Updated on October 23, 2020
iTunes Store used to be one of the largest music vendors in the world. Nowadays, not all of us still have the habit of buying songs from iTunes Store since it has been replaced by many alternative options that are providing better music streaming services. But if you have some older M4P songs purchased on iTunes dating back from 2003 through 2009 – when Apple encrypts songs in the iTunes Store using FairPlay DRM, you might currently have troubles in opening, editing, or moving these old protected iTunes M4P songs.
Luckily, there're multiple ways allowing you to remove DRM and re-download the non-protected version of these files legally and efficiently. For example, you can upgrade your music to iTunes Plus via iTunes Match; convert protected M4P to MP3 with dedicated conversion programs; or burn all purchased M4P tracks into a CD and re-import them as plain MP3 in iTunes.
In this guide, I will point you in the direction of converting protected audio files (.m4p extension) purchased from iTunes Store into MP3 format so that you can import these songs to a SD card, GarageBand or other media players.
Simply put, M4P is a protected MPEG-4 AAC audio files that were sold through the iTunes Store. M4P files can only be played via iTunes on a computer or devices such as iPhone, iPad or iPod. You must authorize your computer or devices using iTunes account in order to play, download, transfer or burn the files. Up to 10 devices and 5 computers can be authorized to the same Apple account.
In case you want to know more about M4P file type, you can read our previous article which explains what M4P file format is and how to open an .m4p file in simple words.
M4P, M4A, M4B, M4R, what is the Difference?
All iTunes audio files sold by Apple use MPEG-4 AAC format for audio encoding. But different filename extensions such as .m4p, .m4a, or .m4b are used to indicate various types of audio files. For example:
* M4P is a MPEG-4 container format that is commonly used to store audio streams encrypted by FairPlay Digital Rights Management. Older iTunes protected songs and Apple Music tracks are AAC files using .m4p file extension.
* M4A is the file name extension commonly used in iTunes Plus tracks which are unprotected iTunes purchased AAC audio files.
* M4B is a specific filename extension used for audiobook files because M4B can store metadata including chapter marker.
* iPhone ringtone uses the .m4r extension rather than .m4a extension.
Takeaway: For those who bought the music years ago with the Apple ID that is no longer active, it is almost impossible for you to unprotect or convert the file to other formats because you cannot authorize them.
If you have a bunch of older M4P tracks that are still playable in iTunes, and you attempt to convert them to MP3 to play in other location, you can choose the methods we introduce in the following parts.
The basic feature of the $24.99/year iTunes Match is to help you store all your music files in iCloud so that you can always access your iTunes library on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch or on up to 5 computers. But it comes with an exclusive feature which enables you to get rid of DRM easily. It can upgrade songs from old DRM formats to 256 Kbps DRM-free AAC format, which is also known as iTunes Plus. Any of the songs you download from iTunes Match subscription are the DRM-free copies of the matched songs, and you can keep them on your device forever even if you cancel your subscription.
Now follow the steps below to convert iTunes M4P to MP3 with iTunes Match.
Step 1. Subscribe to iTunes Match
Open iTunes on your PC > go to the Store menu and scroll to the bottom of the screen, click "iTunes Match".
On the iTunes Match intro page, click "Subscribe" button, then enter your Apple ID and password.
Confirm the billing info and click "Subscribe" once again to confirm your subscription.
Step 2. Match or Upload Songs to iTunes Match
After you subscribe successfully, iTunes Match will scan your iTunes music library to see which songs in your library are currently available in the iTunes Store and which ones don't. If songs are in the iTunes Store, they will be added to iCloud automatically, while the other songs will be uploaded from your computer to iCloud. Once the uploading is done, you should see the songs described as "Matched".
Step 3. Download and Convert Music to MP3
Click the "Download" icon to download the unprotected version of the past protected purchases, the songs will be saved as Matched AAC audio file (.m4a). Then you can convert them to MP3 audio file in iTunes with the following steps:
1.Open iTunes and click "Edit" on the top menu. (Mac users open iTunes.)
2.Click "Preferences" > "Import Settings" and select "MP3 Encoder" in the "Import Using" tab, and click "OK" to save the settings.
3.Select the songs you want to convert the MP3 format, you can press "Ctrl + A" key to select all songs at once or hit "Ctrl" and click your mouse to select random songs.
4.Go to "File" > "Convert" > "Create MP3 Version", the songs will be converted to MP3 immediately.
