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.