iTunes tip

Pre-Christmas morning iTunes tip: Long time readers of the rexblog know I’m a big user of Apple’s iTunes service. However, my “power” usage and the length of time I’ve been using the iTunes store (since the day it was opened), means I know what I’m talking about when I say the following:

Burn a backup CD of tunes you purchase from the iTunes Store!

Okay. You’ve been advised and forewarned. You will thank me one day.

First, let me say it is ridiculous that you have to do this. You purchased the tune. It should be yours to use in any legal way you see fit. And I said legal, as in, legal in the ways that courts have already established are legal for you to use around your house and to shift what you purchase from one format to another for personal usage.

But because of the encyrption (or, DRM – “digital rights management”) of the iTunes store-purchased files, you are forced to go through an easy, but time-wasting and illogical few clicks to rip out the encryption. Again, Apple gives you the tools to convert the file into a non-encrypted file (they call it “Burn Disk,” but it might as well say “Get rid of our Ridiculous Encryption”).

Don’t just back up the encrypted (DRM) version of the tune. By burning a CD, you will get your tunes out of the iTunes store format and into a format you can use without it having to be “authorized” by the Apple store. I (and my testing panel) have learned this the hard way. For some unique reasons, I have had three different computers during the past year. Having children who share some musical tastes also means a couple of other devices use the tunes. I’ve had to de-authorize and re-authorize my Apple store account more than the allowable times.

Another person in my office lost all of her Apple iTunes store purchases when her PowerBook’s hard drive crashed (another rant for another day). Despite the obvioius fact that Apple knows she has purchased these tunes and that her problem was caused by an Apple hardware problem, their response is: You should have backed it up. Huh? To what?

Bottomline: A lot of hassle is saved if you get the music you purchase from the Apple iTunes store into a format you can use in any number of ways that are legal and appropriate without ever having to deal with Apple about that tune ever again.

I’ve come to believe the following: Purchase a physical CD and burn it to your computer. I know that sounds strange coming from someone who never purchases physical CDs. The second best solution is burn to a CD what you own. Third best solution: there are some solutions that will allow you to convert iTunes purchased tunes into MP3 files on your computer (without having to burn them to CD or DVD). I haven’t tried them, but I think I’ll be looking into that solution next week while I’m away from the office.

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  • Hudge

    All of this reminds me of the yet to be realized dream of computers eliminating the need for paper.

  • Simon Fell

    or you could just by then on CD to start with 🙂

    more seriously, you now have a CD of a compressed rip, and if you get to the point where you need to re-rip, its then been double lossy compressed, and the quality continues to spiral downwards.

  • Donald Larson

    Get a backup hard drive and do frequent backups. That’s the easiest way to recover lost data.

    It’s your data on your drive. Learn to take care of it. Don’t blame others for why you lost your data.

    Don

  • rex

    (From Rex) I do frequent backups and will never lose my data. I even have a really neat portable hardrive that holds 100 GB of data. My advice is for the non-technical people who expect things to work they way logic would imply. I am saying to people: It’s your music: back it up.

  • Tony

    I got burned by this once. Apple was kind enough to let me have a “one-time” redownload of the 5 or so songs I purchased, and they told me to back my junk up.

  • Tony

    I got burned by this once. Apple was kind enough to let me have a “one-time” redownload of the 5 or so songs I purchased, and they told me to back my junk up.

  • Bret Fausett

    Try Apple’s “Back-up” software, which has a pre-set function to back-up iTunes files (both purchased and ripped). Big hard-drives are pretty cheap these days and the software works in the background so you don’t have to do much.

    Bret

  • Fran

    There are free or very cheap programs that will let you upload the songs on your iPod back onto a new hard drive-if you have them stored on an iPod. I have done this using a program called CopyPod.

  • Jason Levine

    I’m just confused by you saying, when prompted that she should have backed up her songs, “To what?” How about to whatever backup medium she’s using for everything else on her laptop?

    I totally agree with the sentiment that Apple has a moronic policy when it comes to recovering lost iTunes music that they have proof you’ve purchased, but to them extend that argument to the idea that there’s nothing to which she could have backed up the songs is just ridiculous. People who don’t have backup plans in place are playing with fire; a regular backup will save you from about a million heartaches, Apple’s policies being one of ’em.

  • rex

    (To Jason) I’ll try once more. I’m saying: Back up the tunes to a CD — if nothing else. Our employees are allowed to have iTunes on their computers (they were even given an iPod last Christmas for personal enjoyment)…however, the back up plan we have in place does not include them being able to back up their entire iTunes on company servers. The point of this post (I think I made it clear) is suggesting that people back up to one medium that requires no addition hardware and only a few cents per blank disk. Obvioiusly, if you want to pay for another harddrive or another backup plan, great.