5.When it's done, right click at the converted songs and select "Show in Windows Explorer" or "Show in Finder" to get access to your downloaded music.
Note: Some of you might get confused about Apple Music and iTunes Match which are two of Apple's subscription service. If that so, you can read a bit more about the differences between Apple Music and iTunes Match and choose the proper service when needed.
There're many dedicate audio converters that can decode the FairPlay DRM and create MP3 versions of your files. Here I highly recommend that you use TuneFab Apple Music Converter, which has a solid reputation among millions of customers and 100+ authority sites. It's a paid app that cost $39.99 for a single lifetime license, but it offers you with 30 days free trial which allows you to convert iTunes songs, Apple Music songs, audiobook, etc. to MP3 for free.
The following are the directions of converting protected M4P to MP3 with TuneFab M4P Converter:
1.Launch TuneFab M4P Converter on your PC or Mac. And iTunes (Windows) or Music app (Mac) will be activated automatically. Make sure you've logged into iTunes or Music app with the Apple ID you used for purchasing the music.
2.Next, select the songs you want to convert the MP3 and go to the Output Settings to select the output format (MP3), output quality (256 Kbps, 44.1 kHz), etc.
3.Click the "Convert" button and wait until the program completes the task. It might take a while if you have a large number of songs to convert to MP3. After conversion, you can move the music to any device you like or play with any media player that supports MP3 format.
The free workaround is to burn those songs from iTunes to an Audio CD (not an MP3 or Data CD) -> then import songs from CD to iTunes > finally convert the CD tracks to MP3 audio files using iTunes. This method won't cost you're a penny, but it's not as convenient as the options we mention above.
To complete the task, you will need:
1. iTunes (Apple's reliable CD ripping tool)
2. PC or Mac
3. A blank Audio CD (CD-RW)
4. A CD reader (If your computer doesn't have an optical drive)
Follow the directions below to convert DRM-ed M4P to MP3 via a burned CD:
1.Insert your CD to a CD reader or put the CD into your computer's optical drive.
2.Create a new playlist and drag and drop the M4P tracks into it.
3.Go to "Preferences" in iTunes > click "Import Settings > choose "MP3 Encoder" in Import Setting.
4.Right click at the playlist, and choose "Burn Playlist to Disc".
5.Configure the Burn Settings: select Audio CD and click "Burn". It will take a while for iTunes to finish the process.
6.When completed, you can open the CD in iTunes and select the song of the CD.
7.Go to "File" > "Convert" > select "Create MP3 Version" in the pop-up menu.
8.When you're done, you can eject the CD from iTunes and find all the MP3 tracks in your iTunes library.
If you want to use your old protected M4P song as the background music of your video project, yet prefer not to pay for a service or tool to unlock the song, you can try to record the protected music and save as MP3 files with free, open-source sound recording program, such as Audacity.
But the downside of using audio recorder is that the quality of the audio will be decreased. If you want to keep the original sound quality of your tracks after converting, it's better using iTunes Match which can provide DRM-free songs with better quality or TuneFab Apple Music Converter which is capable of preserving the original sound quality of the song.
As I learned the free online M4P to MP3 converters cannot convert iTunes protected M4P files because of the encryption. It requires iTunes authorization to open or use these songs. However, if your have DRM-free M4P and want to make them available of other devices, you can try the online M4P converter like FileZigZag.
FileZigZag supports converting all sorts of file type, including documents, images, e-books, audios, videos, etc. You can convert up to 10 files daily for free. It supports more than more than 180 file formats and can perform more than 3150 different conversion.
Note: Most free audio converters that claim to remove DRM protection are nonfunctional. It is not worth downloading and trying these free converters if you attempt to convert protected audio files.
It actually depends on what tool that you use to perform the conversion. The iTunes protected M4P is the old DRM-protected AAC format with a 128 Kbps bitrate.
* With iTunes Match, as we mentioned before, you can upgrade the songs from 128 Kbps AAC to 256 Kbps AAC format with no DRM restriction.
* While using TuneFab M4P converter, you can possibly maintain the best quality by manually setting the bitrate and sample rate from the output setting section. When the song is converted, you cannot notice any difference between the converted song and the original one.
* If using the free audio recorder, you can clearly hear the quality loss when listening back to your recording.
The above are the easy methods available for converting iTunes protected M4P file to MP3 format. After conversion, you can import the MP3 files to SD card and play it in your car, or put them on non-Apple devices for offline playback on the go. If you have any questions regarding this topic, please leave a comment below, we'll love to hear the feedback from you!
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