Importing Windows Media Audio into iTunes | iLounge Article


Importing Windows Media Audio into iTunes

Just purchased a new iPod?  Upset because you just discovered that your multi-thousand song library of music encoded in Microsoft’s Windows Media Audio (WMA) format from your Windows Media Player past won’t easily load into your new multi-hundred dollar digital audio jukebox?  Many before you have been, but you don’t need to be:  Apple has made dealing with WMA audio very easy with the latest iTunes release, and iLounge is here to help!

Sure, there have always been several methods for getting WMA audio into iTunes and onto an iPod:  If you have the source CD, you can simply re-import the tracks.  If you don’t, it is possible to burn the WMA tracks as an audio CD and re-import them as iTunes-compatible MP3 or AAC audio.  Both of these methods, however, are fiendishly time-consuming—even with a fairly modest music library.  Third party utilities can simplify the otherwise daunting process of mass conversion, but are often unnecessarily obscure, expensive, and unintuitive for digital audio novices.  Not satisfied with allowing any of these less-than-elegant options to serve as the inaugural iTunes/iPod experience for Windows users entrenched in the WMA format, Apple rectified this problem with iTunes 4.5.  No, they didn’t add WMA functionality to the iPod… Sorry.  Rather, they chose to incorporate an extremely easy-to-use WMA conversion feature into iTunes (PC version only).

Using Apple’s WMA converter is, quite literally, as easy as not using it.  That is, the process by which the user adds and converts WMA files to their library is nearly identical to the process by which one would add MP3 or AAC files.  All you need to do is attempt to add the files to your iTunes library, and iTunes will convert the WMA audio into the format selected in iTunes’ Importing preferences.

Let’s explore the process in detail:

First, a caveat:  iTunes’ WMA conversion feature only works for unprotected files.  This means that WMA files legally downloaded from companies such as Real, Napster, and MusicMatch do not apply to this feature.  Use one of the “less-than-elegant” options listed above, if you dare.

To begin, we’ll first need to select an AAC (or MP3… your choice) quality setting for the conversion.  iTunes’ WMA converter will create AAC or MP3 audio files using the quality settings specified in iTunes’ importing preferences.  For information on how to change these, see our article on Importing CDs into iTunes.  Here’s a tip:  Choosing a bitrate much greater than that of your WMA audio file will not increase the quality of your audio (although it may help preserve it).  As always, we recommend you try a few files first to see what your ears prefer.

Next, you’ll need to know where the WMA files are stored on your PC.  Most likely, this is your “My Music” folder, contained within “My Documents.”  If not, you can find the location of your files from within Windows Media Player by right clicking on any file in your “Media Library” and selecting “Properties.”

Once you’ve located your WMA files and selected your audio quality settings, you can proceed to add your WMA files to your iTunes library in one of two ways:


Drag and Drop

You’ve no doubt noticed that Drag and Drop is by far Apple’s favorite method of making things easy.

Navigate to the items you’d like to add to iTunes in Windows Explorer, select them, and drag them into the iTunes Library window or on top of the “Library” icon in iTunes’ Source column.

iTunes’ drag-and-drop Add to Library ability is quite flexible:  You can drag-and-drop any of the following items directly from Windows Explorer:

  • Individual WMA Files
  • Multiple WMA Files
  • Folders containing WMA Files
  • Folders containing folders containing WMA Files.
  • ...and so on

Menu Option

If you prefer using the iTunes menu, you most certainly may. 

Choose either “Add File to Library…” or “Add Folder to Library…” from the File menu. 

Select the files or folders you’d like to add, and click OK.

Upon completing either of the two above actions, you’ll receive the following dialog, which asks you to confirm your intent to convert from WMA to your selected format.  Click “Convert.”



As you can see, the process has been very simple… You’re already done!  iTunes has begun the conversion process, and will continue until it’s finished.  This may take a substantial amount of time, depending on the speed of your computer and the amount of music to be converted.

During the conversion process, a conversion indicator appears in your “Source” column.  Click it, and you can monitor iTunes’ progress as it moves throughout your selection of WMA files.



In the Status Area on top of iTunes, you can monitor iTunes’ progress throughout each individual song (much like when Importing a CD).



When the conversion has finished, you will most likely want to delete your original WMA audio files to save hard drive space.  The iTunes conversion process makes copies of your music, leaving behind the WMA Audio.

Enjoy, and stay tuned for next week’s iPod 101 lesson!


  • The process of converting from one lossy format to another is not the best way to obtain files with high sound quality.  While it helps if the bitrate of both your source file (WMA) and importing settings (AAC/MP3) are high, the only way to obtain the “best” results is to re-encode directly from the source CD.  Try a few files yourself, and decide whether the (large!) effort of re-importing is worth the (marginal!) increase in sound quality.

Jerrod H. is a Forum Administrator and Contributing Editor for iLounge.

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Everysong I’ve ever heard in WMA sucks anyway… yay AAC!


Posted by Jody in TX on August 29, 2004 at 11:51 PM (CDT)


(Thank you for the corrections… fixed!)

Posted by Jerrod H. in TX on August 30, 2004 at 6:38 AM (CDT)


What rate do you import your cd’s at?  I was very happy at 128kb, but I decided to switch to 160kb after upgrading from a 3G 20gb to a 4G 40GB.  I am very happy with the decision as the upgrade in overall sonic quality (particularly, less distortion at high-end and warmer, clearer overall sound) has been worth the trade-off in additional storage space.

