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Moving iTunes purchases to another computer

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Q: We bought an album from iTunes on my wife’s computer. I do not sync my iPod with her Mac, but have my own PC in another part of the house. I wanted to have the same album in my collection. Do I have to buy it again? What are my options to have it on more than one iPod?

- Paul

A: You definitely do not need to purchase the album again, as you can have up to five authorized computers on the same iTunes account. The real issue is merely copying the files themselves from one computer to another, which can be accomplished simply by burning them to a CD or transferring them via a USB memory key or portable hard drive.

You can burn a data CD or DVD from directly within iTunes itself. Simply go into your iTunes Preferences, and under Advanced, Burning you’ll find the option to select “Data CD/DVD” (note that you can also burn an “Audio CD” from here, but there’s really no point in doing this if you’re simply moving the music files to another computer).

Once you’ve selected “Data CD/DVD” as your burning preference, simply place the tracks you’d like to burn into a playlist, and then select that playlist and choose “Burn Data Disc” from the bottom-right corner of the iTunes window:

iTunes will prompt you to insert a blank disc, and it will then burn those tracks onto the disc simply as files in their original iTunes Store format. You can then insert this disc into your computer and import those tracks into your own iTunes library by using the File, Add Files to Library menu option.

If you’d prefer to transfer these files using a portable hard drive or USB memory key, you can also do this simply by connecting the device to your wife’s Mac, and then dragging the selected tracks from your iTunes window directly onto the icon for your USB hard drive or memory key. iTunes will copy those selected tracks as files onto the external drive, which can then be carried to your own computer and imported as above.

Note that if these tracks are in the traditional iTunes Store format (as opposed to iTunes Plus), you will also need to ensure that your PC is authorized for the same iTunes Store account before you will be able to play them or transfer them to your iPod. Normally, iTunes will prompt you for your iTunes Store account information as necessary when you try to play a purchased track, but you can also manually authorize your computer by selecting Store, Authorize Computer from the iTunes menu.

Lastly, it is also possible to use the iPod itself as a transfer conduit between your two computers, although with one computer being a Mac and the other being a PC in this case, the differences in format would likely create an additional obstacle. Traditional iPod models are generally formatted specifically to your operating system, and although a Mac can normally read a PC-formatted iPod, a PC cannot read a Mac-formatted iPod without additional software.

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