  • Phil Aaronson

    Lets say you bought a CD from Amazon. It arrives in the mail, you take it out of the box and then your dog uses it as a chew toy. What’s your expectation in this circumstance? You buy another one, if you haven’t backed it up. Apple really can’t replace your lost music without them paying for it. The license is for *that* copy of the music. When you (the collective you, meaning all of us) demand a license for the music itself, only then can Apple replace your music and Amazon replace your CD for cost of materials.

  • rex

    Phil, your analogy doesn’t hold up. Amazon does not require me to play that CD on five devices it authorizes. It lets me play them anywhere there’s a CD player. As long as Apple requires me to only play the file on a device it authorizes, then, yes, they should replace it, as it’s not technically mine. However (and this is the point of my post and everything I’ve said), Apple also give me a button that I can click on that does, indeed, make the music MINE. The button is called “Burn It”…My post is to say to iTunes newbies and longtime users: Click button and own you’re music. Don’t and you’re screwed if something happens to it.

  • Guan Yang

    She should have backed up to her .Mac account! 😉

  • Damian

    Of course, if the iTunes library is synched with an iPod, you can get the music back off that, if the hard disk crashes (or you need to reformat). Apple (or the music biz or whoever) doesn’t want you to, and the relevant folder is hidden on the iPod by Apple with a Finder flag (one of those horrible non-UNIX non-POSIX old-Maccy thingies that *should* have died with the move to OS X), but you can drop into Terminal and use cp -R

    http://www.rixstep.com/2/20050321,00.html

  • Phil Aaronson

    Rex, I disagree. The analogy holds up because the physical CD can only be played on one (but any) CD player at a time. That’s the entire point of DRM, it’s an attempt to recapture some of the implied limits (now largely lost) of a physical medium.

    I’m not sure I understand your “burn it, own it”. But definitely back it up so you don’t lose your licensed “copy” of your music. And if burn it is your back up of choice, definitely do burn it.

  • brotherStefan

    > “Third best solution: there are some solutions that will allow
    > you to convert iTunes purchased tunes into MP3 files on your
    > computer (without having to burn them to CD or DVD). ”

    Your “third best solution” is no further away than the “Advanced” menu in iTunes, itself — “Convert selection to [whetever “Input Using” preference has been chosen]…”.

  • rex

    (To BrotherStefan, re: Convert selection) When I’ve tried that, I get the message: “Tune Name” could not be converted because protected files cannot be converted to other formats.

  • solo

    DRM is bullshit. I just don’t think that the iTunes restrictions, liberal as they are, are good for a whole collection of music. For the odd tune you can’t get any other way, OK. Or even for audiobooks (though Audible has a MUCH more flexible scheme since you can re-download easily). A rip of a rip? Why bother?

  • Alex Muller

    It’s fine for you guys to sit there and say ‘buy a backup disk’ BUT:
    I’m a student – I can afford a few dollars on the music store here and there (which means I do have quite a bit of iTMS Music) but I can’t afford another hard disk.
    The only way I can back up stuff at the moment is on my iPod, which isn’t great (and for the record the iPod was a gift)

  • Les Posen

    Came hear from Dave Winer’s Scripting News where he pillories the iPod/iTunes interface as being amongst the worst. He needs some straightening out, including his loss of iPod material after connecting to another iPod, so I blogged him some answers appropriate to Rex’s blog too.
    <http://homepage.mac.com/lesposen/blogwavestudio/LH20040822004609/LHA20051224194044/index.html>

  • Mark Milligan

    I looked on the online help and apple.com about iTunes backup. Only the obsure article on apple.com mentions that you will need to repurchase music if you lose it.

    http://docs.info.apple.com/article.html?artnum=302392

  • Gary LaPointe

    You know, backing up your files isn’t such a new concept. My motto is “you only have to back up the files you want to keep” (you only have to brush the teeth you want to keep).

    On the other hand it would be nice if Apple did allow you to do another download of all your songs. One issue with that is I’ve bought a few songs that they don’t seem to have any more. And do they have to let me re-download the iTunes free song of the week?

  • Gary LaPointe

    The problem with Apple’s “Back-up” software is the last time I tried it for my “purchased music” (which I think was right after the new version of backup came out), it tried to back up all my podcasts too! This was way too big.

    And on this note, I’m going to go back up my music. Personally, I put copies of my songs in my .Mac music folder and when I get a bunch over there, I burn the folder.

  • lcreekmo

    The new version of Mac’s Backup software is vastly improved. I tried for a long time to work with the original version before I got it set up properly and I am NOT a tech idiot….just not the IT person.

  • idiot

    There will be some backlash from the “dummy” users Apple tries so hard to woo because of things like this. I’ve known more than one person to lose an extensive iTunes collection for one reason or another. People assume that by buying songs from iTunes they are getting a license to play the song, not a physical item. That’s the only reason they’d swallow the DRM crap. Apple should take a lesson from the game company Stardock. They have an online game purchasing system that allows you to install and uninstall download-only games you purchase from them any number of times — forever. Harddrive crash? Just log into your account and redownload it. It’s easy to blame the user, but the user will ultimately blame Apple.