How to Convert iTunes Music to MP3

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Even though iTunes has its own software for burning music to CDs, people have reasons to convert the apple music formats (aac, m4a, m4b, m4p, m4v, m4r, 3gp, mp4) to the MP3 format. Apple iTunes does not have a built in converter to change the music format obtained in iTunes to MP3. MP3 is virtually a universal audio file format. Apple claims that its audio music format has better quality than MP3.

Here is a simple way to convert the Apple iTunes music format to MP3 using a free downloadable software. You should have basic Windows experience to follow these steps. The instructions are easy if you are already familiar with downloading and installing software.

You will need music purchased under iTunes where the file formats are not MP3. You will also need internet access to locate and download the free audio conversion software. The software has been personally tested to work without any problems on my personal computer running Windows XP.

There are reasons for converting the Apple formats into MP3. The main reason is for playback on other software and devices that accept MP3 and not Apple iTunes formats. For example, you would like to play music from iTunes on Window’s Media Player or you want it to play on your personal MP3 player. Windows Media Player can not play iTune formats. There are MP3 players that do not run iTune formats.

Here is another example. You’ve downloaded music from iTunes' store and you want to add the music to a video using Windows Movie Maker or similar software. However, you get some sort of error message from your video editing software about compatibility. (Sometimes the error message won’t explain the problem but the problem is usually format differences). Suppose your child wants to use the song from Apple for a school play but the school has a time limit for the show. You will need to edit the music to a shorter version. Practically all music or sound editors require standard audio formats such as MP3 or WAV.

To convert the Apple formatted music into MP3, go to downloads.com and do a search using the terms "iTunes to mp3" and click the search button. The results in Fig 1 is an example. The results will vary depending on new software added and old software removed.

Narrow down the search by selecting only the free software on the left. In this example, we will use "M4a to MP3 Converter" software by Manic Tools. If you do not see this on the top of the list, use the search term “M4a to MP3”. See Fig 2 for "Free M4a to MP3 Converter" software selection.

Download and install the music format conversion software and run it. You should see the main program screen of "Free M4a to MP3 Converter" on Fig 3.

Click the add button that looks like a green plus sign and locate the iTunes music files you want to convert. Select it and click open. You can add more than one file to convert. (Unfortunately, you can not just drag and drop files to the M4a to MP3 Converter” main window). Fig 4 shows an example of 2 iTunes files found.

On the bottom of the screen, select the folder you want the converted files to end up. On the lower right is the output format you want the Apple music to be converted to. Make sure it is MP3. This software has a second format that you can covert iTunes files into: WAV.

Click on the convert button, which is on the top of the main M4a to MP3 window screen to the right of the green play button. The conversion process will start and the conversion speed will depend on your computer. You will see a “Converting the selected files” window bar pop up as shown in Fig 5. If you have a slow computer and dozens of files to convert at one time, take a long coffee break.

After the file is converted, the window conversion bar will go away and a “Result” window will appear as shown in Fig 6. In the main program window, you will see the file status change from “not processed” to “processed”.

Locate the file and test it to see if the converted file sounds acceptable. If it is, you can use the MP3 file for your particular application.

Note: The software was free at the time of this writing. Some companies will choose to make their software a “pay for software”. After trying out the software and determining that it is a useful tool, you should buy it. If you prefer to continue to evaluate free software then look for other similar software in downloads.com using the search term, “iTunes to MP3 conversion” and select the “free” checkbox on the left to filter only the free software.


Fig 1.  Downloads.com Search Results
Fig 1. Downloads.com Search Results | Source
Fig 2.  Selecting Free M4a to MP3 Software
Fig 2. Selecting Free M4a to MP3 Software | Source
Fig 3. Free M4a to MP3 Converter Main Screen
Fig 3. Free M4a to MP3 Converter Main Screen | Source
Fig 4.  Browsing for iTunes Music to Convert
Fig 4. Browsing for iTunes Music to Convert | Source
Fig 5.  Conversion Process
Fig 5. Conversion Process | Source
Fig 6.  Conversion Process Complete
Fig 6. Conversion Process Complete | Source

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