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
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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