Posted by ambipod in TX on August 30, 2004 at 11:40 AM (CDT)


Every time I try this it says my files are write protected and wont’ convert.  It seems so simple but I don’t think I am this dumb.  What am I missing?

Posted by Larry in TX on August 30, 2004 at 3:41 PM (CDT)


Larry.  Check to see that your files are not read-only.  You can do this in Windows by selecting the file, then right-clicking and selecting properties.  If the read-only box is checked, uncheck it and click OK.

Maybe that will help.

Sometimes, if you’ve copied songs off of a CD-ROM onto your computer (WMA files from CD), then it keeps the properties the same as they were on the CD (which would be read-only).

Not sure if that was your problem, but I’ve had that happen before.

Posted by bikepodmini in TX on August 30, 2004 at 3:54 PM (CDT)


I used to import at 128 as well.  But i have, since getting my 3G 40G iPod replaced because of a harddrive problem, switched to 224kbps.  The sound comes in great and the files aren’t too large.  A friend of mine says he’s imported above 160 sounds way better hten 128 on dolby surround sound stereo.

Posted by brian in TX on August 30, 2004 at 3:56 PM (CDT)


can you name any third party protected wma convertor program

Posted by ijerry in TX on August 31, 2004 at 5:06 AM (CDT)


it wont let me convert! it says that i dont have the right windows media player version, although my computer is fairly new! what do i do?

Posted by tomas in TX on August 31, 2004 at 3:19 PM (CDT)


For some reason after the conversion in iTunes takes place songs sound at lower volume. i experimented a bit and found this happens even if u convert to the same format and settings as the original.Does anyone know how to solve this ?

Posted by RKD in TX on August 31, 2004 at 10:22 PM (CDT)


Well, i just got a new iPod and i dont understand wy apple just wont let windows 98 be compatible with my program. i have wmp and all i just cant transfer a song without itunes is there any ther way???????????????? email me at my address .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Posted by Tyler Brownq in TX on September 1, 2004 at 11:04 AM (CDT)


could someone please let me know how to transfer OpenMG files to iTunes? this is so frustrating !! and when i delete it from a file it says ” song not found ” then i can’t even play the song anymore and have to delete the whole thing from my iTunes… how does it even work…

Posted by olivia in TX on September 2, 2004 at 6:07 AM (CDT)


I recently bought Velvet Revolver’s CD Contraband, turns out the record company had the bright idea to put their own program on the CD to rip it, and copy protected it somehow so no other ones could. It ripped it into protected WMA files, so now i can’t convert it, or copy it onto a new CD so i can do what i want with it. Neither of those worked, even after I unchecked the read only box in the properties window. From now on, its iTunes music store for me. Record companies are kicking themselves in the ass, buying them on iTunes cost less. Safer too, i know i can put it on my iPod.

Posted by Jessica in TX on September 2, 2004 at 5:09 PM (CDT)


Jessica.. search on the net how to Remove the hidden driver the CD installs on your pC.. its this driver that trashes the ripping. If you inserted it into your PC and kept SHIFT button down, windows autostart would not have installed the driver and you could have ripped it!!  Good luck

Posted by kiwi B in TX on September 2, 2004 at 5:40 PM (CDT)


Hi, I had the same problem on a friend’s computer that tomas had up there^. My friend just purchased brand new ipod, and tried to drag in WMA files, and it said “you need windows media player 9 blah blah blah” so i checked for updates, but there were none! it was up to date. If you have the answer, an email would be so appreciated, that i would kiss you. Buuut, i dunno if anyone would like that.

Posted by Eric Laukkanen in TX on September 3, 2004 at 12:20 PM (CDT)


I have music files (many, many) on two computers.  How do I get them all on one desktop so I can convert to .aac and use with ipod?

Posted by Ed Kelleher in TX on September 6, 2004 at 7:02 PM (CDT)


Real player purchased tunes, got them on the ipod, and the player list but as a new user I am having a problem where the Itunes playlist does not recognize the songs as authorized.  The only option it provides to authorize is apple password or AOL, and I don’t use either of these systems.  Not sure how to get these songs accepted on itunes. Your comments appreciated.

Posted by james kelly in TX on September 7, 2004 at 10:43 PM (CDT)


Hi, I recently purchased my first ipod 20gb. It is awesome and i am loving it.
The problem I have is i have enough music to fill it up and would like to, but the fact is i dont want to take up so much space on the hard drive on my laptop. As you are aware if i delete some of the music from the itunes library it will delete it from my ipod the next time I connect it . Not to sure if there is a way around this. Would love an anwer if there is one. Thankyou for your time

Posted by Paul Davison in TX on September 7, 2004 at 11:47 PM (CDT)


Hey, regarding the comment by Paul up there about the automatic iTunes update, you can disable that by selecting “Manage songs and playlists manually” in your iPod preferences window in the iTunes. But then, you’ll have to update your iPod manually already.

Posted by Kenneth in TX on September 8, 2004 at 7:49 PM (CDT)


How do I take music from a friends iPod and transfer it to mine. I use iTunes. Please help

Posted by Terry in TX on September 9, 2004 at 7:25 AM (CDT)


I have the same problem as Tomas and Eric above: wrong media player version to convert the tunes. But it seems that no one has been able to suggest a remedy for this… HELP!

Posted by Liz in TX on September 9, 2004 at 10:47 AM (CDT)

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