule to say that 'Kind' contains "Protected AAC"
      Click "OK" to finish and the new Smart Playlist will appear in your iTunes playlists.  Name it "Protected AAC" or something:
      Yay!  Now all the songs you want to convert are in a single place.

      Removing DRM
      Removing DRM from your songs is easy.  All you need is a disk drive which can burn CDs and a blank CD-RW.  Insert the empty CD-RW into your drive and follow these steps:
      • Select all the songs in the album you wish to convert:
      • Create a new playlist from the selection (File > New Playlist from Selection):
      • Right-click the new playlist and select "Burn Playlist to Disc":
      • At the "Burn Settings" dialog
        • Select "Audio CD"
        • Set "Gap Between Songs" to "none":
      • Click "Burn" and wait for iTunes to finish burning the CD.
      • When the CD is finished burning, iTunes will recognize it as an audio CD.
      • Click the "Import CD" button to re-import it into iTunes:
      • iTunes will ask if you wish to replace the existing songs or not.  Click "Replace Existing":
      • iTunes will ask if you wish to overwrite the purchased songs.  Click "Yes":
      • iTunes will begin importing the newly burned CD.  Notice it will replace your DRM-protected songs with unprotected ones:

      • Wait for iTunes to finish.
      • Delete the playlist, if desired.
      Yay!  Now your songs are DRM-free.