How to convert iTunes Protected AAC Audio files
Early shoppers on iTunes may still own Protected AAC Audio songs. These tracks cannot be converted from within iTunes and may not play on non-Apple branded media players.
I have used two different ways to convert these Protected AAC Audio tracks:
- keep the 128k bitrate and remove the protection (see separate post), with hindsight the easiest method and that will serve as your fallback solution if the iCloud solution does not work
- upgrade to a higher bitrate (256k) and convert to a Purchased AAC Audio file
Obviously, the latter benefits of a better quality result after the conversion. This conversion requires an annual subscription to Apple’s iCloud services. Converting more than 25 tracks will break you even. If you own less than 25 tracks, you might opt to buy a new copy of the song, rather than going to all the hassle. Apple’s iTunes Match will scan your music library and if the track is also available in the iTunes Store it will add that music at 256 Kbps iTunes Plus quality to your iCloud library. A copy of the music in the iCloud library can be downloaded to your iTunes library. To avoid ‘matching’ of your whole iTunes music library, which may hold thousands of tracks, I suggest to create a new (dedicated) iTunes library. Below, you find a procedure that you may follow to use this method of conversion.
Step One: save the protected tracks in a separate folder
- backup all iTunes files (i.e. \iTunes folder plus all its subfolders)
- identify all the Protected AAC Audio tracks that you want to convert and copy them in a new playlist (e.g. ‘protected tracks’)
- create a new folder on your desktop (e.g. ‘itunes tracks’)
- copy all files of the ‘protected tracks’ playlist to your desktop folder ‘itunes tracks’ (you can do this in iTunes 11.x by drag and drop)
Step Two: create a new library
Exit iTunes and restart it holding the shift key. iTunes will ask you to choose an existing library or to create a new one; choose to create a new library (e.g. ‘mytemplib’). iTunes will open with a new and empty library to which you add the ‘itunes tracks’ folder on your desktop. Only the Protected AAC Audio tracks are now in your library. Check if your computer is authorised and the music plays correctly.
Step Three: use iTunes Match
- Now Turn On iTunes Match. You will be asked to subscribe to the iCloud services. After you have completed the subscription, your iTunes client will start to ‘match’ the tracks with iTunes Store. In some cases no match can be found because the track is no longer available in the iTunes Store or the metadata (i.e. track information like Title, Artist, Album, etc.) has been changed by you. Once all tracks have been matched (you will notice the cloud icon), you should delete all Protected AAC Audio tracks.
- Exit and restart iTunes. While the iTunes Match is still turned on, the iCloud library will now try to sync with your iTunes library and will offer you to download a copy of the song in 256 Kbps iTunes Plus quality. Note that all your purchased songs will be shown, not only the Protected AAC Audio tracks. Once you have downloaded the copies, you should Turn Off iTunes Match and exit iTunes.
- Restart iTunes, De-authorise your computer and check if the music plays correctly. If the music plays correctly you have successfully upgraded to a higher bitrate (256k) and converted to a Purchased AAC Audio file.
Step Four: save the converted tracks in a separate folder
- identify all the converted AAC Audio tracks and copy them in a new playlist (e.g. ‘matched tracks’)
- create a new folder on your desktop (e.g. ‘itunes plus tracks’)
- copy all files of the ‘matched tracks’ playlist to your desktop folder ‘itunes plus tracks’ (you can do this in iTunes 11.x by drag and drop)
Step Five: restore your initial library
Exit iTunes. Restore all iTunes files from the backup in Step One (i.e. \iTunes folder plus all its subfolders). Start iTunes
Alternatively (if you did not restore), you can start iTunes, holding the shift key. iTunes will ask you to choose an existing library or to create a new one; choose to open an existing library and select the initial library in your iTunes folder (most likely ‘iTunes Library.itl’).
iTunes now should open with your full music library to which you must add the ‘itunes plus tracks’ folder on your desktop. Remove the Protected AAC Audio tracks which may appear as duplicate in your library. Check if the music plays correctly and authorise your computer again, if required.