The Complete Guide to Using the iTunes Store
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Downloading Previously Purchased Items from iTunes in the Cloud
For many years digital purchases on the iTunes Store were limited to being downloaded only at the time of initial purchase. Users were responsible for maintaining their own backups of these items as Apple did not provide any means to re-download a prior purchase due to licensing restrictions imposed by the content providers. iOS apps became the first exception to this policy since these were directly under Apple’s own licensing control and it could therefore set its own policy. However, even with apps the means of handling this was not particularly intuitive, requiring users to attempt to repurchase the app first and only then discovering that they would be allowed to download it again for free instead of being billed for it a second time.
In June 2011, Apple introduced “iTunes in the Cloud” as part of its new iCloud service. One of the new features offered by this service was the ability for users to download their own previously purchased content from the iTunes Store at no additional cost. The service was originally rolled out as a public beta in iOS 4.3.3 and iTunes 10.3 integrating re-downloading of apps into the new service worldwide and providing the ability for U.S. iTunes users to re-download their music and books as well. Apple later added the ability for U.S. users to re-download purchased TV Shows alongside streaming purchased content from iCloud to the second-generation Apple TV. With the release of iOS 5 in October the music and books features were rolled out internationally to most countries where the iTunes Store is available.
Access to previously purchased content is provided via the “Purchased” link in the Quick Links menu at the top-right corner of the main iTunes Store window. This will take you to a list of your previously purchased content, organized by content type and type-specific category, such as artists for music or show for TV shows.
Searching and browsing on this screen works more or less as you would expect, and items that are not already in your library will display an iCloud download button to allow you to re-download them; items already in your library cannot be re-downloaded from here without first deleting them from your library. A pair of buttons in the top-right corner also allow you to toggle between displaying all of your purchased items or only those items that are not in the current library. Keep in mind as well that items are only included in your purchase history if they are still being sold on the iTunes Store.
Note that once you download an item from your purchase history, your computer will be restricted to only re-downloading content from the account that was used to purchase that item for a period of 90 days from that first re-download. This means that you will not be able to switch to using a different iTunes Store account for the purpose of iTunes in the Cloud features, although you can still switch accounts for the purpose of purchasing and downloading new items from the iTunes Store. This restriction also does not apply to re-downloding apps—only media content such as music, books and TV shows. The 90-day restriction is device-specific, so you could re-download content from a different account using a second computer or an iOS device.
iTunes in the Cloud also forms the foundation for the iTunes Match subscription service that allows you to match and upload your non-purchased content to iCloud. iTunes Match is discussed in greater detail in our article, Secrets & Features of iTunes Match.
Authorizing and De-authorizing your Computer
With the exception of music, podcasts, and iTunes U, most of the content on the iTunes Store remains protected by Apple’s FairPlay Digital Rights Management (DRM). FairPlay DRM allows you to play your content in iTunes on up to five authorized computers. These computers are normally authorized automatically when you purchase and download content from the iTunes Store on that computer, or the first time you try to play that content. If you haven’t already recently logged into the iTunes Store, you may be prompted to enter your iTunes Store user ID and password to complete the authorization process. You can also initiate this process manually by selecting Authorize Computer from the Store menu in iTunes.
Your computer’s authorization is transferred automatically to any iPod, iPhone or Apple TV as soon as you transfer any purchased content to those devices. There is no limit on the number of iPod or iPhone devices that can be authorized for a given iTunes Store account, although you are limited to five Apple TV devices per account.
As you authorize each computer, a counter in your iTunes Store account is incremented, and once you reach the five-computer limit, you can no longer authorize any additional computers. The problem is that the authorization is based on unique information about your computer such as its hardware configuration and your current operating system installation. If you make significant hardware changes to your computer, such as replacing the main board, or you reinstall your operating system, then iTunes will see this as a new computer and require you to reauthorize your “new” computer for your iTunes Store account. This will take up another authorization slot, since iTunes thinks your previous authorization is still being used by another computer.
As a result, you should always be sure to de-authorize your iTunes Store account on your computer before sending your computer in for maintenance or performing any hardware upgrades or reinstalls on it. Likewise, if you’re switching to a new computer, make sure you de-authorize the old one before selling it or giving it away. You can only de-authorize a computer from that specific computer, so if you no longer have access to that computer, you will have no way of de-authorizing it. You can de-authorize a computer from your iTunes Store account by selecting Deauthorize Computer from the Store menu in iTunes. You will again be prompted to enter your iTunes Store credentials, after which iTunes will report that you have successfully de-authorized your computer and report the new authorization count.
Note that if you’ve reached your five-computer authorization limit and don’t have access to some or all of the old computers to de-authorize them, iTunes allows you to reset all of your authorizations once per year. Once you’ve reached your five-computer limit, a Deauthorize All button will appear in your iTunes Store account information screen. Clicking on this button will reset all of your authorizations and your authorization count back to zero. You will then have to manually re-authorize any computers that you still want to use with iTunes.
Again, note that this can only be done once per year, so once you’ve reset your authorization count you will have to wait 365 days before you can use this option again. This should not be considered a replacement for properly de-authorizing your computers as described above. Further, the Deauthorize All button will only appear after you have reached your five-computer limit.
Using the iTunes Store on your iOS Device
The iPhone, iPod touch and iPad also provide access directly to the iTunes Store via two apps that are pre-installed on these devices. The iTunes app is used to access media content such as music, videos and podcasts, while the App Store app is used to browse and purchase applications from the App Store.
Browsing and using these applications is relatively straightforward on the devices, and you can even switch iTunes Store accounts and manage your iTunes Store account directly on the device, although there are some restrictions.
Items larger than 20MB in size can only be downloaded over a Wi-Fi connection. This applies to both media content and applications. Note that larger podcast episodes can be streamed live via the iTunes app, so you can still view podcast episodes on-demand, you just can’t actually download these larger episodes to your device.
You can redeem gift codes on the your device by using the Redeem button found at the bottom of the main Music listing.
Digital booklets, iTunes Extras and iTunes LP are not supported on the iOS side and will not be downloaded directly to your device. If you purchase an album or video containing these items, the unsupported content is queued up to be downloaded directly to iTunes later. This is noted on the item’s page in the on-device iTunes Store.
Older iPhone and iPod touch models do not support high-definition videos; users will only be able to purchase the standard-definition version directly on the device. When purchasing HD videos from an iPhone 4/4S, fourth-generation iPod touch or iPad, only the HD version is downloaded to your device; the standard-definition version is queued up to be downloaded directly to your library by iTunes.
Similarly, you can only rent high-definition movies on newer iOS devices that support HD video—the iPhone 4/4S, fourth-generation iPod touch and iPad. Further, rented movies cannot be transferred back to your computer from these devices, regardless of whether they’re in HD or standard-definition—they must be watched on whatever device they were originally rented on.
Items purchased on your iOS will be automatically transferred back to your iTunes library during the next sync. These are placed in their own Purchased playlist based on the name of your device.
Prior purchases can also be accessed from the iTunes and App Store apps on the iOS device. A Purchased tab appears that allows users to browse through their previous purchases in much the same way as in iTunes on the desktop. Note that the same 90-day restriction on switching accounts also applies to iOS devices. Further, previously purchased content can only be re-downloaded from the iTunes Store on up to 10 different devices, a maximum of five of which can be computers with iTunes.
Enabling Automatic iTunes Store Downloads
In addition to allowing users to re-download prior purchases, iTunes in the Cloud also provides the ability for music, apps and books purchased on one device or computer to be automatically downloaded to other devices sharing the same iTunes Store account. This option must be enabled on each device that you want to receive purchases automatically. Further, you can only configure a given device to receive purchased content automatically from a single iTunes Store account, and as with re-downloading previously purchased content you can only switch accounts once every 90 days, although apps are again exempt from this latter restriction.
This setting is enabled in iTunes in the Store preferences by checking the appropriate boxes for content that you wish to have downloaded automatically.
When enabled, these options replace the automatic synchronization of content purchased on an iOS device, as the content is automatically downloaded by iTunes and therefore already in the library by the time you sync your iOS device. Content automatically downloaded by iTunes is also placed in the master “Purchased” playlist, regardless of which device it was originally purchased from.
On the iOS side, this option is configured in the Store section of the Settings app and works in much the same way, with the same restrictions. An additional option is available here to enable automatic downloads when on a 3G connection or limit them to only occurring via Wi-Fi to save bandwidth costs.
Note that the Books option only appears if iBooks is installed on the iOS device. At this time, only Music, Apps and Books can be automatically downloaded—TV Shows are not included even for U.S. iTunes users, despite their availability for manual re-downloading from the iTunes Store. Other types of content such as Movies and Audiobooks must still be transferred to and from iTunes via USB or Wi-FI sync in the traditional manner.
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